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Subject: Hate Web Sites and the Issue of Free Speech 
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NIGHTLINE ABCNEWS--JAN 13, 1998
http://www.abcnews.com/onair/nightline/html_files/transcripts/ntl0113.html


Hate and the Internet

Hate Web Sites and the Issue of Free Speech

             Jan. 13, 1998

                           TED KOPPEL
             At its core, the argument is an old one -- should an
             incitement to hate be protected by the First
             Amendment? Whether it should has always been
             debatable, but it is. The First Amendment was
             designed to protect unpopular speech. Racism, anti -
             Semitism, homophobia, revisionist history that calls the
             undeniable into question, every one of those positions
             has its advocates and every one of those advocates
             has the right to express his or her opinion.
             But what used to be limited to pamphlets and leaflets
             and street corner ranting, what used to be inhibited by
             the reluctance of radio and television station owners to
             lose advertisers or even their licenses, has received an
             unprecedented shot in the arm from the Internet.
             Over the next couple of years, it’s projected that the
             number of computers with Internet capability will top
             200 million worldwide. That does not mean, of course,
             that every hate group on the Internet is reaching huge
             audiences, but the potential is there and it’s cheap and
             anonymous and growing by leaps and bounds. With
             each new hate site on the Internet, fresh questions are
             being raised about how, if at all, the expansion and
             dissemination of such opinions can be controlled.
             Here’s ABC’s technology correspondent, Gina Smith.

                     GINA SMITH, ABC NEWS (VO) Don Black is a
             Florida computer consultant who also happens to run a
             successful and well—known site on the Internet. He
             credits his success to an early start. He launched his
             site during the World Wide Web’s infancy three years
             ago and he’s since watched that site grow up with the
             medium and now he’s reaping the rewards.


                  DON BLACK From the very beginning, we were
             getting over 1,000 hits to the page, visits to the page.
             Now that has continued to grow, mostly. Now we’re
             getting 1,500 to 1,700 on weekdays and we’ve had as
             many as 2,000, 2,500.


                  GINA SMITH (VO) Like many Web site operators,
             Black is using the Internet to promote a specific idea, in
             his case a political viewpoint.


                  DON BLACK The net has provided us with the
             opportunity to bring our point of view to hundreds of
             thousands of people who would never have otherwise
             subscribed to one of our publications or otherwise
             been in touch with any of our organizations.


                  GINA SMITH (VO) Black, a former member of the
             Ku Klux Klan, runs Storm Front, a Web site dedicated
             to the white nationalist movement he’s been active in
             for years. It was the first site of its kind on the Internet
             and critics say it is also one of the most extreme sites,
             dedicated to racial hatred on the world wide Web.


                  DON BLACK We have recruited people to our point
             of view, many people which we otherwise wouldn’t have
             reached. Sites such as Storm Front which are
             interactive, provide those people who are attracted to
             our ideas with a forum to talk to each other and to form
             a virtual community.


                  GINA SMITH (VO) According to some estimates,
             there are now some 800 so—called hate speech sites
             on the Internet and they run the gamut from Neo - Nazis
             to militia movements, from Holocaust denial advocates
             to bomb making recipes, even racially oriented dating
             services, many of them linked to one another and all of
             them accessible, if you know what you’re looking for,
             through just a few keystrokes.


                  RABBI ABRAHAM COOPER The lunatic fringe
             has embraced this technology with a sophistication and
             a veracity that is frightening.


                  GINA SMITH (VO) Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the
             associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an
             organization that monitors hate groups.


                  RABBI ABRAHAM COOPER What started as a
             trickle has now evolved into an incredible deluge. In the
             last year alone, we’ve seen a 300 percent increase in
             the number of these pages that have been put up on
             the world wide Web. So literally everyone is jumping in
             and it’s not just groups here in the United States and
             it’s not just traditional racists and bigots. There are
             anarchists thrown in. There are individuals whose
             orientation or concerns we’re not even sure of.


                  GINA SMITH (VO) The Wiesenthal Center now
             spends 80 percent of its resources tracking so—called
             online hate, which Cooper says is far more insidious
             and fearsome than the traditional kind.


                  RABBI ABRAHAM COOPER What we’re really
             concerned about at the end of the day is not just the
             hurt it’s going to bring to minority groups and to
             youngsters, but I think we should be concerned about
             tomorrow’s Timothy McVeigh emerging and saying well
             this turns me on or I’m really angry about this, too.


