Warman fights cyberhate

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080920.wwarman0920/... Racists, crusader stuck in a hate-hate relationship (Canada) Ottawa lawyer fights a lonely battle against online bigots, but opponents say his methods stir up anger where little existed before After notching a 16th human-rights tribunal spawned by his relentless activism, Richard Warman - bête noire of the extreme right - worried aloud that he can never hope to cleanse the Internet of hate speech. 'It's a little bit like counting the rats in the New York City sewers,' said Mr. Warman, a one-man crusade to eradicate racists and neo-Nazis from cyberspace. 'You never know whether you are seeing the same rats or whether it is a new one that has stuck its head out the hole.' His latest target, webmaster Marc Lemire, ended a four-year battle this week to fend off a Canadian Human Rights Commission complaint. Mr. Lemire, whose website allegedly posted material that ridiculed Jews, blacks, Italians, homosexuals and other groups, has objected often and strenuously to being entangled in a web of costly litigation by Mr. Warman. Mr. Lemire's supporters concur. 'In the free-speech community, Warman is detested as a fanatic who seeks to ruin peoples' lives by CHRC complaints, Criminal Code complaints and efforts to cost dissidents their jobs,' Paul Fromm, a fixture of the extreme right, said in an interview.The Warman technique involves trolling far-right websites in search of hate propaganda. Mr. Warman then attempts to ferret out the identity of the writer or webmaster, a cat-and-mouse game that can include adopting a pseudonym or masquerading as a friendly, like-minded bigot. Mr. Warman, a lawyer with the federal government, must testify at each tribunal. On occasion, he may even have to litigate the case on his own. Opponents point to the number of Section 13 tribunals Mr. Warman has launched - 16 of 100 the commission has pursued in the past 30 years - as proof that he stirs up anger where little exists. 'Where are the representatives of those allegedly exposed to 'hatred or contempt?' ' Mr. Fromm said. 'At almost every hearing, only the victims' supporters are there. There have never been angry or offended Sikhs, native Indians or blacks there to show their concern.' Mr. Fromm also accused Mr. Warman of enticing unsophisticated individuals into heated debate, profiting from the damage awards that can result if they disparage him by name. Mr. Warman acknowledged that he has been awarded a total of more than $40,000. However, he said that most of it has never been paid. Over the past five years alone, his efforts have cost him well over 2,000 hours and tens of thousands of dollars, he added. 'If people want to switch places with me and invest thousands of hours of their time in holding neo-Nazis accountable for illegal conduct - and are willing to put up with the death threats - I would encourage them to get in touch with me,' Mr. Warman said. However, his biggest award, $30,000, came from a successful libel suit against Mr. Fromm in 2006. Mr. Warman is currently suing another opponent for allegedly defaming him on the Internet and inciting others to harm him. 'These people have been relentless in encouraging people to murder me,' Mr. Warman said. 'They publish surveillance photos of me and my home address, along with incitements to murder me and suggestions as to where snipers could set up outside my residence. And Google maps on how to get there.' Mr. Warman traces his activism to a human-rights tribunal he happened to attend in 1991 that targeted the neo-Nazi Heritage Front. Seeing the law being used to further human rights inspired him, he said. 'I like to attribute what I do to good citizenship,' Mr. Warman said. 'If there are people out there calling for the murder of your neighbours, you have an inherent moral and ethnical responsibility to do something to bring a stop to it.' In an unusual twist that infuriated his enemies, Mr. Warman obtained a job in 2002 as an investigator for the CHRC. Two years later, he was laid off - an act Mr. Warman attributes to a 'poison-pen' campaign by the extreme right. 'I believe it impacted, because I was the only investigator that was laid off at the time,' he said. Another aspect of the CHRC thoroughly disillusioned Mr. Warman: It has only once initiated a hate complaint under Section 13, he said. 'I think that is to the commission's shame that it is up to private citizens to bring these kind of complaints. Their role is not to sit back and watch when there is a call for genocide against their fellow citizens. They have a duty and an obligation to act.' The Globe and Mail

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