Hate speech permeates blogs, social networking sites, and discussion forums all over the world. Though inflammatory content may be protected as free speech by the U.S. Constitution, on the Internet it can have a greater potential to create a violent and fatal backlash. Attacks on American soil are consistently linked to online hate speech:
- James Von Brunn, the murderer who killed a Holocaust museum guard in Washington in 2009 was found to have been a frequent poster on many anti-Semitic and white supremacist websites. The FBI stated they had been monitoring Von Brunn’s internet activity, but were unable to take action because his comments had not crossed the line from free speech into hate speech.
- Benjamin Smith was the killer who went on a racially motivated shooting spree in Illinois and Indiana over July 4th weekend in 1999. Months before the murders, he told a documentary filmmaker, “It wasn’t really ’til I got on the Internet, read some literature of these groups that…it all really came together. It’s a slow, gradual process to become racially conscious.”
- Jared Lee Loughner, the 22-year-old killer in the recent Tuscon shootings that left six people dead, including a 9-year-old-girl. A series of YouTube videos apparently posted by Loughner accuse the government of “mind control” and “brainwashing.”
The Internet allows people to get information solely from sources they like, allowing them to hear things without ever challenging their beliefs. You get some insanity on the Internet you would never see anywhere in real life. For instance:
- VictoryForever.com: The point of the game is to bomb survivors of the Haiti earthquake. Posted on white supremacist and neo-Nazi internet forum, Stormfront.org. Launched in 1995, Stormfront now attracts more than 40,000 unique visitors a day. In a 2009 shooting, Richard Poplawski, a poster on the site, was charged with ambushing and killing three Pittsburgh Police officers and attempting to kill nine others.
- “DEAR LORD…”: This Facebook page boasts over a million members and its forum has numerous offensive discussions about race and nationalism, filled with comments wishing death on the President.
- NO TO ISLAM, No To Mosques: The description for this Facebook page reads:
“Islam is a mind-control and information-control cult found by a murderer, torturer, brigand, rapist, and pedophile called Mohammed.”
Combating hate speech in a World Wide Web that is constantly multiplying it’s content is a daunting task. At the same time, the First Amendment provides the highest level of protection to offensive, repugnant, and hateful expression.
The thousands of members on many Facebook groups are constantly scanning the social network’s content, linking to offensive material in order to get it reported and successfully removed. Here are some groups actively policing hate speech on Facebook
Answer this question in the comments below: Should there be greater restrictions imposed on Internet hate speech?