                  GINA SMITH (on camera) What distinguishes
             online extremists is their potential reach. Thanks to the
             Internet, so—called hate groups can put themselves on
             a global stage, with their recruitment efforts no longer
             limited to passing out pamphlets or marching down
             Main Street. (VO) Rabbi Cooper believes that many of
             these sites shouldn’t even be allowed on the Internet,
             especially those that he says incite violence.


                  RABBI ABRAHAM COOPER If the Internet
             community decides that this is not an issue they want to
             deal with, they can continue to ignore it. I think they
             ignore it at their own peril, but worse, they ignore it at
             our peril.


                  SKY DAYTON (PH) Again, it’s a question of a First
             Amendment right to free speech. If they’re doing
             something that would be construed as illegal, you know,
             that’s why we have laws and law enforcement
             agencies. But if they’re not, they’re not.


                  GINA SMITH (VO) Sky Dayton is the chairman of
             Earth Link, one of the nation’s largest Internet service
             providers.


                  SKY DAYTON Besides being totally impractical
             trying to regulate messages on the Internet or censor
             information, basically it destroys the freedoms that the
             Internet provides people and it’s totally unnecessary in
             addition to being impractical. The great value of the
             Internet is that all ideas can be taken on their merits
             and evaluated by people relative to their importance
             and other ideas. It’s a great open environment where
             the best ideas ultimately win.


                  GINA SMITH (VO) Regardless of their political
             leanings and for reasons going well beyond the First
             Amendment, many Internet users would deeply resent
             any attempt to limit their speech online. Chalk that up to
             the culture of the Internet, a communications medium
             designed from the beginning to allow for free form
             communication.


                  DON BLACK And that’s the beauty of the net, of
             course, is that anyone with limited resources can
             promote their ideas and provide information to
             potentially 50 million people right now.


                  SKY DAYTON The Internet is a free medium open
             to anyone. Just as you can take a pen and paper and
             write something down, you can do that on the Internet. It
             just so happens that you can communicate to people
             through the medium, as well. Well, because of that
             freedom, there’s really no reason to have any sort of
             standards.


                  GINA SMITH (VO) Exacerbating the debate is the
             Internet’s truly global nature. Crossing cities, states and
             even national borders, it has no one central point of
             control. Jean Pache (ph) works for the United Nations
             committee to end racial discrimination, which these
             days is focusing on the global problem that so—called
             online hate sites pose.


                  JEAN PACHE They are dangerous. They are
             effective in a sinister way. When they hit a situation in
             which the circumstances already preexist, when you
             have groups that are already traditionally hostile to
             each other and all they would need is this much priming
             to set them at each other.


                  DON BLACK If Thomas Jefferson had a Web site
             today, he would be censored because in his
             autobiography he says that nothing is more certainly
             written than that these, the Negro people, are to be
             free, nor is it less certain that equally free they cannot
             live under the same government. Well, that makes
             Thomas Jefferson a separatist and by the definition of
             the Wiesenthal Center, then his site would be subject to
             censorship.


                  GINA SMITH (on camera) White supremacists and
             others with racist views once had only limited means of
             spreading their views. But with lawmakers and Internet
             providers unwilling or unable to stand in their way,
             authors of so—called hate speech now have a medium
             capable of reaching millions the world over and it’s a
             medium that’s here to stay.
                  Reporting for Nightline, I’m Gina Smith.


                  TED KOPPEL When we come back, a white
             nationalist who uses the Internet to publish his
             message and a First Amendment lawyer who says
             letting him publish is a price we may have to pay for
             free speech. (Commercial Break)



                  TED KOPPEL Joining us now from our New York
             studios, Floyd Abrams. He’s a First Amendment
             attorney who has represented the New York Times and
             ABC News, among others. Don Black, whom you have
             already met in Gina Smith’s piece, is the founder and
             publisher of the Storm Front, a white nationalist Web
             site that averages 1,500 visitors to that site every day.
             He joins us from our Miami bureau.
                  I’m interested, Mr Black, in what you were talking
             about before when you made reference to the virtual
             community of people who think as you do. Just expand
             on that a little, would you?


                  DON BLACK (Miami) Well, admittedly, Mr Koppel,
             we’re a very small movement. We have limited
             resources and limited numbers. So in many instances
             we find people who visit Storm Front or similar Web
             sites who for the first time have seen what we have to
             offer and our point of view and find that they agree with
             it but they don’t really know anyone else in their
             communities that feels the same way and this I think is,
             it’s been important to our movement in that people from
             all over the world, not just the United States, but
             individuals in countries which suppress information like
             ours, such as Germany and even to a degree Canada
             and the UK are able not only to access what we regard
             as being the truth about racial differences and the truth
             about what’s happening to white western civilization,
             but they’re also able to, if they are not part of any local
             group they are able to join with others with similar
             points of view and perhaps create their own local
             organizations as time goes on.


