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Social Networks Bringing People Together like Never Before (opinion)

By Sam Volkering

28/10/2014- What’s the best way to start a riot? Let me help you out…suppress free speech. It’s possibly the number one reason people protest. And if the crowds face heavy handed control measures, these protests sometimes turn into full blown riots. Communities rally with greater force now than ever before thanks to social networks. Today, if your cause is engaging enough, it’s easy to rally the troops. A strong social media collective can be as powerful as a state army. In fact, using social networks is the best way to start a movement. Look at the Arab Spring or Euromaidan in Ukraine. Even the recent protests in Hong Kong…each was organised through social networks.

So much fear, so many reasons to protest
The world is in a very volatile state. And I’m not even talking about the markets. Ebola spread across western parts of Africa like wildfire, and now the whole world is panicked over it. Scandalous ‘news’ headlines don’t help. You can’t avoid it on social media either. In between ‘news’ about The Bachelor, all I see on my Facebook feed is horrible news: beheadings, ISIS and Ebola currently dominate. Thank the world for cat videos…oh blessed be the cat videos. At least there’s something to smile about day to day… But, along with Ebola, there’s plenty else wrong with the world. ISIS has created racial and religious tension not just in Islamic nations but also across the world. Earlier in the month, there were fatal protests in Turkey. Over the weekend, there was a violent riot in Cologne, Germany. The target of the protest — Islamic extremism. The Cologne protest was organised by a far right, neo-Nazi group. The protest had around 4,000 people, according to IBTimes. This was double the number expected by police. Most of the protesters were gathered through social media. And things got ugly. Riot police were called in. Water cannons and pepper spray were shot…

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse
Of course, much of this violence is a direct result of the actions of global leaders. Whether related to ISIS or not, the violence and protests around the world stem from misguided government policies. The idea of the protest is nothing new, but social networks are. And the combination of the two has created greater influence on decision makers by the people. The voice of many is always more powerful than the voice of a few. For better or worse, connected networks allow people to share a voice and a view like never before. I highlight this because trouble is brewing in one particular eastern European country…one you probably wouldn’t expect. This country’s government is trying to implement one of the most regressive, oppressive policies of the modern era… The Hungarian government wants to implement an ‘internet tax’. The draft bill has a provision where a tax is paid to the government revenue collectors per gigabyte of data transfer. This would apply to consumers and businesses.

Hungary already has the highest VAT (GST) rate of any country in the world at 27%. You can see why another tax has angered the people of Hungary. But more than that, it’s widely viewed as the government taxing the freedom of information. The internet is perhaps the greatest tool of all time for creating and accessing information. It’s why we live in the ‘information age’. Anyone can use the internet to express opinions, ideas, ideals and views. It’s the ultimate tool for freedom of speech. On Sunday, approximately 100,000 Hungarians gathered in front of the Economic Ministry to protest these regressive laws. And the protest was organised through Facebook by a group with over 210,000 followers. Words broke out through Facebook, Twitter and other social networks and the people came together to have their say. As part of the protest, attendees held up their phones as a sign to the government.

This protest was peaceful, but it proved a significant point: Governments should not try to enact policies that aim to restrict what has become an essential human right —that is, access to information. That’s really what the internet is, after all — the world’s biggest collection of information. And it should be free to access by anyone, anywhere as a basic human right. It’s an optimistic goal, but hopefully, one day, the entire world will have free access to the internet. The world should also strive for clean water, food and shelter for all. But perhaps the internet is equally as important. Perhaps the internet could provide the information to help communities achieve those other goals… Regardless, social networks are clearly crucial to connecting and empowering people. And the internet is the backbone of that power. When go-vernment tries to restrict our freedom of information, they will face a resolute and defiant community.
© Tech Insider


'It's hard being openly Jewish'

As 'Hitler' Twitter account gains more and more followers and Facebook page displays 'list of Jews,' Foreign Ministry and EU representatives discuss ways to combat anti-Semitism.

