By staff writers and wires November 19, 2008 08:25am
THE popular websites MySpace, Facebook and YouTube are being used as recruiting tools by extremist groups, experts have warned.
“(These websites) are the ‘killer apps’ of the internet today, and they’re used by millions, but the virus of hate certainly has infected those technologies,” Christopher Wolf, chair of the International Network Against CyberHate (INACH), told the Global Summit on Internet Hate Speech.
“The internet toolbox that is available to hatemongers has had a number of new items added to it over the last several years,” Mr Wolf said, citing Web 2.0 features such as blogs, social networks, video sites and instant messaging.
Deborah Lauter, national director of civil rights for the Anti-Defamation League, said extremist groups “use these social-networking sites and they create a community, a community of hate and it has very real consequences.”
Ms Lauter cited the case of an Oklahoma woman who was shot dead this month, allegedly by a member of the white supremacist Ku Klan Klan, after being recruited through MySpace.
The woman was killed after she apparently changed her mind and tried to flee a Ku Klux Klan initiation rite, according to police in Louisiana.
Stefan Glaser, co-founder of anti-hate group INACH, said that with Web 2.0 tools “the effect of hate is getting broadened.”
“Neo-Nazis are very well aware of social network platforms for recruiting the next generation, for infiltrating youth groups,” said Mr Glaser, who runs Jugendschutz.net, the German bureau for protecting minors online.
“On YouTube, for example, there are thousands of hate videos that are uploaded with messages of racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and intolerance towards minorities,” said Mr Wolf, a lawyer and expert in internet law.
“There are sites on Facebook and MySpace that promote civil rights but there are many, many more that demonize Jews and Muslims and Gays and other minorities,” he said.
“All of that is prohibited by the operators of Facebook and MySpace in the terms of service,” he said.
“If we report these sites to the operators of these services they often are removed.
“But for every site that we can report and get taken down there is at least one other site to replace it and often many others,” Mr Wolf added.
Brian Marcus, an analyst for the US Department of Homeland Security, said “extremists and terrorists are just like the other users of electronic media.”
“They adapt to the new ways and the new technologies with incredible speed,” he said, warning that “these emerging medium give scale, scope and speed and a new dimension to terrorism and extremism unlike anything seen in the past.”
– with AFP