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Italy passes resolution to combat online anti-Semism
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL
12/19/2010
Foreign Affairs Committee commits Italian government to signing international protocol on racism and xenophobia.
 
A resolution seeking to combat online hate ideologies, including anti-Semitism, was approved by the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

The committee “unanimously approved a resolution that aims to counteract the spread of anti- Semitism – currently experiencing a sharp increase – through the Web, along with xenophobia in general,” Deputy Fiamma Nirenstein, the panel’s vice president, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Nirenstein, a leading expert on European anti-Semitism and anti-Western ideologies, is a member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party. She has previously initiated resolutions in the Chamber of Deputies calling for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Turkish IHH relief organization to be added to the European Union’s list of terrorist entities.

“This resolution actually sees the government committed to signing an Additional Protocol to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, which regards crimes of racist and xenophobic nature committed through computerized systems,” she said in the statement.

“The protocol allows investigators to coordinate their actions internationally when they make inquiries into this type of offense, thereby making it easier to apply abroad an existing Italian law on countering racial, ethnic and religious discriminations.”

Nirenstein added, “It is difficult to apply this law when investigations are halted by restrictions of a territorial nature, or when the websites spreading propaganda of hatred – and this is often the case – are on foreign servers. With the adoption of this protocol, it will be possible to move beyond the limitations of our borders.”

The number of anti-Semitic websites in Europe, particularly in Germany, Austria and Italy, has mushroomed.

Nirenstein cited a new study by the Milan-based Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation showing that between 2007 and 2010, Italian websites “with significant anti- Jewish content have almost doubled compared to the previous four-year period.”

She noted that “the Ministry of Interior’s figures show that 800 pages with anti-Jewish content were recorded in 2008, including websites, social networks and discussion groups; in 2009 there were 1,200 and in 2010 they have increased still further.”

Nirenstein said the Italian government confirmed that it would sign the protocol and that the resolution would move forward to parliamentary ratification.

“I am truly pleased with this result, which is an indicator of the common goal of the Italian parliament to fight the worrying spread of online anti-Semitism, a phenomenon to which the Inquiry Committee on Anti- Semitism, which I chair, has dedicated two of its sessions,” she said.

The Austrian neo-Nazi website alpendonau.info, which has stoked hatred and threats against Jewish journalist Samuel Laster in Vienna and members of Austria’s Jewish community, is the subject of an Anti-Defamation League effort to shut it down. Critics charge the Austrian authorities with shirking their responsibility to ban alpendonau.info.

A scandal is currently unfolding involving close links between an agent from Austria’s domestic intelligence agency and neo- Nazi organizations, including alpendonau.info. Reports in the Austrian media that intelligence agent Josef Fertschai might have leaked information about the agency’s efforts to combat Austrian neo-Nazism to his son Benjamin Fertschai, a right-wing extremist, rocked Austria’s Interior Ministry last month.
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