Online Hate Activity Rises, Extremists Using Web 2.0 Technologies - InformationWeek

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5/27/2008
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Online Hate Activity Rises, Extremists Using Web 2.0 Technologies

A report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center highlights how extremists have turned to YouTube, Facebook, online games, and Second Life to recruit new members.

The Internet has recently experienced the largest increase in online hate activity in 10 years, according to a report released by a Jewish human-rights organization.

"The Simon Wiesenthal Center has been monitoring digital hate for nearly two decades," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center. "As we begin our second decade, we find that as the Internet continues its historic expansion, extremists are keeping pace in the scope in technological sophistication of their efforts. In this election year, the Internet continues to be used to demean and threaten African Americans, Jews, immigrants, gays and virtually every religious denomination."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center released statistics on digital hate and terror this month and announced that hate groups have begun to use Web 2.0 technologies.

The report, which was released last week and includes information about online hate groups since 1995, said extremists have turned to YouTube, Facebook, online games, and Second Life to recruit new members.

Titled "Online Terror + Hate: The First Decade," the report states that the Internet's global reach, difficulties monitoring communications, and a market of more than 1 billion users make it a prime tool for extremists and terrorists.

The Wiesenthal Center said the first extremist Web site popped up in 1995. Today, the center counts more than 8,000 Web sites that promote hate and terrorism or display extremist or discriminatory postings. That's a 30% increase from last year, according to the report.

Extremists use the Web to promote their views, demean others, raise money, and recruit and train new members around the globe. They do so through videos, blogs, games, comments, and virtual worlds.

The report said that the Islamic Thinkers Society, Podblanc, and Border Patrol represent some of the most problematic examples of hate on the Internet.

The report says the Islamic Thinkers Society represents a Queens, N.Y. group that claims nonviolence but denies the Holocaust.

Border Patrol encourages players to shoot Mexican immigrants trying to cross the border. The antagonists in the game include "Breeder," a mother with children; "Drug Smuggler"; and "Mexican Nationalist." The game circulates through e-mail and various Web sites. It gained widespread attention from mainstream media reports two years ago.

"Podblanc: white now" touts itself as "White nationalism's answer to YouTube." It offers on-demand video of white supremacists, including one that depicts neo-Nazis murdering immigrants and another that shows avatars insulting African Americans' intellectual capacities.

The Wiesenthal Center, a United Nations nongovernmental organization, urges Internet users, other NGOs, and policymakers to help identify and fight against Web sites that promote hate.

The Wiesenthal Center has been credited with fostering tolerance and understanding, but it has also been criticized as being overzealous and defamatory in some instances.

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