Group ordered to remove Holocaust denial material from Web site
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- A government-funded commission ordered a Web site in Australia on Tuesday to stop publishing material questioning whether the Holocaust occurred. A prominent Jewish group welcomed the decision, but the site's owner said he would defy it.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission outlawed the material and ordered Frederick Toben to remove it from the Web site of a private group called the Adelaide Institute. Toben is the institute's director.
The ruling marked the first time the commission ordered material removed from the Net.
Although the commission has no enforcement powers, if Toben refuses to comply he could be prosecuted and jailed for contempt.
In its ruling, the commission branded as "bullying, insulting and offensive" claims on the Web site that the Holocaust amounted to nothing more than allegations and assertions by Jews.
Millions of Jews died in Nazi death camps during World War II.
The Adelaide Institute claims to examine "the truth about historical events, especially those connected with World War II and the Holocaust." Its Web site questions if there ever were gas chambers at Auschwitz, one of the main Nazi camps.
Kathleen McEvoy, the head of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, ordered the institute to remove the material on grounds that its main purpose was to humiliate and denigrate Jewish people.
"In public discourse there is a need to balance rights and responsibilities," she said. "It is never appropriate to victimize people of a certain race in the name of freedom of speech."
Toben was also ordered to apologize to Australia's Jewish community.
In a telephone interview, he told The Associated Press that he would not remove the material from his Web site and was prepared to go to jail if found guilty of contempt of court.
"I find the procedure was immoral," he said.
Hundreds of extremist sites exist on the Internet today, ranging from neo-Nazi alliances, the Ku Klux Klan, groups that hate gays and lesbians, conspiracy theorists and Holocaust denial sites.
The online posting of Holocaust denials and other material considered to incite racial and ethnic hatred is illegal in a number of countries, including Germany and France. But because the Internet is global and borderless, such laws are easily circumvented.
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