Two leading experts on bigoted speech and the Internet have joined forces as authors of a new book that lays out a blueprint for governments, industry leaders and societies to take proactive steps to stem the tide of hate speech on the Internet.
Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League and Christopher Wolf, ADL Civil Rights Chair, outline the challenges posed by online hate and propose a series of solutions in their new book, Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet (Palgrave Macmillan), available in bookstores and for download on e-readers today.
Viral Hate discusses how in the past 20 years, the Internet, with all of its many advantages to society and the free-flow of information, has become one of the most powerful tools for bigots to spread evil messages of intolerance and rage.
While it is a marvelous medium for education, communication, entertainment and commerce, as the Internet has grown and changed over the years, racists and bigots have found new ways to exploit the technology to spread hateful messages and recruit others to join their cause. The book provides numerous examples of how this has happened.
Viral Hate offers specific recommendations for the industry, as well as for educators, parents and Internet users.
The industry recommendations include:
- Creating clear policies on hate speech and including them within terms of service;
- Creating mechanisms for enforcing hate speech policies;
- Establishing a clear, user-friendly process for allowing users to report hate speech;
- Increasing transparency about terms of service;
- Actively encouraging counter-speech and education to address hate speech.
Recommendations for Internet users include:
- Flagging offensive content;
- Speaking out and, in a smart and careful way, being prepared to challenge hateful messages with positive ones;
- Promoting counter-speech, applauding positive messages and recommending them to others;
- Talking about what you have seen, and reaching out to watchdog agencies with experience dealing with hate and bigotry;
- For educators, working to ensure that schools have appropriate policies in place, and emphasizing the importance of critical thinking.
Mr. Foxman, a longtime leader in the fight against anti-Semitism and bigotry, and Mr. Wolf, an Internet privacy law attorney who has represented ADL in a number of international bodies tasked with fighting Internet hate, cite numerous instances in recent years where individuals like James von Brunn, the white supremacist and U.S. Holocaust Museum shooter, have taken advantage of the power of the Internet to spread hateful messages and to find likeminded bigots.
And they identify the various forms of hate speech that have proliferated online, including racism, anti-Semitism, religious bigotry, Holocaust denial, homophobia, misogyny, promotion of terrorism and harassment.
In Viral Hate, Foxman and Wolf discuss how ADL helped to convene a new working group on online hate that is bringing together Internet industry leaders and others to probe the roots of the problem and develop new solutions to address it head on.
The authors write it is “a national disgrace” that schools do not have as a requirement courses instructing children on the appropriate use of electronic communication.
More information on the book is available on the League’s web site at www.adl.org/viral-hate.