A wholesale Web hosting provider based in B.C. has removed from its network six Web sites that a human rights organization says could violate Canadian laws.

Working in co-operation with the Integrated Crimes Unit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, RackForce Hosting Inc. late last week shut down the sites based on an alert from the Toronto-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. Kelowna, B.C.-based RackForce also said it is invoking section 12 (12.1) of its Master Service Agreement, and will deny any further services to the hosting provider/reseller responsible for hosting the sites.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center national affairs director Leo Adler said one of the sites, which promotes suicide bombings, is operated by Abu Hamza Al-Misri, who is awaiting deportation to the U.S. under its Terrorism Act. The other sites, which RackForce says are hosted by the same reseller, are linked to al-Qaeda and degrade the Jewish religion, according to Adler.

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center regularly scours the Internet for Web sites that it says offer examples of how extremist groups worldwide work online to recruit and communicate with members. It has published a series of CD-ROMs, called “Digital Hate” to help train law enforcement officials and educators. In this case, an article in a journal published by MIT brought one of the sites to the Center’s attention, he said.

RackForce Web services manager Randall Robinson said the company provides dedicated servers and virtual dedicated servers to hosting resellers world-wide. Those resellers in turn sell Web site hosting services to end users. Currently RackForce hosts more than estimated 80,000 sites hosted at its Kelowna data centres, which he said makes it difficult to always be aware what kind of content is being published on its network. 

“We rely on, at this point, the watchdog organizations, the good Samaritans,” he said. “It would be virtually impossible to monitor everything – there are some 59 million sites on the Internet already. How would you ever possibly do it?”

The Canadian government is still considering a proposal, dubbed Lawful Access, which would require Internet Service Providers to work more closely with law enforcement officials to deal with cybercime. Adler said the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal supports Lawful Access, though he said most Canadian ISPs and hosting providers are more than willing to take action once they have been alerted about a problem.

“They’ve been extremely co-operative. We’ve never really had a problem,” he said. “There may some additional steps and procedures that would help them. We applaud any effort to work more closely with (police).”

RackForce contacted the RCMP soon after getting the alert from Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, which was already investigating the Web sites in question, Robinson said.

“These guys were saying some pretty bad stuff,” he said. “Based on the information we got back from the RCMP, we opted to exercise our rights to invoke our acceptable use policy.”

A staff sergeant at the RCMP’s Integrated Crime Unit in Surrey, B.C., leading the investigation was not available for comment at press time.

Robinson said one of the sites RackForce pulled has since moved to a hosting provider based out of Toronto. Adler said tracking and shutting down such sites is an ongoing battle.

 “One of (the Internet’s) most durable assets and strengths is the fact that you can communicate fairly freely without government interference and do wonderful things,” he said. “It’s that same ability that’s used by terrorist groups and hate groups to jump from server to server to propagate this messages.”

Three years ago, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center warned of an “electronic jihad” that would sabotage IT systems owned and operated by Jewish organizations, but it never materialized.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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