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March 4, 2014 0

Abuse Of Yik Yak App Underscores Need For Personal Accountability

Update: March 10, 2014 – Threats found on Yik Yak resulted in back-to-back evac­u­a­tions of a high school in Mar­ble­head, Mass­a­chu­setts, as well as the lock­down of a Decatur, Alabama, Mid­dle School and a San Clemente, Cal­i­for­nia High School, accord­ing to the Los Ange­les Times. Some of the schools that have been sub­ject to threats on Yik Yak have report­edly blocked stu­dents from access­ing the app directly through cam­pus Inter­net net­works. At least four Chicago-area high schools warned par­ents about Yik Yak in the past two weeks, accord­ing to the Chicago Tri­bune, and prin­ci­pals have asked par­ents to delete the app from their children’s devices.

The abuse of a con­tro­ver­sial new app that enables users to com­mu­ni­cate with com­plete anonymity high­lights the need for some user iden­ti­fi­ca­tion func­tions and per­sonal accountability.yikyak

The app, Yik Yak, which pro­motes itself as being a place “to post anony­mously or under an alias — you can become the talk of the town and never get dis­cov­ered,”  has been report­edly abused by stu­dents in Roswell, Geor­gia; North Kansas City, Mis­souri; and Mobile, Alabama.

In Roswell, a let­ter was sent to par­ents of High School stu­dents say­ing that “this app is allow­ing stu­dents to ver­bally abuse each other, teach­ers and staff…”

In North Kansas City, one par­ent found a hate­ful post about her daugh­ter as well as teach­ers and administrators.

And in Mobile, two stu­dents under the age of 16 were report­edly arrested for using the app to make ter­ror­is­tic threats. Appar­ently act­ing sep­a­rately, each allegedly used Yik Yak to threat­ened shoot­ings at local high schools. They were arrested on felony charges.

These inci­dents empha­size the con­se­quences of a lack of any reg­is­tra­tion require­ments, includ­ing age ver­i­fi­ca­tion, or a cur­sory online identification.

In his lat­est book Viral Hate, ADL National Direc­tor Abra­ham H. Fox­man speaks to this issue, not­ing that “embold­ened by anonymity,” indi­vid­u­als are “freely spew­ing hate­ful vit­riol on the Inter­net with­out wor­ry­ing about reper­cus­sions. Lies, bul­ly­ing, con­spir­acy the­o­ries, big­oted and racist rants, and calls for vio­lence tar­get­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble cir­cu­late openly on the web.”

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February 4, 2014 0

Counter-speech Against a French Anti-Semite

Counter-speech is a vital tool to com­bat hate speech, and ADL’s coun­ter­part in French-speaking Switzer­land, CICAD, pro­vided an excel­lent exam­ple of counter-speech last night against the anti-Semitic French come­dian, Dieudonné.

CICAD stand near the Nyon theater, featuring Dieudonné quotes like, “For me, the Jews are a cult, a fraud.”

CICAD stand near the Nyon the­ater, fea­tur­ing Dieudonné quotes like, “For me, the Jews are a cult, a fraud.”

Dieudonné, who has been con­victed and fined mul­ti­ple times for anti-Semitic speech in France, sched­uled sev­eral per­for­mances in Nyon, Switzer­land, a town just four miles over the border.

Last night’s per­for­mance coin­cided with the British government’s deci­sion to declare Dieudonné per­sona non grata, for­bid­ding him entry into the UK.  Dur­ing the per­for­mance, Dieudonné referred to Queen Eliz­a­beth II and made his often anti-Semitic quenelle gesture.

The Nyon munic­i­pal­ity decided on Jan­u­ary 13 not to ban Dieudonné’s per­for­mances, while “firmly con­demn­ing any racist and/or anti-Semitic state­ments.”  Fol­low­ing that deci­sion, CICAD sought and received per­mis­sion from the Nyon munic­i­pal­ity to set up an infor­ma­tion booth next to the the­ater to pro­vide audi­ence mem­bers with doc­u­men­ta­tion of Dieudonné’s anti-Semitic hate speech, includ­ing Holo­caust denial.

ADL cham­pi­ons counter-speech and edu­ca­tion to address hate speech, and this approach is a cen­tral theme of Viral Hate: Con­tain­ing Its Spread on the Inter­net, the most recent book by ADL National Direc­tor Abra­ham H. Fox­man and Christo­pher Wolf, ADL Civil Rights Chair.  CICAD reminds us that this strat­egy works well on the ground too.

CICAD will be pre­sent­ing a French-language ver­sion of ADL’s Con­fronting Anti-Semitism: Myths and Facts at the Geneva Inter­na­tional Book Fair, April 30-May 4, one of the most impor­tant in Europe with almost 100,000 vis­i­tors each year.

 

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June 4, 2013 0

ADL’s “Viral Hate” Now Available in Bookstores

Abe Foxman's & Christopher Wolf's book: "Viral Hate"

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.

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