October 19, 2006

HATE ON THE INTERNET:3rd International Symposium Report
Held on September 11&12, 2006, North York Memorial Hall, Toronto

Sponsors: Centre for Innovation Law and Policy, UT; B’NAI BRITH Foundation; IBM; The Law Society of Upper Canada; Blake Cassels& Graydon LLP Barristers and Solicitors; Law Commission of Canada; Jewish Tribune.

Grants provided by: Dept. Of Canadian Heritage; Multiculturalism Program; Public Safety Emergency Preparedness Canada; Crime Prevention Action Fund; Dept of Justice, Canada and Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Ontario.
The themes highlighted in the Symposium were discussed in a series of plenary panels that took a multi disciplinary, cross-sector look at the challenges ahead in dealing with web-based hate and extremism. Each plenary session was followed by break-out sessions. They included: 1. Legal/legislative/government. 2. Technology, 3.Education/Community. 4. Law enforcement - Police Training (CLOSED SESSION).


According to American journalist, Mark Potok, also with the Intelligence Project, Southern Law Poverty Centre, both extreme right and left wing Internet hate sites in existence number in excess of 5,000. Most are housed on American service providers which enjoy protection under the First Amendment which, in his view, cannot be altered. This view differed from that of other American experts and, on the issue of regulation and controls, from the views of most other experts from around the world including Canada.. His solution to the problem? More pro social websites and education.

According to Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Director of the Center for Democratic Studies, U of Haifa, member, UNESCO International Clearing House on Children and Violence on the Screen, 9/11 would not have been possible without the Internet. He said there are approximately 60,000 websites on terrorism worldwide. There are links between speech and action taken. The Council of Europe has criminalized Internet hate speech.

According to Ian Wilms, President, Canadian Ass. Of Police Boards, there are over 50,000 pedophiles on the Internet at any given time. Crime, itself, has not changed much, but the methods used have changed. Greater use of the Internet has resulted in increases in cybercrime and things such as unsupervised children using the Net uttering death threats. Teenage girls are considered the most vulnerable. Included among the doomsday cults that have sites are some who have specific plans to destroy Japanese and American governments. Holders of Ph.D.s in computer science are often recruited to work on them. He recommends that parents not allow computers with webcams in child’s rooms.

U.K is most advanced country in dealing with these problems. Canada woefully behind although we are the most connected country in the world. Out of a force of about 61,000 police, we have 245 who work on the Internet, almost entirely on the issue of pedophilia. Although physical crime in the community is decreasing somewhat, cybercrime is “going through the roof”.

According to Peter Leitner, National Centre for Bio-Defense and Infectious Diseases, George Mason University, Washington, D.C., jihadi ideology contributing to Hate on the Internet is not coming from Bin Laden, but revered ideology, largely from domestic organizations who train people on a home grown and foreign basis. i.e. It is happening in Toronto as well as Pakistan. Hate flags etc. These were a part of responses and reactions from prison guards in U.S. following 9/11. One website with examples of such extreme Islamic ideology is which offers “cookbook recipes” for poison and explosives; Management of Savagery, etc.

According to Christopher Wolf, International Network Against CyberAge, the best way to counter hate speech is with corrective speech. Europeans have laws to combat online hate speech.

IMPRESSION: On the whole, information provided was a useful update from previous 2 symposiums I also attended. Discussion and some exchange of education resources by Media Awareness Network based in Ottawa; Marilyn Mayo, Director for the Study of Right-Wing Extremism, Anti-Defamation League; and others was helpful but very little emerged in the way of new strategies in the open workshops that I attended. (Education and Legal/legislative/government) Information sharing was helpful, along with the opportunity for networking with like-minded academics, legal experts, journalists, legislators and activists but most solutions had a familiar ring to them. These included the usual: the need for more effective use of existing laws, industry self regulation, public complaints, public education, media and cyberspace literacy, mandatory education on the Internet in school curriculums and better vigilance from parents. Some thought was given to the need for a new Commission of inquiry into the use of communications technology. I was able to share information on my own review of the literature including Commissions of inquiry set up in the past as they relate to media violence, including hate on the internet (Doctoral thesis, 1995). I was also able to introduce the issue of commercial exploitation of children; in excess of over $15 billion U.S. is spent annually in persuading them to buy things - junk food, cultural products, toys, clothes including some of which are sexually provocative, etc.

Refreshing emphasis on education included frequent references to ways in which court challenges and applications such has the one recently brought before the CFTC for protection of an individual from death threats, (although ultimately rejected), are useful forms of public education in addition to what goes on in the classroom. Only scant reference was made to the need to amend the Criminal Code hate propaganda law in Canada to include the word gender. This appears to be a worldwide problem. Even countries like Australia who are lauded as having some of the most advanced legislation on the issue of cybercrime have still overlooked the need to include the word gender in their own Criminal Codes on hate propaganda.

More details can be provided upon request.

Rose Anne Dyson, Ed.D.
Chair: C-CAVE and the Media Working Group - Science for Peace (University of Toronto)
Editor- The Learning Edge
Author of MIND ABUSE: Media Violence In An Information Age
Co-author of MEDIA, SEX, VIOLENCE and DRUGS in the GLOBAL VILLAGE and Terrorism, Globalization & Mass Communication