Freedom of Expression,  Your View

Upload in the UK, Obey British Laws

This is a guest post by Harry’s Place commenter Alec

A side-note to a post-Shoah manifestation of calumny of a baleful wandering Jew – 9/11 Truthers – occurred in May 2008. Rachel from North London had previously encountered one true believer who claimed that the July 2005 London bombs were a ‘false-flag operation’ by Mossad, and pestered survivors and families of victims who disagreed. Blairwatch then identified him as one Nicholas Kollerstrom, honorary research fellow at the science and technology department University College London.

Kollerstrom’s academic credentials, if they can be called that, were based in research into crop-circles and astrology and other pseudoscience. Blairwatch discovered that, in addition to frequenting 9/11 Truth websites, he had authored missives on an open Holocaust Denial website, CODOH.

That is all by the by. UCL subsequently revoked Kollerstrom’s honorary position, and I do not wish to link to those websites. What triggered my memory was the incidental sentencing this week of an author of one of the articles which Kollerstrom had cited.

Convicted in absentia in January 2009, Simon Sheppard along with Stephen Whittle had claimed political asylum in the USA after being arrested in 2007 for distributing race-hate material and uploading similar content to his personal website. Details included printed cartoons mocking Nazi death-camp victims, which were delivered to a Blackpool synagogue, as well as racially inflammatory material posted online. Although primarily directed at Jews, Sheppard and Whittle also directed abuse at black and Asian victims.

Sheppard had been expelled from the BNP in 2000 for publicizing extreme racist views, and became one of the founders of the Redwatch website. In addition to extreme misogyny, he has a morbid interest in cannibalism and was reputed to have preferred to live near crematoria and graveyards.

In June 2009, US courts refused further leave to appeal and prepared Sheppard and Whittle for extradition. Lancaster UAF reported Sheppard as saying:

We thought they’d hold us for a day or so. We couldn’t see how they wouldn’t grant us asylum. The things we supposedly had done in Britain aren’t illegal in America. We came to the beacon of free speech in the western world, which turned out to be a complete fantasy. We’re not cowed and we’re not repentant. We have the right even to make mistakes. We could be wrong, it’s not inconceivable. We have a right to be wrong. All we’re doing is speaking our minds.

Well, they assumed wrongly, as Sheppard and Whittle have been sentenced to four years 10 months and two years four months respectively. Although Sheppard’s website had been hosted on servers in California, where the equivalent of British race-hate legislation did not exist, it was concluded that the point of distribution occurred when he and Whittle had uploaded the material from their locations in the UK.

The Internet is a young medium, and as such judicial systems have found themselves unequipped to deal with many cases of exploiting loopholes. It is clear to me that Sheppard and Whittle had wished to achieve the effect of distributing the material from within this country; and, as said by reviewing lawyer for the CPS, Mari Read, they stepped over the line from holding unpalatable views to promoting them when they sought to do so.

I object to ‘libel tourism’, where the absurdly anachronistic privacy and defamation laws in this country permit foreign domiciled individuals to silence dissent on the grounds that material may be accessible in this country. This case, however, smells different as, I assume, it would have been permissible for Sheppard and Whittle to upload the material on terminals outwith this country, even though it could then have been read it from Internet connexions within this country.

Good riddance.

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