Fighting Hate Speech Online...
Hate speech proliferates everywhere on the Web. No one denies this. The question is, what can be done about it?
In the most recent issue of Policy & Internet, Raphael Cohen-Almagor takes an applied ethics approach to the problem in his article "Fighting Hate and Bigotry on the Internet". After studying dozens of hate sites and conducting interviews with over 50 leading Internet scholars, security experts, and human rights activists, he formulates the following strategy for countering hate speech online...
- Speech vs. Speech: tackling net hate with more communication, more openness, and exposing the problem in the free marketplace of ideas.
- Education: entailing activity at both primary and high school levels.
- Hate Watch: Names of hate sites should be published to have a continually updated list of them in order to alert people about the sites and have them properly labeled by search engines and ISPs.
- Citizens' Initiatives to Combat Hate: to educate people, provide funds or other assistance to help the victims of hate crimes, and assist in fighting hate groups.
- Internet Users' Initiatives to Combat Hate: Facebook forums, forums that call upon ISPs to adopt a code of responsible conduct, including anti-hate provisions, etc.
- Content Filters: both client- and server-side filtering, monitoring, and auditing tools.
- Blocking Programs at Work and School: Governments at all levels employ between 30 and 60 percent of the workforce and public schools attract an even higher percentage of the school age population. It should be a matter of government policy that no employees or students be able to access hate sites unless this access is related to their work.
- Responsibility of ISPs: ISPs are often reluctant to block service to those who violate their terms of service (TOS) agreements because it eats into their profit margins, however they commonly deny service or remove material from their servers in the event of copyright violations. They ought to start taking hate speech at least as seriously as copyright.
- Link to a CyberTipline: What ISPs and hosting companies could certainly do is provide a uniform channel for user complaints, like a CyberTipline, and link to it from a prominent place on their website.
- Omit or Label Hate Websites in Search Engines
- Label, Name, and Shame ISPs and web-hosting services that refuse to cooperate
- Seek out Global Cooperation
Cohen-Almagor is right to try and balance the benefits of free expression, on the one hand, and the benefits of social responsibility, on the other. However, here is the controversial point... At the conclusion of his paper, he provides a detailed list of hate websites, complete with URLs. Certainly, publishing this list serves his stated desire to bring such sites to the public's attention. However, many critics will argue that publishing this list, and others like it, by bringing it to the public's attention, actually serves just as much as a marketing tool for these hate sites, which might otherwise go unnoticed by those fringe elements who might actually support them, as it does to raise public opinion to counter them.
Should the list of hate sites be promulgated? Would spreading it around as much as possible to everyone do more good or harm? What are your thoughts?