This week the West Australian government announced plans to introduce laws that could see people prosecuted for racist bumper stickers. The move was welcomed by West Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner, who claimed the legislation was “overdue”. But is using the threat of legal penalties really the best approach to dealing with this kind of racist speech?
Whilst ignoring racist behaviour online won’t automatically make it go away, those trying to quash it through legal threats should recognise their actions may actually make matters worse. The SMH today reports that: “The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has threatened legal action against a widely read but controversial US-based website over an article that encourages racial hatred against Aborigines. … In a letter to Joseph Evers, the owner of Encyclopedia Dramatica (ED) – a more shocking version of Wikipedia that contains racist and other offensive articles dubbed as “satire” – the commission said it had received 20 complaints from Aborigines over the “Aboriginal” page on the site. (SMH 17/03/2010)” As online rights group EFA points out in the same SMH article, trying to censor […]