Dealing with Cyberhate

Screen shot 2009-10-05 at 2.21.15 PMThe Web is an expression of the human condition that includes voices from seemingly every perspective. The rise of social networking has made it easier than ever for people to express their views online. Freedom of speech is valued in democratic society, but often questioned in situations where speech is hateful and dangerous. On the Web, it’s left to service providers to determine where to draw the line when it comes to free speech. Often times the social networks are too large to easily police, so they depend on users to point out offending content.

On Facebook complaints about nudity, pornography and harassing personal messages are addressed within 24 hours. YouTube has created an online safety center that allows users to flag offending videos. Most online services yank any content designed to attack or demean an individual or group based on race, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation.

Consider a poll on Facebook that popped up this week, that asked users “Should Obama be Killed?” – Yes, No, Maybe, or Yes if he cuts health care. The poll lasted two days before it was yanked by Facebook. The U.S. Secret Service has launched an investigation into the case to find the person who posted the survey.

“Cyberhate is one of the biggest challenges we face,” says a representative from the Anti-Defamation League. Complaints about online hate speech are up this year by more than 200 percent.

Online bullying is yet another form of online hate. A bill making its way through the House would make Internet bullying a crime. Internet bullying is defined in the bill as repeated, hostile and severe communications made with the intent to harm.

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