28/10/2014- "It's hard being openly Jewish in Europe today," Gideon Bachar, the Director of the Department for Combating Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Remembrance in the Foreign Ministry, said Monday. An experts' meeting on the topic of fighting anti-Semitism and racism conducted in Jerusalem today led to various estimates as to the future of the Jewish community in Europe and links between radical Islam and anti-Semitism.

The "Hitler" account has 370,000 followers
"Anti-Semitism is like Ebola," Bachar said. "It's a virus. It constantly accumulates mutations. It changes all the time, adapts itself to the situation, and is transnational. The rise in anti-Semitism is a danger to civilization and to democracy in general." The meeting was attended by Yad Vashem representatives, the State Attorney's Office, the Association of Israeli Students and European Union representatives. "We are witnessing a strong willingness and desire to take action against this phenomenon," Bachar said. "There is an understanding of the problems it poses. Europe is seeing a steady and substantial increase in Anti-Semitism." Ido Daniel, Program Director at Israeli Students Combating Anti-Semitism, displayed during the meeting a photo of a French Facebook page with names, pictures and information about Jewish residents, including their place of prayer and the parks where they take their children. He also showed the attendees a faux Adolf Hitler Twitter account, with more than 370,000 followers, that has since been suspended. "The man tweeted a picture of Birkenau and wrote: 'It's a great day at work today,'" Daniel read out the sentence

According to Bachar, various European initiatives which include prohibitions on circumcision and kosher slaughter "do not stem from anti-Semitic motives, but they do pose a real threat to the continued existence of Jewish life in Europe. Apart from them, hundreds of anti-Semitic demonstrations have taken place. We are diagnosing three phenomena: Leaving the country, assimilation or isolation." Bachar also spoke about recent occurrences in which people removed mezuzahs from their doors, concerns of wearing a yarmulke in public while going to the synagogue and the hiding of Jewish identity.
© Y-Net News


Hungary's 'internet tax' sparks protests

27/10/2014- Up to 10,000 people rallied in Budapest on Sunday (26 October) in protest of Viktor Orban’s government plan to roll out the world’s first ‘internet tax’. Unveiled last week, the plan extends the scope of the telecom tax onto Internet services and imposes a 150 forint tax (€0.50) per every gigabyte of data transferred. European Commission spokesperson Ryan Heath said, under the tax hike, streaming a movie would cost an extra €15. Streaming an entire TV series would cost around €254. The levy, to be paid by internet service providers, is aimed at helping the indebted state fill its coffers. Hungary’s economy minister Mihaly Varga said the tax was needed because people were shifting away from phones towards the Internet. But unhappy demonstrators on Sunday threw LCD monitors and PC cases through the windows of Fidesz headquarters, Orban’s ruling party.

A Facebook page opposing the new tax attracted thousands of followers within hours of being set up after the regime was announced. The page called for a protest with some 40,000 people having signed up by Sunday early evening. Hungary’s leading telecoms group Magyar Telekom told Reuters the planned tax “threatens to undermine Hungarian broadband developments and a state-of-the-art digital economy and society built on it”. The proposal has generated controversy in Brussels as well. EU’s outgoing digital chief Neelie Kroes on Sunday told people to go out and demonstrate. “I urge you to join or support people outraged at #Hungary Internet tax plan who will protest 18h today,” she wrote in a tweet. The backlash prompted Orban’s government to rollback the plans and instead place a monthly cap of 700 forints (€2.3) for private users and 5,000 forints (€16) for businesses.

The concession did little to appease critics who say the levy will still make it more difficult for small businesses and impoverished people to gain Internet access. Others say it would restrict opposition to the ruling elite. “This is a backward idea, when most countries are making it easier for people to access the Internet,” a demonstrator told the AFP. "If the tax is not scrapped within 48 hours, we will be back again," one of the organisers of the protest told the crowds. Orban, who was elected for a second term in April, has come under a barrage of international criticism for other tax policies said to restrict media freedoms amid recent allegations of high-level corruption. Civil rights group say the Fidesz-led government fully controls the public-service media and has transformed it into a government mouthpiece.

