Thursday, May 26, 2011

Neo-Nazi website on US server evades shutdown

Although the Alpen-Donau website is chock full of neo-Nazi symbolism and calls Mauthausen concentration camp Austria's largest open-air museum, attempts to shut it down have been derailed by the fact it's housed on a U.S. server. Three people suspected of being behind the website were arrested in April, including Gottfried Kuessel, one of the Alpine republic's leading neo-Nazis. But until a couple of weeks ago it continued to spew extremist and anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Austrian investigators have suggested that, for forensic reasons, it's in their interest that the website stay online for now because it provides them with vital clues in their probe aimed at tracking down remaining suspects. But those personally targeted by the site want U.S. authorities to shut it down immediately.
The website's latest posting features photos of Mernyi and implies he is to blame for acts of vandalism at the former concentration camp where the Nazis murdered about 100,000 people. The site has also posted pictures of teenagers who took part in workshops organized by the group, Mernyi said.
American officials say their hands are tied unless the site violates U.S. laws. In Austria, freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution but is limited by a ban on propagating Nazi ideology. Inciting hatred on the basis of any ideology is a crime under the Austrian penal code.
While the site was down for several weeks, it resurfaced with a slightly modified address in time to mark Adolf Hitler's birthday on April 20, now believed to be hosted by a server in Arizona. It has been idle since May 7, suggesting authorities may be making more progress or have even successfully caught the remaining culprits.
In neighboring Hungary, the government succeeded in July 2008 to temporarily shut the extremist kuruc.info website, saying at the time that it did so with help from U.S. authorities. Within six weeks it became active again, moving to another U.S. server, and has been online ever since.
The site is controversial because of its racist content, which includes anti-Semitic and anti-Gypsy articles and imagery. It has also published mobile phone numbers and home addresses belonging to judges and prosecutors who were involved in court cases against people who took part in the country's anti-government riots of 2006.
In both countries, a long-term solution on how to deal with the situation seems far off. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder suggested at a news conference after an April 14 meeting with European Union home affairs ministers in Hungary that one way to tackle the problem may be by making it clear to the public that extremist rhetoric is simply wrong.

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