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Controversial Website Sparks Hate Speech Debate

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Controversial Website Sparks Hate Speech Debate

Alþingi, Iceland's parliament

Photo: Páll Kjartansson.

“To close this website is in the best case pointless, and in the worst case outright dangerous,” says Pirate Party MP Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson.

Vísir earlier this week reported on an Icelandic-language webpage where people share hate-filled views and distasteful points-of-view—all based on a US webserver.

“It is always problematic to try and control content on the web. If you want to shut down the content it becomes a game of chase which it is not possible to win without partnering with police authorities. That partnership needs to be built on using traditional investigation mehods. That is how it works, for example, with child porn. You can’t catch a criminal by closing websites,” Helgi says.

He says hate speech comes on a sliding scale and it is not easy to say precisely what is and is not hate speech. “When we are talking about expressions which incite genuine fear, then it should be investigated as a police matter.”

He believes it is pointless to close the website down, because the same people would simply continue to express their views on another website—or even continue to access the existing one ‘by the back door’.

Friðrik Smári Björgvinsson, chief of police in the capital region, told Fréttablaðið on Monday that it should be found out whether it would be possible to shut the site down, as it is not clear whether that would be legally possible.

“If people want to go closing this sort of website because of hate speech, where does one draw the line? Should we ban Bible verses where mass murder is justified, or ban the Koran? Do you want to ban websites where people are seriously discussing the death penalty or whether militaries should be able to torture prisoners? Where should people draw the line between what they find uncomfortable and repugnant, and on the other hand, important conversation on the toughest issues of modern times? The toughest issues of modern times will always be repugnant,” Helgi says.

The owner of the website is Fredrick Brennan, a 20-year-old American, who responded to Monday’s news from Iceland by tweeting: “Racism isn’t illegal in my country, n***er.”

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