An advertising tax imposed in August risks undermining German-owned RTL, one of the few independent media organisations in Hungary, which does not promote a pro-Fidesz editorial line. Kroes has described the advertising tax as unfair and one that is intended “to wipe out democratic safeguards” and to rid Fidesz of “a perceived challenge to its power.”
© The EUobserver


Mob Violence Has No Place in Ireland (press statement)

26/10/2014- Pavee Point strongly condemns any actions to intimidate and promote violence against Roma in Waterford. This follows the publication of multiple Face-book pages which openly incite hatred against Roma, and reports of a public order incident on Saturday evening where up to 100 people are reported to have gathered outside the home of Roma living in Waterford. The content on Facebook pages to date have shown huge misinformation and racism towards Roma and have included inflam-matory, dehumanising and violent language. There is a clear link between online hate speech and hate crime and there is an urgent need to address the use of the inter-net to perpetuate anti-Roma hate speech and to organise violence.

European institutions and groups such as the European Roma Rights Centre have raised concerns about rising violence in Europe and the strengthening of extremist and openly racist groups which spread hate speech and organise anti-Roma marches. Attacks in other European countries have included several murders of Roma. We don’t want this to become a feature in Ireland. “Anti-Roma racism does not occur in a vacuum and we now need strong public and political leaders to be visible, vocal and openly condemn anti-Roma actions in Waterford” said Siobhan Curran, Roma Project Coordinator Pavee Point. “At a national level a progressive national strategy to support Roma inclusion in Ireland needs to be developed as a matter of urgency” she continued.

Pavee Point calls on all elements of the media to take on board the recommendations from the Logan Report and avoid sensationalist and irresponsible reporting.
© Pavee Point


UK: Far Right on Facebook - The group with more likes than all three main parties

With political campaigns increasingly being fought on social media, The Telegraph investigates the rise of Britain First, a tiny group with more likes on Facebook than the three main parties

27/10/2014- Started in 2011 by former BNP members Paul Golding and Jim Dowson, Britain First describes itself as “a patriotic political party and street defence organisation”. The group has amassed almost 500,000 likes on Facebook compared to the Conservatives on 293,000, Labour with 190,000 and the Liberal Democrats’ 104,000. This popularity has led to questions about how the group has managed to gain so many likes when its offline activities seem to draw few supporters in comparison. I met the leader of Britain First, former BNP communications chief Paul Golding, and asked him about the kind of posts the group was using to attract likes. One tactic they employ is to post pictures of animal cruelty with text asking people to “Like and share if you demand far harsher penalties for those who mistreat animals”.

“All the top grossing charities in this country are animal charities and there’s a reason for that. We’re just tuning into the nation’s psyche (by) posting stuff like that,” explained Mr Golding. Creating posts which appear to have little to do with the aims of the group and which seem aimed at simply garnering the most amount of likes is a tactic used by many far right groups according to Carl Miller, a social media researcher for the think tank, Demos. “Far right groups have always wanted to appear more popular and influential than they are, this is one of the ways in which they think they can have influence on mainstream political decisions.” The people who respond to these messages online may not be aware of the kind of activities their likes are being used to support offline. Britain First has run a campaign of what they call ‘Mosque Invasions’. One of these took place at Crayford Mosque, in Kent in July of this year. Filmed by Britain First, the ‘invasion’ consisted of a small group dressed in matching green jackets entering the mosque and demanding to see the Imam.

