Online Hate - An Introduction

The Internet has been rightly hailed as a groundbreaking interactive marketplace of ideas where anyone with the right hardware and software can set up a cyber-stall. It has become an essential means for people to access information and services but the downside of this unparalleled information exchange is that, alongside its many valuable resources, the Net also offers a host of offensive materials – including hateful content – that attempt to inflame public opinion against certain groups of people.

Most definitions of hate focus on the ways in which entire groups of people are viewed as the ‘Other’. U.S.-based Tolerance.org says that “prejudices are formed by a complex psychological process that begins with attachment to a close circle of acquaintances, or an ‘in-group’, such as a family. Prejudice is often aimed at ‘out-groups,’” groups that are not included in the ‘in-group’ on the basis of certain shared characteristics. [1]

Canadian communications scholar Karim Karim points out that the Other is one of a number of human archetypes common to all cultures. When people transfer their fears and hatred to the ‘other’, the targeted group becomes, in their eyes, less than human. Denying the humanity of victims makes it much easier to justify acts of violence and degradation. [2] Raymond A. Franklin, author of The Hate Directory, a catalogue of hate websites, defines hate groups as those which “advocate violence against, separation from, defamation of, deception about, or hostility towards others based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation”. [3]

Although it is difficult to determine precise numbers of hate sites on the Internet, those that are known to anti-hate organizations are cause for concern. The last release of the Hate Directory, in 2010, documented 170 pages of hate content that included websites, blogs, games, radio broadcasts, podcasts and racist friendly web-hosting services. The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Digital Terrorism and Hate Project tracks over 14,000 potentially hateful websites, blogs, social networking pages and videos on video-sharing sites like YouTube, in order to help identify such threats.

Young people are particularity at risk of exposure to online hate as many treat the Internet as their ‘home away from home’. [4] In addition, teens comprise the largest group of perpetrators of hate crimes offline in Canada – the single largest group being young males ages twelve to seventeen. [5] Given the particular vulnerability of youth, it is vitally important to engage them as early as possible in discussions about hate, and more specifically in discussions about online cultures of hate and hateful content.

This section explores the ways in which agendas of hate are promoted on the Internet and the ways in which young people may be targeted by or exposed to hate. It examines the line between hate speech and free speech, provides an overview of relevant legislation and voluntary industry codes, examines the contexts in which hate occurs and explores solutions and responses. Included are key articles along with the latest reports and surveys on these issues.

  


[1] Tolerance.org. (2011). Test Yourself for Hidden Bias - Teaching Tolerance. Retrieved July 6, 2011, from http://www.tolerance.org/activity/test-yourself-hidden-bias
[2] Karim, K. H. (2003). Islamic Peril: Media and Global Violence (Updated ed.). Montréal: Black Rose Books.
[3] Franklin, R. (2010). The Hate Directory. Retrieved July 14, 2011, from www.hatedirectory.com/hatedir.pdf
[4] Calvert, Sandra L (2008). “Children as Consumers: Advertising and Marketing.” Future of Children 18.1 (2008): 205-34. Print.
[5] Statistics Canada. (2009) Juristat

Diversity in Media Toolbox

The Diversity and Media Toolbox is a comprehensive suite of resources that explores issues relating to stereotyping, bias and hate in mainstream media and on the Internet. The program includes professional development tutorials, lesson plans, interactive student modules and background articles.

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