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Blog taken down, blogger facing charges for hate-based content
Published Wednesday, June 14, 2017 11:15AM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 14, 2017 7:37PM MDT
Edmonton police said a man had been arrested and charged for the operation of a number of hate-based websites.
The Edmonton Police Service Hate Crimes Unit started their investigation in June 2016, after a number of complaints came in over hateful content published on a number of websites – the sites included daily posts containing strong, hate-based rhetoric targeting a number of communities.
It’s alleged some posts included violent threats of harm against specific people – targeting the LGBTQ community and political leaders.
“It’s one thing to post something that you don’t like but you start to promote hatred and threaten an individual, and threaten to put harm up on an individual and create a following, that’s when we are going to start getting involved,” Sgt. Gary Willits with the EPS Hate Crimes Unit said.
“There is often an assumption of anonymity when crimes are committed in an online forum,” Const. Trevor Shelrud with the EPS Hate Crime Unit said in a statement. “We want citizens to know that regardless of the forum, we take hate crime seriously.”
It’s believed the websites dated back as far as 2014 to the present.
Barry Winters, 67, has been charged with willful promotion of hatred.
Police said Winters had amassed an online following with thousands of members, and one of his targets was Marni Panas, a well-known transgender advocate.
“You’re always wondering, is the next one going to be Barry Winters, or more importantly is it going to be someone who read his blogs and have been motivated by his words to act out on these things,” Panas said.
Panas told CTV News she ‘Googled’ herself, and came across a blog called The Baconfat Papers, which had thousands of followers.
“Very disturbing comments from people on many faiths, many races,” Panas said, in addition to the threats she found that were against her specifically.
“As I read more and I shared with my friends, we realized this person was from Edmonton, that was certainly concerning, that’s just very close to home,” Panas said. She called police, and an investigation was launched.
EPS said this may be the first time that this type of charge has been laid. Police said the charge can be difficult to prove, but police said the case had extreme concerns as the accused often promoted harm against others.
Police said Winters posted daily, and his posts included violent threats against specific individuals, including the Prime Minister.
“We went from political figures to certain races, to genders, sexual orientation, no one was safe from his comments or hatred,” Willits said.
Meanwhile, the blog has been taken down, and Winters has been released on conditions – including he can’t publish content online.
The charge carries a sentence of up to two years in jail.
With files from Dan Grummett and Jonathan Glasgow