'Internet Nazis must be censored'

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An EU committee on racism has demanded that the Internet be censored to prevent the incitement of racial hatred.

The Consultative Commission on Racism and Xenophobia, in Paris, yesterday urged all member states to follow Germany, which has been trying to censor racist and pornographic messages in cyberspace.

The latest scandal was caused by Ernst Zundel, a German neo-Nazi based in Canada, who has hired space on a computer in California to promote his views. This space, known as a web site, greets visitors with the statement: "The Zundel site has as its mission the rehabilitation of the honour and reputation of the German nation and challenges the traditional version of the 'Holocaust' - an Allied propaganda tool concocted during World War II."

These views are illegal in Germany, where the denial of the Holocaust is a crime. The Zundel site has links to a flourishing undergrowth of neo-Nazism on the Internet. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles claims there are more than 70 neo-Nazi web sites.

More than a million Germans are now able to access these through Internet services. Last week, Deutsche Telekom, the largest provider of Internet services in Germany, cut off all access to the computers of Web Communications, the company which rents space to Zundel.Deutsche Telekom subscribers also lost access to another 1,500 web sites.

Deutsche Telekom admits that this form of censorship isinefficient. A spokesman was anxious yesterday to disclaim legal responsibility for the messages carried over their network. "We are not responsible, but we become associated with it," he said. However, the state prosecutor's office in Mannheim is still considering charges.

Stephen Bates, a US lawyer and expert on freedom of speech in cyberspace, said: "Law has always been based on territory. Now, in cyberspace, we're seeing . . . the end of geography, and that creates problems."