I was quite shocked by a story in The Age this morning. A retired Australian teacher was arrested on a plane at Heathrow. His name is Gerald Frederick Toben, and he runs something called the Adelaide Institute - it sounds quite anodyne but is in fact a mouthpiece for his virulently anti-Semitic views. Toben spent seven months in jail in Germany in 1994 for inciting racism.
When arrested yesterday, he was in transit on his way from the United States to Dubai. He is now being held for extradition to Germany to face fresh charges. He has breached various Australian court orders to remove his website and cease his activities. From what I can tell he is a reprehensible person, and his website runs the gamut from ratbag to plain vile.
What made me sit up straight was the fact he was arrested in London, on a European warrant, to be tried in Germany for crimes committed in Australia. His website allows him to broadcast his extremist views into any country in the world (unless that country takes the China approach and filters the web on behalf of its citizens). Now it appears the breadth of his reach is being turned against him.
In his case I won't miss him if he spends 5 years in jail in Germany. But the principle is interesting. Presumably ignorance of the laws of other countries is no excuse. How about you and I? Are we sure we aren't breaking the libel, obscenity or privacy laws of Saudi Arabia, Iran or China on our websites?