HC Deb 18 March 2002 vol 382 cc97-8W
Margaret Moran

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further measures he is taking to prevent racist content on the internet. [42661]

Angela Eagle

The Government continue to apply the principle that the law should be applied to criminal material on-line as it is to material off-line. The Government condemn those who produce race hate material including those who seek to distribute this material via the internet. The Public Order Act 1986 already deals with a range of material, which is threatening, abusive or insulting and intended or likely to stir up racial hatred and can be applied to material on the internet that falls within our jurisdiction. The Government have strengthened the provisions of the 1986 Act in amendments made by the Anti-terrorism, Crime & Security Act 2001. This means the maximum penalty for those inciting racial hatred has risen from two to seven years' imprisonment. It is also now an offence to incite racial hatred against a racial group abroad. We have asked the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to work together to pool knowledge and 0experience in the investigation and prosecution of race hate material.

The Government are working in conjunction with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) who provide a hotline for members of the public who wish to complain about racially inflammatory material they come across on the internet. If the material is potentially criminal the IWF will ask a British internet service provider to remove the material hosted by them.

The nature of the internet means that individual countries cannot counter this problem in isolation. That is why the United Kingdom is actively involved in discussions in the Council of Europe on a draft protocol to the Cybercrime Convention dealing with racist material on computer networks. The draft protocol, which is being considered by the Council of Europe states with the participation of the United States of America, Canada, Japan and South Africa, is designed to provide more effective judicial cooperation on racially inflammatory material between signatories to the protocol.

The United Kingdom is also involved in negotiations with our European Union partners on a draft framework decision on racism and xenophobia. The framework decision seeks to provide definitions of criminal racist offences and common penalties and includes draft provisions relating to racist material on the internet originating or hosted in an European Union country.

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