Experts warn of rapid growth in on-line hate

Data stored on the Internet will explode by a factor of 1,000 in the next five years — a proliferation that will make it impossible for governments to control the flow of hate material, an international conference was told yesterday.

“There is no way any government can control the amount of hate material that is going to be out there,” said Michael Nelson, Washington-based director of IBM’s internet technology and strategy systems and technology group development. “The Net is going to be as versatile and ubiquitous as paper.”

Dr. Nelson’s warning to the conference, organized by B’nai Brith Canada, encapsulated a view held by one faction of those in attendance. This faction espoused a belief that a wide array of strategies will be necessary to fill the government void and curb the spread of virulently racist websites and blogs on an estimated 500 billion existing websites.

An opposing faction, while not denying the need for creative solutions, stressed the need for police, governments and human-rights tribunals to remain front-and-centre in the fight to detect and prosecute Internet hate mongers.

Among this group was B’nai Brith’s national legal counsel, Marvin Kurz, who said those advocating a diminished role for government have been unduly swayed by freedom-of-speech guarantees in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

“From a Canadian perspective, I disagree with that,” Mr. Kurz said in an interview. “The criminalization of hate propaganda is an important social step we can take.”

However, Mr. Nelson said the third “wave” of Internet development is overwhelming government regulators. The Internet is rapidly evolving from a millions-strong mass of individual computers into “a virtually seamless supercomputer,” he said.

Mr. Nelson advocated the use of private lawsuits against purveyors of hate, and creative remedies such as one anti-hate group he stumbled upon recently after discovering that the first item that appeared upon typing “Jew” into the Google search engine was an anti-Semitic website named “Jew Watch.”

The group succeeded in posting a definition of the word “Jewish” on a massive encyclopedia known as Wikipedia, Mr. Nelson said. Links to that definition were then incorporated into other sites run by Jewish organizations. Before long, the definition attracted so many hits that it became the first item to pop up in Google searches for “Jew.”

Another speaker said that website blocking has become an increasingly valuable tool against pornography and hate material.

“China has 45,000 people reviewing websites both in and out of the country,” said Perry Roach, co-founder of a company based in Guelph, Ont., called Netsweeper, which filters out prearranged categories of objectionable Internet material before it can get onto the computer screens of its subscribers. Mr. Roach said Netsweeper has about 5,000 sites listed in its hate category.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Globe and Mail, Canada
Sep. 13, 2006
Kirk Matin, Justice Reporter

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday September 13, 2006.
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