                  TED KOPPEL Mr Abrams, can you think of anything
             substantively that you and Mr Black agree upon other
             than his right to say it?

                  FLOYD ABRAMS, FIRST AMENDMENT
             ATTORNEY (New York) I’m sure we can’t and Mr
             Black’s a very lucky man that he lives in this country. In
             just about every other democratic country in the world
             he’d be in jail.


  TED KOPPEL You must realize that often as this  subject is raised in
this country, I still think that there are  a great many Americans who do
not understand what  the essence of the First Amendment is and the right 
that it grants. Now, this is a part of the Constitution to  which you’ve
devoted much of your professional life.  Just sort of refresh our
memories on this, would you?


                  FLOYD ABRAMS Well, I think most of all what it
             means is that we don’t trust our government, any
             government enough to decide what the content of
             speech is that we’ll allow or not allow. So we say Mr
             Black and his views, awful though I and lots of other
             people, most people think they are, Mr Black can go
             right ahead and try to persuade people. As I said, in
             most countries, in most democratic countries, he’d be
             in jail and he wouldn’t be allowed to say these things. I
             think they are dangerous things. I think we do pay a
             price. But the theory of the First Amendment is that
             we’d pay more of a price by shutting him up than by
             letting him speak.


                  TED KOPPEL Actually, Mr Black, you made
             reference to the fact that what you say and what you do
             would be considered illegal in Germany and yet the
             nature of the Internet is such that presumably you—your
             site takes a lot of hits or gets a lot of hits from
             Germany, doesn’t it?


                  DON BLACK Yes. The German government has
             made some attempts to force German ISPs to block
             sites such as ours. They haven’t been successful
             because sites are mirrored, that is, duplicate copies
             can be placed on other servers which have not been
             blocked. So that’s pretty much been a miserable
             failure. So yes, the net is international and most people
             on the net can access it, although there are attempts to
             filter and to block information which, you may consider
             my views dangerous, but so were those of the
             Founding Fathers, who were considered dangerous. In
             fact, their views, as I pointed out in the earlier interview,
             weren’t that much different from my own.


                  FLOYD ABRAMS Well, my ...


                  TED KOPPEL I think, Mr Black, if you’ll forgive me,
             most of us won’t have too much trouble distinguishing
             between you and Thomas Jefferson. But I was more
             interested right now in following up on what it is that the
             Internet provides not just to you, but I assume there are
             some people out there whose opinions you don’t like
             and who are just as free to voice those opinions on the
             Internet as you are to voice yours.


                  DON BLACK Exactly. The truth will win out in this
             debate. There is no controlled point of view on the net.
             There’s no, unlike the, what I, what we consider a
             media monopoly, which your network is part of, all
             points of view are accessible, good and bad, and I
             think it can be left up to the Internet user to determine
             who is right and who is wrong. And we believe—my
             views are unfashionable. That doesn’t mean that I’m a
             hater. That’s all you’re saying. Fifty, 60, 70 years ago,
             what I’m saying was part of the mainstream. So when
             you start talking about how dangerous or hateful I am, I
             think that’s a little bit self—serving. The national media
             in this country promotes a pretty one—sided point of
             view on certain issues in our opinion and we’re
             promoting, we’re providing an alternative to that.


                  TED KOPPEL No, I gather that and you’re not going
             to get an opportunity to subscribe to that particular
             point of view on this particular program on this
             particular occasion, but I am interested in hearing what
             you have to say about how and why and to what degree
             you’re going to be using the Internet.
                  We’ll be back with more from you and from Floyd
             Abrams, in a moment. (Commercial Break)



                  TED KOPPEL And we’re back once again with
             First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams and the Storm
             Front Web site publisher Don Black.
                  Mr Abrams, it’s not simply a question of whether Mr
             Black or others like him should be allowed to publish on
             the Internet. Do you happen to know, it is physically
             possible to stop them? I mean there are a lot of people
             out there who’d like to put some kind of a filter, let’s
             say, between what Mr Black has to say or, for that
             matter what a pornographer has to present on the Web
             site and their children. Some kind of filtration is
             possible. To what degree is that legal?


                  FLOYD ABRAMS Well, there are products on the
             marketplace, and there surely will be more, which try to
             give parents a choice, a blocking device, a filtering
             device to keep hate speech, to keep pornography from
             coming into their homes while still otherwise letting their
             kids use the net. I think as a general matter, that’s a
             good idea. I think we want to empower parents, in
             short, so that if they want, they can keep some stuff out
             of their houses and that’s not a violation, in my view, of
             anyone’s First Amendment right.


