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Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/american/american-jewish-committee/press/USNewswire.991229



 NEW YORK, Dec. 29 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Education is the most effective 

means of combating hate group activity in cyberspace, concludes a new 

American Jewish Committee report, "Hate and the Internet." 

   The report sets forth a seven-point plan for countering hate on the 

Internet. Its centerpiece is the call for Internet 'drivers education.' 

   "Time intensive measures such as improved training of school-age 

children in basic Internet skills hold more promise" than regulating  the

Internet through laws or software, says Kenneth S. Stern, AJC's  speciali
st
on anti-Semitism and extremism, and author of the report. 

   "If we make it a priority to teach Internet skills to our children, 

they will be better equipped to recognize, and reject, hatred -- not  onl
y
on the Internet, but also in the real world." 

   AJC President Bruce M. Ramer said the report "sends an urgent message 

to society that we must redouble our efforts to keep pace with this 

technological revolution and make appropriate use of it for positive 

purposes as well as resisting negative messages such as those promoted  b
y
hate groups." 

   The 53-page report analyzes the history of hate on the Internet, 

provides a blueprint for combating the problem and demonstrates ways to 

use this new technology to fight hatred throughout society. 

   "Hate groups understand that this global computer network is far 

superior to other modes of communication," writes Stern. "Hate groups  no

longer have to search for people to hear their message, or hope  members
will distribute newsletters. They now can set up web sites that  'surfers
'
young and old can visit." 

   Stern cautions against combating Internet hatred only with strategies 

that focus on cyberspace. 

   "Devoting too much energy to refuting hate on the Internet lets haters
 

define the agenda and takes away resources from the real world battle 

against bigotry," Stern says. 

   He also asserts that "filtering software," while appropriate for young
 

children, may actually provide an attraction for older children who,  bei
ng
told which hate sites to avoid, will access those sites by  hacking aroun
d
the software or using other computers. 

   "At a minimum, it is incumbent upon us, as parents and teachers, that 

we help our children learn to recognize hate and reject it; and at best 

how to combat it," he says. 

   This is not an easy task, notes Stern, because the Internet allows a 

small-time bigot to create a web site that looks as impressive as the 

Smithsonian's. 

   "Despite the old adage, you can tell much more about a book by its 

cover than a web site by its home page," Stern said. 

   Education begins with teaching children to become amateur Internet 

librarians, the AJC report states. Children can learn to steer clear of 

hateful speech, Holocaust denial and a range of dangerous information  by

learning to check a web site's authority, accuracy, objectivity,  currenc
y,
thoroughness and links. 

   "Schools should integrate these skills into the curriculum as they 

would a driver's education course," writes Stern. "Teaching all  children

how to use the Internet correctly is just as basic as teaching 

first-graders the proper way to hold a pencil." 

   In addition to Internet education, Stern urges support for web sites 

that create a virtual community dedicated to combating hate on the 

Internet and in the real world. He singles out Project Nizkor 

(www.nizkor.org), HateWatch (www.hatewatch.org), and Coloradans United 

Against Hate (www.CUAH.ORG) as the leading examples of these sites. 

CUAH.org was created with the assistance of the American Jewish  Committe
e.

   Stern's seven-point education program calls for: 

   -- civil rights organizations to continue to expose hate groups, but t
o 

take into account, and minimize, the "free advertising" inherent in 

exposing a group that has a web site. 

   -- a proliferation of sites that do what Coloradans United Against 

Hatred -- CUAH.ORG -- does: provide an easy place to build community  and

share information to combat various types of hatred. 

   -- Internet Service Providers such as Yahoo!, America On Line, and 

Altavista to develop a common non-hate standard of acceptable practices 

for people using their services. Distinguishing them from ISPs that  host

hate groups would provide students and responsible users a  guidepost for

accurate and credible information. 

   -- law enforcement to more aggressively prosecute hate crimes on the 

Internet. 

   -- the media to develop standards for reporting on hate and hate group
s 

that have Internet sites. Most importantly, news reports should not 

provide links to sites of hate groups. 

   -- civil rights groups to lead other institutions, including the 

academic community, in teaching people how to recognize and combat  hatef
ul
ideologies on the Internet, and in the real world. 

   "Because the Internet democratizes information and misinformation 

alike, people will need skills to recognize hazards on the information 

superhighway," writes Stern. "Rather than trying to be the traffic cop 

hoping to catch the occasional scofflaw, civil and human rights 

organizations would do better to encourage -- and help develop -- 

universal Internet drivers' education." 

   For a copy of Hate and the Internet, visit our Web site: www.ajc.org or 

send an e-mail to Larsond(At)ajc.org. 

   ------ Editors: Some computer systems do not recognize the "at" sign. 

It is an important component of e-mail addresses and should be used in 

place of the symbol (At) in the contact information above. 

    Copyright 2000


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