Edmonton Sun March 9, 1998 VIEWS CLASH ON NET HATE DEBATE By JEREMY LOOME -- Staff Writer It's a digital dilemma: how to warn the public about the spread of Internet hate without giving racists free advertising. It didn't take long for that question to divide participants into two camps yesterday at a symposium on cyberhate hosted by the Edmonton Jewish Community Centre, 7600 156 St. Take keynote speaker Ken McVay. The B.C. director of the Nizkor project, which monitors Internet hate, told the 50 or so participants media coverage isn't helping. He cited the U.S. news show Nightline, which featured a hate site operator. "On the night he did the Ted Koppel show, the number of hits on his site went (from dozens a day ) to 3,000 to 4,000 an hour," said McVay. "It's why I rarely speak to the media any more - every time they do a story it triples the audience." He noted Canada's largest Internet hate site only gets about 40 visits a day - unless it's been in the media recently. He'd rather people learn to recognize the Internet can be a deceptive place where the truth is easily twisted. "I can say without a doubt that if you are on the Internet, somebody hates you," said McVay. "One individual can create a site on the World Wide Web and give the impression that he represents a group of 10,000 but you have no idea if it's one bigot in Edmonton or a group in Chicago." David Matas disagreed that publicity does more harm than good. The legal counsel to the B'nai Brith of Canada said even fringe support for racism must be publicized. "Because their ideas are so ridiculous to most people that they can easily be ignored. But the lesson from our history is that we cannot afford to ignore it. "I reject the argument that by confronting hatemongers we're just giving them the attention they crave. It's true that they're getting attention but what they're saying will also be discredited." The symposium, which also delved into free speech and Canada's legal response to Net hate, did reach a consensus on two measures, including pressuring Internet service providers to follow through on voluntary conduct codes. Those attending also committed to asking schools for more sensitivity training, to stop racism before it starts. The symposium was an eye-opener for Grade 10 students from Archbishop MacDonald Catholic High School. "I'm on the Internet all the time and ... I didn't even really know this stuff existed," admitted Sandy Woo. Canada still has a way to go, said B'nai Brith president Lyle Smordin. "Germany, for example, has taken great steps, because of the stigma of Holocaust and Nazis, to keep hate off of the Internet. It can be done. They've been very vigilant in ensuring so because they don't want it to happen again."
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