If a website is hosted in the United States but authored in another country, which country’s laws should apply to the content of that website? If a web site in favor of independence for Tibet were hosted in the United States but authored in China, which country’s laws should apply to the content of that website? What about a website in favor of women’s rights were hosted in the United States but authored in Iran? Most people I know would say that the free speech laws of the United States should trump the non-free speech laws of other countries. Most people I know would say that these websites should be allowed to continue to exist and that their authors should not be subject to criminal charges, either in the United States or in any other country. But when the free speech in question is in error or insulting then there are differences of opinion among those I know. Some laugh, some scowl and move on, some call for the free speech to be censored, some call for those practicing free speech to be punished.
England has laws that make ‘race hate’ literature illegal. The United States does not have such laws. Simon Sheppard [Wikipedia] of England publishes the website heretical.com out of Torrance, California. On Friday July 14, 2008 Sheppard was found guilty of eleven counts of ‘race hate’ relating to heretical.com. According to heretical.com the website was subject to British and not USA law because it was ‘available in England and Wales.’ What other websites originating in the USA are subject to British law because they are available in England and Wales? Perhaps my own, ovo127.com? Am I endangering my chances of visiting England again with this post?
I do not think that people should be jailed for hate speech. However, I believe a correction or clarification may be in order: Trevor quotes the claim that heretical.com is “‘irony, satire and parody of political correctness, intended in good humour and for the stimulation of debate.” Perhaps this is the case – hence their reprinting of Crumb’s clearly ironic comics. However, based on the general contents of the site, and Simon Sheppard’s background, it’s difficult to reach that conclusion. Which raises another issue – how does one differentiate between legitimate and ironic racist literature?