Racist web links land Swiss professor in court

March 17, 2000

BONN

An academic who heads the computer systems institute at Zurich Technical University faces criminal proceedings for providing links to neo-Nazi, revisionist and racist websites from his university homepage.

Authorities have instituted

proceedings for a breach of Swiss anti-racism laws against an assistant professor, Thomas Stricker.

The accusation stems from the link from his homepage to the anti-racist "Stop the Hate" homepage, which in turn has links to 50 racist homepages, ranging from organisations such as Front National to the Zundelsite of Ernst Zundel, a leading supplier of neo-Nazi propaganda material.

One of the homepages contains calls for "racial purity" in order to secure the future of white children. Stop the Hate is dedicated to drawing attention to racist activities and their representation on the internet.

Public prosecutor Christine Braunschweig said that court action is justified because Professor Stricker's homepage provides a link via two intermediate steps to racist websites. Ms Braunschweig maintains that such a link clashes with Swiss criminal law.

Professor Stricker's homepage has already been taken off the net by the university pending a court ruling.

Professor Stricker argues that bans on sites, or the introduction of filters, would ultimately constitute a serious infringement on freedom of opinion.

Access to the links from Professor Stricker's site was restricted to university members, and Professor Stricker says that he wanted to provoke a debate within the institution. Filters or bans on links would threaten academic freedom and therefore infringe on freedom of opinion.

According to the Swiss Internet User Group, the court's action would virtually rule out writing any papers on racism because racist publications could not be cited and would ultimately turn the operating of search machines into a criminal offence.

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