WWW or KKK? Wiesenthal Center reports hike in 'online hate'

Wiesenthal Center reports hike in 'online hate'; 30% come from Facebook.

By ABE SELIG
June 16, 2009 22:27
4 minute read.
WWW or KKK? Wiesenthal Center reports hike in 'online hate'

nazi website 248.88. (photo credit: )

 
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"I could have wiped out all the Jews in the world, but I left a few of them so that you would understand why I would have destroyed them," reads the Arabic text on a Facebook group page praising Adolf Hitler. A shadowy portrait of the Nazi leader stands off to the side, and at the bottom of the page "Hitler" is scrawled in English, in a font reminiscent of a Disney advertisement, as if the group were discussing Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck and not a genocidal dictator. This example of online hate is just a sample of similar content revealed in a new report from the Simon Wiesenthal Center titled "Facebook, YouTube and How Social Media Outlets Impact Digital Terrorism and Hate," which details the size and scope of Internet hate and terror sites in 2009 and was presented to Foreign Ministry officials on Monday. The report says some 10,000 hate sites, games and other online postings now call the Internet home. Given the difficulty of monitoring and tracing communications in cyberspace, the report makes the case that the Web is an essential tool for extremists and terrorists worldwide - from Hayden, Idaho, to Karachi, Pakistan. "The Internet is becoming a great validator of hatred," the Wiesenthal Center's Rabbi Abraham Cooper told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "You can't credit the Internet with turning someone into a bigot - that's absurd - but you can credit the Internet with accelerating and incubating their hatred." Cooper pointed to last week's shooting at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington by an avowed white supremacist as a prime example. "He even had his own Web site," Cooper said of the shooter. No group or minority is safe.The sites detailed in the Wiesenthal Center report include ones that are anti-Semitic and anti-Black, anti-Gay, anti-immigration - even anti-Romanian in Italy. Along with their rhetoric, many sites include detailed instructions for handling weapons and bomb-making, while others praise suicide bombers in poetry and prose, or call urgently for the protection of the White race. But if online hate is growing, it's certainly not new. Beginning in 1995 with a single white supremacist posting in the United States, the ballooning of extremist Web sites has very much mirrored the growth of the Internet itself. In 2006, the Wiesenthal Center listed 6,000 Web sites it deemed to be hateful in nature, with that number nearly doubling by 2009. Today, the report says, the greatest increase of digital hate has emerged from sites such as Facebook and YouTube, which have seen a proliferation of extremist use - 30 percent of new hate postings come from Facebook alone - with the greatest increase from Europe and the Middle East. The Wiesenthal Center is quick to point out that Facebook officials have met with their representatives and pledged to remove postings that violate their terms of usage. But with more than 200 million users, "online bigots" have begun to outpace Facebook's efforts to remove them, the report states. "Some sites have thousands of 'friends,' thus enabling the message of hate to spread virally," the report reads. "These social networking sites have become so prevalent that some traditional hate groups have begun to develop their own versions, such as New Saxon, 'a Social Networking site for people of European descent' produced by a traditional American neo-Nazi group (National Socialist Movement)." The report also details a wider scope of Internet use by hate and terrorist groups, from the nature of material being disseminated to the means used to disseminate it. In Yemen, for example, an American-born imam uses Facebook to spread pro-Jihad literature to English-speakers. In the United Kingdom, groups bent on reestablishing the Islamic caliphate use YouTube to post videos sympathetic to their cause, receiving thousands of views. And in Greece, skinheads use Photobucket - a popular image sharing Web site - to post racist photos and videos online, hoping to rally their supporters and gain recruits. One of the more chilling examples brought to light by the Wiesenthal Center report shows how Holocaust-deniers have used YouTube to spin WWII-era Nazi propaganda as "proof" for their cause. Drawing on a 1944 German movie, Terezin: A Documentary Film of the Jewish Resettlement, in which the Theresienstadt concentration camp was used for a film made to dispel rumors of the extermination of Jews by the Third Reich - Holocaust-deniers have posted part of it on YouTube, under the title, "Real Nazi Holocaust Death Camps." The clip portrays the Jewish inmates as happy, healthy inhabitants of a model community, even though in truth, nearly the entire "cast" was deported to Auschwitz and gassed after the filming concluded. But that doesn't stop the altered message from getting out. "It literally spreads like a virus," Cooper said. "Just look at [former Louisiana state representative] David Duke, who in the 1980s began as an anti-Black, anti-Semitic figure, who also held extreme anti-immigrant views. Those views certainly encompassed the Muslim community in America at the time, but that hasn't stopped Duke from becoming the darling of those in the Arab world who hate Israel. He regularly gets invited to lectures in the Arab world, denigrating Israel and the United States. It's bringing together like-minded people." And while Cooper says extremists have failed, thus far, in using the Internet to create a mass movement, the unchecked breeding of hatred that continues online is cause for serious concern. "It's already inspired individuals to commit acts of anti-Semitic violence," he said. "And we are going to need a consortium of concerned governments, the Internet community and activists to marginalize the message of hate."

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