Online violence on the up

Online violence on the up

The first four months of 2004 have seen the number of websites inciting hate and violence grow 26 percent, according to UK-based e-mail filtering company, SurfControl.

The new report shows that the number of websites categorised by SurfControl as hate and violence sites - sites that promote hatred against Americans, Muslims, Jews, homosexuals and people of non-European ancestry, as well as graphic violence - have risen from 2,756 in 2000 to 10,926 in April 2004.

That’s a percentage growth of nearly 300 per cent.

One white supremacist site quoted by the report, has initiated a dating page for single white supremacists seeking a mate, as well as a page offering a $1,000 scholarship to the young white racist writing the best essay of “actionable, practical solutions” to dealing with anyone who is not white.

"We've begun to see a convergence of sites promoting violence and those advocating hate," said Susan Larson, SurfControl's vice president for global content.

"We monitor websites, tracking as they go from merely expressing strong opinions to using the language of hate, or as they cross the line from advocating hate to barely veiled threats of violence."

Driving the rise of hate sites, according to Larson, are hot political and cultural events, such as new and proposed legislation to deal with homosexual marriages.

Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" has also sparked an online firestorm from groups expressing hatred of non-Christian religious groups.

Anti-Semitic sites, anti-Islamic and anti-American sites are all on the rise in the last number of years.

"These sites seem to reflect a growing tolerance for anti-social behaviour and a polarisation of religious and political public opinion that attracts certain elements who share a fascination with extremist views," Larson said.

Larson noted a trend that there are more American religious sites advocating hate and militant Islamic sites depicting violence since the attacks of 9/11.

The ability of the World Wide Web to bring together geographically separated but likeminded people is well documented as a rich cultural phenomenon, but in times of political upheaval the vast scope for expression offered by the Internet can be a double edged sword. The Powers That Be must move fast to strike a balance between reasonable control of rougue online elements and what could be seen by many as blanket censorship.

Sources:, SurfControl

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