Hate Speech Flourishes Online

There's a fine line between hate speech and legit critique on the Web.

By Naima Ramos-Chapman Aug 24, 2010

Has the Internet become a hotbed of hate? It’s a question with an obvious answer, but Denzel Cordington parses the issue in the Los Angeles Sentinel. Cordington argues that while the Web has allowed people from various race, class and ideological positions to interact, its very anonymity has also led to unfiltered hate speech. Here, he explains how trolls do their dirty work:

A ‘troll’ is someone who posts inflammatory messages with the primary intent to invoke an emotional response. It’s common that when confronted with the complaint that the message is racist or offensive, that it was just a joke. It’s unclear whether trolls are actually sincere with the messages they post, since it’s usually case specific but is claiming "niggers, spics and Jews should die" ever a matter to wonder the sincerity of? And yes if you look at the right story on Yahoo News, it is not uncommon to see something like that. Internet forums, which are specifically intended to be places for discussion, are primary targets for trolls who will even take a subject unrelated to race and turn it into one. A gardening forum can potentially become a place for racist jokes and remarks.

And there’s a long history of it of course:

In 1995 the former Grand Wizard or national director of the KKK, Don Black created Stormfront.org a white supremacist neo-Nazi Internet forum which has been described as the internet’s first and largest hate site. It features links to other hate and white supremacist sites, a merchandise store and even an online dating service (for heterosexual white gentiles only). Stormfront has gone so far as creating a website called Martinlutherking.org which is full of information to discredit the civil rights activist. Whatever your beliefs are on King it’s interesting to note that if the words Martin Luther King are typed into Google it’s the third site listed.

Read more at the Los Angeles Sentinel or at New America Media.

We’ve been known to get our own share of unpleasant hate-tinged comments here on ColorLines. But it’s still unclear how exactly you’re supposed to tread the fine line between moderating hate speech and allowing legitimate critique. What do you think? Leave your two (respectful) cents in the comments.