A gentleman inside the Mosque points out that they are standing on the prayer mat with their shoes on, to which Mr Golding responds “Are you listening?” before demanding that the mosque remove signs denoting separate entrances for men and women outside. The man asks again for the group to leave and eventually convinces them to go after promising to remove the signs. Before leaving, Mr Golding warns him “You’ve got one week to take those signs down otherwise we will.” When challenged about the validity of these tactics, Mr Golding said his organisation would not treat those who followed Islam with respect because, in his opinion, they treated women like second class citizens. “We didn’t make a distinction in the second world war between moderate Nazi’s and extreme Nazi’s did we? We just went to war,” he said. Buoyed by the success of their Facebook page, Britain First plans to stand in the Rochester and Strood by election. How they poll will reveal whether the likes they have accrued online translate into votes offline.
© The Telegraph


UK: Silencing extreme views, even if they are those of internet trolls, is wrong (opinion)

Internet trolls are among the worst specimens the human race can offer. But they are not a reason to nod through another restriction on personal freedom
By Nick Cohen

26/10/2014- No one has tested my commitment to liberalism so sorely as Edinburgh University’s Feminist Society. I know I should believe in freedom of speech and changing minds with arguments, not punishments, and all the rest of it. And, trust me, I do. Or rather I did, until the moment Edinburgh’s feminist students said they wanted to kick the Socialist Workers party out of their campus. The BNP of the left has had a malign influence on public life far beyond its numbers. In the universities, it has been at the forefront of thuggish demands that there must be “no platform” for fascists or supporters of Israel or, it seems, anyone else it disagrees with. The desire to censor has reached the absurd state where the academic left has banned women’s rights campaigners, who have upset transsexuals, and admirers of Friedrich Nietzsche, who have upset students who had not read him but know he was a bad person.

After this disgraceful record, it is worth enjoying the plight of the SWP for hours – maybe weeks. The censor faces censorship. The fanatics who have screamed down so many others could be screamed down themselves. No one can deny that Edinburgh’s women have good reason to go after the Trots. Like priests in the Catholic church and celebrities in light entertainment, the leaders of a Marxist-Leninist party are men at the top of a hierarchy that demands obedience. Last year, a succession of women alleged that senior figures in the party had demanded their sexual compliance. Rather than tell them to take their cases to the hated “capitalist” courts, the SWP set up its own tribunals. The alleged victims said it subjected them to leering questions worthy of the most misogynist judge about their sex lives and alcohol consumption, then duly “acquitted” the “accused”.

Eleanor Brayne-Whyatt of the Edinburgh Feminist Society has a point when she says that universities will show they do not tolerate “rape apologism and victim blaming” if they order the SWP to leave. Even if you want to differ, you may find the task of contradicting her beyond you. We have reached a state where arguing that a speaker has the right to free speech is the same as agreeing with his or her arguments. If you say that racist or sexist views should not be banned, you are a racist or rape apologist yourself. Your opponents then go further and accuse you of ignoring the “offence” and “pain” of the victims of racism and sexism have suffered and turn you into an abuser as well. With remarkable speed this double bind knots itself around its targets. Defend a repellent man’s right to speak and you become that repellent man and his victims, real or imagined, become your victims too. Small wonder so many keep quiet when they should speak up.

Observer readers may not care, as most modern prohibitions on speech are – to put it crudely – instances of leftwing censorship of prejudiced views. If so, you should notice how easy the right finds it to march in step alongside you. Chris Grayling, a Tory bully boy, announced last week that he would quadruple the maximum jail sentence for internet trolls who spread “venom” on social media or, rather, he fed an old story from March to a naive and punitive media. Even though internet trolls are among the worst specimens the human race can offer up for inspection, there are many reasons not to nod through yet another hardline restriction of personal freedom. Interest groups like nothing better than exploiting the law. We’ve already seen supporters of the McCanns, who were understandably aggrieved by the abuse the family received online, turn into troll catchers. They collected a dossier and passed it to Sky News and the police. The hunters unmasked one of the McCanns’ tormentors as Brenda Leyland, who took her own life within hours of her exposure, a reminder that many trolls are mentally ill and need treatment rather than prison.

