October 9, 1997: Hate Speech on the Net

Human rights advocates from around the world gathered in Toronto last month to discuss hate speech on the Internet. And although they all agreed it's a large problem, the Los Angeles Times reports that no one agrees on what to do about it.

More than 200 white-power sites, such as the National Alliance (which calls for racial Armageddon) and Stormfront, promote hatred and try to attract youth. But should there be censorship? Education? Both?

In an anti-censorship speech that the Times said elicited gasps from some, American Civil Liberties Union President Nadine Strossen, whose parents survived the Holocaust's Buchenwaldt death camp, described how censoring hate speech would do more harm than good.

"It gets government off the hook. They feel they don't have to do anything else about minority concerns, as if the law is enough, so it ends up being used against the minority groups themselves," she said.

Joining her camp, in a surprise to many, was Webmaster Ken McVay. McVay's Nizkor Project is the Web's biggest site countering Holocaust deniers' claims. He implored the delegates to not prosecute Webmasters of online hate propaganda.

"I'd rather have them out in the open where we can see them and smell them and know their ideology," he said.

Source: Los Angeles Times, September 22, 1997

Copyright 1997, The American Civil Liberties Union