Area of Law: Internet and Cyber Law
Answer # 354
Hate propaganda on the InternetRegion: Ontario Answer # 354
The Internet makes it easy for someone to distribute hateful messages to the public. This is usually referred to as “hate propaganda.” The Criminal Code of Canada recognizes three offences that relate to hate propaganda: advocating genocide, public incitement of hatred, and wilful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group. Under the Criminal Code, identifiable group means “any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or mental or physical disability”.
These three offences are considered to be criminal whether they are committed using a printed copy of a document or whether they are distributed over the Internet.
Advocating genocide means to promote the destruction or elimination of a race of people. For the offence of advocating genocide, the person who makes the statement will be held responsible. An Internet service provider who unknowingly allows its facilities to be used to post these statements will probably not be held responsible for the statements, but someone who posts the message on the Internet probably will be held responsible. Those responsible for such statements are guilty of an indictable (serious) offence and may be sentenced to jail for up-to five years.
Public incitement of hatred and wilful promotion of hatred
Public incitement of hatred is committed when someone makes statements in a public place that incite hatred against an identifiable group, which are likely to lead to a breach of the peace.
The third offence, wilful promotion of hatred, is committed when anyone makes statements, other than in private conversation, that wilfully promote hatred against any identifiable group. Simply saying “I hate everybody” would not be hate propaganda, but saying “I hate everybody who believes a particular religion” would be hate propaganda.
Since the offences of public incitement of hatred and wilful promotion of hatred do not cover private conversations, promoting hatred in a private email between two people would probably not be considered hate propaganda. However, statements made during an interactive chat session could be considered hate propaganda because chat sessions involve a larger number of people and chat rooms, therefore, can be considered to be a public place.
In addition to criminal penalties under the Criminal Code for individual offenders who distribute hateful messages to the public, Ontario human rights laws can be used to shut down a website and prevent hate propaganda from being distributed to the public.
If you see hate propaganda on the Internet, you should contact the police.
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