A few weeks ago, a young woman has been convicted for placing hyperlinks to Islamic extremist material on the Web. Because of the content of the material (and other circumstances, see below) her acts were qualified as incitement to commit serious crimes. The writings (in Dutch) deal with the battle against non-Muslims. It took me one search in Google to find them. (“Vergiftiging van de Ummah” (poisoning of the Ummah) and “De honden blaffen en de karavaan gaat voort…” (The dogs bark and the caravan continues) . For extensive reading on Dutch Islamic extremism on the Internet see Sociosite.
The Court makes sure to argue that being responsible for a hyperlink to inciting material does not in general trigger the definition of “to circulate material” in the provision on incitement in the Dutch Penal Code. The court argues that it can’t have been the wish of the legislator to criminalize hyperlinks to inciting material in all cases. That would make search engine providers punishable as well, to which the Court adds that “with particular search terms, it is inevitable that they result in hyperlinks to material that incites criminal offences or violence against the public authorities”.
The specific circumstances which make the linking punishable stay a little vague, but seem to deal with the young womanâ€™s intent. The judge considers that the woman was a Muslima, with a more then normal interest in Muslim extremist ideology, actively propagating this by placing material on the Internet. In a certain document â€œStrijders van Allah (Warriors of Allah)â€ she is referred to as actively manifesting herself on Muslim extremist sites. Finally the Court takes into account her understanding of Islam. (I guess an argument for holding her fully accountable).
The ruling, which will be commented on in the next months – seems to have very limited value for hyperlinks in general. I find it interesting that the Court makes sure that search engines are not affected by the decision. It states the legislator could not have meant to do so. I am not sure about this. A vision of search engines and the Web that make these documents so easy to retrieve might have scared them. It would have sufficed to reason about the intent more explicitly.