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Legal instruments to combat racism on the internet


At the close of this study, we find that:


- for this reason, racist messages and the www sites which accommodate them are difficult to locate and their authors are difficult, since the information may be conveyed in an encrypted and anonymous form on the Internet; similarly, it may disappear very quickly from one server and reappear on another (a mirror site) on the other side of the world; finally, access providers do not keep records of the connections by surfers (logs) for a period long enough to enable the offending information to be traced back to its source.


- the very wide protection which American courts afford to freedom of expression has allowed numerous racist www sites or electronic mailboxes to find refuge in the United States; where conduct in question does not constitute an offence in that country, judicial cooperation is inoperative: the authors of these racist communications cannot be prosecuted and the hosts cannot be compelled to close down the offending sites. This applies even more to revisionist statements: not only the United States but the more permissive European countries are so many “havens” for revisionism.


- the legal instruments at the source of international judicial cooperation have not adapted to the era of digitalised, world-wide electronic communications. Their lengthy and cumbersome procedures, which are linked with national sovereignty, scarcely favour the cooperation and coordination indispensable to effective action against transient communications which know no frontiers.

On the basis of the foregoing, we are of the opinion that the following measures might be envisaged:


- it is important to ensure that national and international provisional measures make it possible to order manifestly racist sites or electronic mailboxes to be closed down as quickly as possible, or to block access to them.


- access providers must be required to keep logs of connections for six months; however, a longer period might be incompatible with the data-protection principle that information must not be stored indefinitely.


- hosts must be required to reveal the identity of the authors of the sites which they accommodate.