Hate groups, terrorists tap Web 2.0 to spread messages

Report finds largest spike in digital hate Web sites and online posts in more than a decade

While consumers and marketers have found that Web 2.0 technologies are a good way to forge closer ties and to virally spread content across the Internet, hate groups and terrorists are now increasingly turning to blogs, video sites and social networks with more sinister goals.

Buoyed mainly by Web 2.0 technologies, online hate activities have jumped 30 per cent in the past year, according to a report released last week by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization. The report counted some 8,000 Web sites and numerous online posts promoting hate and terrorist activity.

The spike in Hate 2.0 represents the largest increase in online hate and terrorist activity in more than 10 years, noted Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center. The center's annual study, called the iReport, provides an overview of digital hate dating from what it calls the first hate site, which was launched in 1995.

"The spike in the number is primarily because of the increasing availability of the viral, repetitious [applications] and an increase outside the US by extremist try to get their pitch across," Cooper said. "The terrorist groups and those who support them are at the cutting edge of technology."

While traditional Web sites will likely continue to be the backbone for hate groups and terrorists to spread their messages, they are also flocking to Web 2.0 technologies as another way to reach out to their audience, Copper added. For example, he noted that one video clip derogatory to Jews was traced to 70 different Inter locations in 12 different languages.

Other sites listed in the report include:

Podblanc, a video on demand site that promotes the white supremacist movement. The site broadcasts a virtual newscast based on a real crime that morphs a photo of the black suspects into apes and charges that blacks have lower intelligence than whites.

SMS2US, created by the Islamic Front of Iraq Resistance to let followers post "inspirational" SMS messages that are overlaid onto videos of attacks against coalition forces.

88Tube, a YouTube knock-off based in the US, that broadcasts racist music videos, Holocaust denial videos and videos of Russian Nazis murdering farmers.

The Media Sword Campaign, an effort by Al Qaeda to use discussion forums to get support for jihad and to recruit hackers for their cause.

Terrorists and hate groups are using YouTube, Facebook, online games and virtual worlds like Second Life to target enemies and gain new recruits, according to the center.

"If one of the goals is to attract young people, you go where the action is," Cooper added. "As we see the virtual life approach get more sophisticated, we can anticipate and expect there will be at least the intent to create a virtual online presence maybe not only for propaganda but even for training purposes."

Cooper said that while it is not appropriate for a human rights group to ask that sites like YouTube or Facebook review material before they post it, he advocated that such companies take a more responsive stance when it comes to hate groups and terrorists.

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Heather Havenstein

Computerworld

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