Massachusetts, March 25, 1999
blocks hate-promoting Web
DEAL with a proliferation of hate sites
on the Internet, the Anti-Defamation
League has developed a "Hate
Filter" that allows parents and others
to block out hate sites.
"Hate Filter is designed as a
gatekeeper ... to stop Web sites that
promote hate from coming into the
home," said David Hoffman, who
runs the ADL's Web site.
The organization sponsored a panel
discussion yesterday on dealing with
hate Web sites and e-mail that is
filled with racism, homophobia and
The discussion addressed the
difficult question: How to combat the
rising use of the Internet to spread
messages of hate without violating the
right to free speech.
number of Web sites set up by
hatemongers is growing and so is the
use of e-mail to disseminate messages
of hate, according to the ADL.
in such addresses spurs Anti-Defamation
A report earlier this month by the
Wiesenthal Center, a research
organization based in Los Angeles, said
the number of hate sites on the World
Wide Web has more than doubled from
about 600 in 1997 to more than 1,500
Lauren H. Levin, a lawyer
with ADL, said yesterday that the 15
e-mail hate incidents reported to the
organization in Massachusetts last
year, at a time when all anti-Semitic
incidents rose 8 percent, represented
"the tip of the iceberg."
And Robert Cole of the state
attorney general's office called the
proliferation of hate on the Internet
"a new, pernicious reality." He said
his office is committed to prosecuting
Internet hate crimes.
Hate Filter is one way of trying to
keep out offensive Web sites but it has
the same sort of quirks that other
filtering programs have.
example, anyone with the program
might encounter problems doing
research on the Nazi Party because
some legitimate sites on the subject
might be filtered out.
Another way to stop hate on the
Internet without violating free speech,
panelists said, is for Internet service
providers to strictly enforce their
terms of service agreements.
"What we're encouraging is for these
ISPs to be more aggressive in enforcing
their terms of service," Levin said.
"And legislators need to step up to the
plate and enact the laws that balance
free speech with the fight against hate
on the Internet."
Panelist Jeffrey Snider, a
lawyer for the Waltham-based Internet
company Lycos, said: "We readily and
eagerly cooperate with authorities"
when a customer's violation of the
rules warrants law enforcement to
Jonathan Zittrain, executive
director and cofounder of the Berkman
Center for the Internet and Society at
Harvard University, offered suggestions
for dealing with hate-filled
He said e-mail could be made less
anonymous to increase the possibility
of detecting the sender of a hate
message and that e-mail-ID programs,
similar to Caller ID systems, could be
developed to better inform computer
users where a message is coming from
before it is opened.
But whatever action companies and
legislators take, "there aren't going
to be any easy solutions," Zittrain