Police can do little about Internet threats made against Delta man
The Internet can be a wild and lawless place, and for Canadian police, there is often no means to take down content that violates Canadian law.
After being repeatedly threatened online, Delta resident Cran Campbell wants changes to Canadian laws to make US and International websites be held legally responsible for content made available in Canada.
Campbell has taken it upon himself to police the “Rants and Raves” section of the popular classified advertisement website Craiglist’s Vancouver page. The section frequently features racist and hate-filled public messages, which Campbell believes violate Canadian hate speech laws.
“I’m not a racist person, and when I went on Craigslist, it really annoyed me what a bunch of idiots were on there, posting all sorts of horrible stuff,” says Campbell. “There have been numerous threats against ethnic Canadians, racial slurs and even threats against politicians and the Prime Minister, and it’s time it ends.”
Campbell’s efforts to flag and report the offending posts have resulted in repeated public threats directed at him personally.
On Dec. 31, an anonymous poster published Campbell’s photo on the Craigslist Rants and Raves page, threatening him for flagging posts on the page.
“You’re [sic] days of flagging are numbered. And no I don’t think anyone is going to come to your house (even though we all know where you live) and hurt you. But there is other ways of getting you,” the post stated.
“This is a direct threat to me,” said Campbell. “It’s time everyone starts taking this seriously.”
Delta Police spokesperson Cst. Ciaran Feenan said police have looked into Campbell’s case, but because the website is hosted in the US, they have no legal power to force Craigslist to take down posts and hand over information about the poster. Even if they did hand over information about where an offending post was sent from, there’s no telling who sent it.
“Even with an IP address, it is difficult to prove that an individual was on the computer at the specific time a post was made,” said Feenan. “The internet has no borders, and offers an unlimited ability to move around the world at the click of a button. It presents many challenges in getting charges approved.”
Police and public can request an offending post be removed from a foreign website, and Feenan said Craigslist is one of the better websites at complying with these requests.
However, there is no legal requirement for a website to do so.
“They don’t have to facilitate these requests,” said Feenan. “And we can’t legally compel them to.”
Given the Craigslist website is marketed to Canadians, it should have to comply with Canadian law, Campbell believes.
He has been petitioning municipal, provincial and federal politicians to enact legislation that would make companies that operate websites aimed at Canadians be accountable to Canadian law, regardless of where their website is hosted.
“What these people are doing is illegal and they should be held accountable,” Campbell said. “They need to get hauled into court.”