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Web of Hate

In 1996 I was news editor at Network World and just starting to use the Internet (I was all CompuServe before that). There was this thing called a search engine where you type in a word or phrase and find stuff.  I tried all kinds of kooky things and then typed in "KKK." I was curious if the KKK had a Web site. I soon found hundreds of hate sites, all recruiting members, selling hate music, T-shirts and linking to one-another, forming a virtual mesh of hate.

I decided this would make a pretty cool story. I interviewed some of the haters and then talked to Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center who mentioned that hate speech might have to be censored on the Internet. The story caused a firestorm, not just by exposing the recruiting tactics, but more so for censorship.

Rabbi Cooper, who was a phenomenal resource, is at it again. This time he's chronicling how social networks are the new "Web of hate."

The article brought back memories and made clear that Rabbi Cooper has a nearly identical view 14 years later. Here is the last sentence of the NYT article: "The goal is to get the collective genius of the Internet to help combat this problem," he said.

Here is the last sentence of mine from 14 years ago: "We need to engage in a consortium, get some of the collective genius that created the 'Net' and the providers to come up with technology strategy," Cooper said. "We will be approaching a couple of thousand companies and asking, do you have rules and will you consider them?"

Do you think the Web should be a free-for-all or should hate speech and other unseemly items be restricted? Send your unguarded thoughts to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 03/24/2010 at 1:17 PM


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