                  TED KOPPEL But not too surprisingly, there are
             also those who would like to use those blocking
             devices to keep opinions like Mr Black’s off the Internet
             altogether. Where would you draw the line there?


                  FLOYD ABRAMS Well, I think Mr Black has a right
             to have his say and he has a right to be on the net,
             period. I think that the place where Mr Black can be
             blocked, if we choose to, is at our doorsteps via
             blocking devices. But not to keep him off the net,
             because again, the idea of the government or any
             outside body, in fact, coming in and saying even the
             most repugnant, ugly, racist, anti—Semitic views can’t
             be expressed is one that in America we don’t adhere
             to. We let people have their say. But we don’t make
             people listen and we do allow them to find a way to
             protect their kids from these views.


                  TED KOPPEL Go ahead, Mr Black.


                  DON BLACK I have, the only problem, I have no
             problem with filtering software as long as that software
             company tells people what it’s censoring and in the
             case of much filtering software out there now such as
             Surf Watch, which has sold seven million copies not
             only to parents but to libraries, to Kinko’s, to
             businesses open to the public, they have censored
             sites not only such, like Storm Front, but much milder
             sites, as well. They’ve censored the David Duke site,
             who is a well known political candidate in Louisiana.
             He’s been elected to public office. He’s currently the
             president of the largest parish Republican committee
             and you can’t get to it ...


                  TED KOPPEL Let me help you out here for a
             moment, because they’ve also censored, as I
             understand it, the National Organization for Women ...


                  DON BLACK Exactly, but ...


                  TED KOPPEL — at different points.


                  DON BLACK Exactly.


                  TED KOPPEL So, I mean your point is well taken.


                  DON BLACK Many groups. NOW has a little more
             clout than we do so they probably won’t stay on the
             blocked list for long. But this, the problem here is that
             Surf Watch, as an example, doesn’t really tell you what
             they’re censoring. They throw in Storm Front, for
             example, in the same category with sites which
             advocate suicide or depict animal mutilation and then
             somewhere in the middle of this list of criteria, they say
             something about sites which degrade ethnic, other
             ethnic groups or something of that type ...


                  TED KOPPEL Let me just make a ...


                  DON BLACK And parents don’t look at that. They
             don’t want, most people that buy the software aren’t
             buying it to censor political content, regardless of how
             unfashionable it might be. But those parents that want
             to do that, that’s fine. But they should at least be up
             front about what they’re doing. And as far as America
             Online is concerned with their agreement with the
             Anti—Defamation League, at least they’re telling
             people what they’re censoring, they’re telling they’re
             going to censor sites the Anti—Defamation League
             doesn’t like.


                  TED KOPPEL Let me just correct very quickly. I
             gather it’s a different organization that has tried to
             block out the National Organization for Women, not the
             one that you were referring to a moment ago.


                  DON BLACK There are several, yes, several
             different kinds.


                  TED KOPPEL But there are several out there and
             they have the capability of doing it. Do they have the
             right to do that, Mr Abrams?


                  FLOYD ABRAMS Well, sure they have the right to
             do it as long as we at home are basically making the
             choice by what blocking device we choose. Look, as
             long as the government is not doing it ...


                  TED KOPPEL But is it practical I guess is the
             question I should have asked, yeah.


                  FLOYD ABRAMS Oh, is it practical to do it? That’s
             a technological issue. I mean we need more, we need
             better blocking devices and we need a lot of people
             who don’t want them. But we need to allow people to
             choose and, you know, look, people will disagree. I
             think David Duke belongs along with Mr Black and his
             group.


                  DON BLACK What about other political
             candidates? Do you have the right, do you think that
             through the back door, this is a deceptive thing, it’s not
             something that Surf Watch and other companies are up
             front about. They don’t tell you that they’re censoring
             political content. They make, in fact, I consider what
             they’re doing almost libelous when they throw in some
             of our sites with sites which advocate animal cruelty
             and mutilation, for example.


                  FLOYD ABRAMS Well, you know, I think one of the
             parts of freedom is that you don’t have the right to
             make that choice. You have the right to complain about
             it, but not to choose who you are lumped with when
             other people do the lumping.


                  TED KOPPEL And on that note, gentlemen, I’m
             afraid we are out of time. It’s clearly a controversial
             subject and as the technology grows, so will the
             debate. Mr Black, Mr Abrams, thank you both

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