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The Globe and Mail

Craigslist crusader after Internet haters

Cran Campbell holds printed pages of online hate postings while posing for a photograph in Delta, B.C., on Friday February 15, 2013.


For more than a year, a retiree from Delta, B.C., has been leading a one-man crusade against offensive and racist comments he says he has found on the website Craigslist.

Cran Campbell, 64, has been flagging postings under a heading called rants and raves in the personals section of the company's Vancouver site and calling on police, human-rights tribunals and politicians across Canada to take action.

He wants authorities to force companies that maintain Internet servers outside the country but use the .ca domain name at the end of their URL addresses to comply with Canada's hate-speech laws.

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Mr. Campbell has faced several obstacles in his efforts to draw attention to what he says is wrong.

Individuals behind websites with .ca domains don't need to live in Canada or operate their Internet servers here, and the organization that manages those domain names doesn't mandate what laws people must follow.

And police say Canada's hate-speech laws are complex.

"I can't stop doing it because it's just not right," Mr. Campbell said, adding he has been threatened because of his actions. "That's how these people, when they do this, this is how they get their foothold in it because other people get worried about doing anything about it. … They've just knocked on the wrong door with me."

Motivated by his hatred of the racism he saw as a child in Prince George, B.C., and in the U.S. military as a young adult, Mr. Campbell said he now spends a couple hours a day flagging comments on Craigslist, a classified ads site for items and services.

Mr. Campbell said he has reported his concerns to Craigslist officials in an e-mail, but has not received a response.

Recent comments archived from the site have included "rants" about the "destruction of the white race," jokes about Asian immigrants and calls for first nations and Canadians of European descent to unite.

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One post threatened violence against a current member of Parliament, while another poked fun at Caucasians for being "too lazy to work hard."

Another person even threatened to "come and take care" of whoever has been flagging comments for removal.

Mr. Campbell said in one post someone commented that the flagger should be "squashed like a bug," and in another a person threatened to send people after whoever wants the comments removed. Mr. Campbell said the threats appeared to be directed specifically at him.

Constable Ciaran Feenan of the Delta Police Department said authorities have not received a complaint from Mr. Campbell about threats in about a year, and while the last complaint was investigated, it didn't meet the threshold for taking further action.

Investigating such complaints and enforcing the country's hate-speech laws isn't easy, said Detective Constable Terry Wilson of the B.C. Hate Crime Team, a two-person integrated unit that includes a member from the RCMP and New Westminster Police Department. Det. Constable Wilson said authorities investigating complaints about hate speech must meet several tests under the hate propaganda section of Canada's Criminal Code.

He said a message has to be made publicly and must target one of five identifiable groups based on race, colour, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. Police must also determine if a person is tying to cause disdain or hatred towards that group, Det. Constable Wilson added.

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Michael Stewart, a spokesman for the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, said his member-driven organization, which manages domain names ending with .ca, doesn't specify where an individual should live or where their servers must be located.

He noted it does require them to meet "Canadian presence requirement."

The requirements are set out in a four-page document that allows a registrant to be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, legal representative or corporation to a library, archive or museum or educational institution.

The authority also doesn't mandate what laws a person must follow, Mr. Stewart said. "However, every registrant agreement is governed by Canadian law and each registrant agrees to submit to the jurisdiction of Canadian courts for issues arising from that agreement," he said in an e-mail.

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