Meanwhile, as the free speech campaigners at English Pen reminded me, the white right and far right have learned from the left and can be as politically correct. Their most recent success was to demand that the police prosecute one Azhar Ahmed from Dewsbury. He admitted posting a Facebook message two days after the killing of six British servicemen in Afghanistan: “All soldiers should die and go to hell,” it read. A disgusting statement, no doubt, but put in different terms, the belief that British troops should not be in “Muslim lands” is a political sentiment, not a criminal act. The court nevertheless found him guilty of the criminal offence of making a “grossly offensive communication”. The prosecutors did not say that he was inciting violence against British troops, simply that he was offensive. Two can play at that game. The Islamist religious right can respond in kind and demand prosecutions for Islamophobia, and before you know it we will be off on a cycle of competitive grievance.

Only last week, the authorities recalled Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the extreme right English Defence League, to prison – apparently for tweeting that he planned to criticise the police. I carry no brief for the man, but his detention feels all wrong. It would be far better if social media sites and newspapers stopped inciting people’s ugliest instincts by allowing them to post anonymously. It would be better still if politicians reformed a law that is alarmingly vague. The state can charge citizens for words that are “grossly offensive,” as Azhar Ahmed found. No government should be allowed to get away with such a catch-all charge. Every sentiment beyond the blandest notions “offends” someone. “Offensive” is a subjective term, which is wide open to political manipulation by loud and vociferous interest groups and the government of the day.

The only respectable reason for banning organisations or punishing individuals is if they incite violence against others. Unless feminists can prove that the SWP promotes rape as a matter of party policy – and I don’t think they can – they remain free to despise it, harangue it and oppose and expose its many stinking hypocrisies, but they have no moral right to order it off campuses. I know I am going to regret writing that last sentence. Indeed, I am regretting it already. But it remains the case that a country where it’s a crime to be offensive is a country where everyone can try to ban everyone else.
© Comment is free - The Guardian


Hate Speech Is Drowning Reddit and No One Can Stop It

Editors' Note: This story includes references to hate speech and other language that readers may find offensive.

26/10/2014- In September, a group of black women penned an impassioned letter to the people who run Reddit entitled: "We have a racist user problem and reddit won't take action." See also: Reddit: A Beginner's Guide

Posted by the username of pro_creator, who serves as a moderator on the subreddit /r/blackladies, it was cosigned by the moderators of more than 60 other subred-dits. "Since this community was created, individuals have been invading this space to post hateful, racist messages and links to racist content, which are visible until a modera-tor individually removes the content and manually bans the user account," the message said. "reddit admins have explained to us that as long as users are not breaking sitewide rules, they will take no action," the letter added. Therein lies the issue. Reddit has a hate speech problem, but more than that, Reddit has a Reddit problem.

A persistent, organized and particularly hateful strain of racism has emerged on the site. Enabled by Reddit's system and permitted thanks to its fervent stance against any censorship, it has proven capable of overwhelming the site's volunteer moderators and rendering entire subreddits unusable. Moderators have pled with Reddit for help, but little has come. As the letter from /r/blackladies mentions, the bulk of what racists perpetrate on the site is within Reddit's few rules. And the site's CEO has made clear, even through criticism surrounding high-profile events like the celebrity nude leak, that those rules are not going to change.

This has put the front page of the Internet in a tenuous position. Having just completed a funding round, the site is poised to begin monetizing. That will mean convincing advertisers to put adds next to its user-generated content. It is a situation in which an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Hate speech on Reddit is proving uncontainable while Reddit refuses to change. The situation has left moderators — essential cogs in the site's operation — as the site's last line of defense against some of the darkest parts of the Internet. It is a battle they are losing.

Down with the upvotes
It's just not that hard to manipulate Reddit. Motivated racists have proven capable of affecting everyone from smaller groups like /r/blackladies to huge subreddits like /r/news, which has more than 3.9 million subscribers. Reddit relies on a democratic “upvote” and “downvote” system that surfaces or buries content and com-ments. It’s a system that can be gamed by motivated groups. Allied redditors can vote en masse to push content and comments to the top of subreddits, a move known as "brigading." This is frowned upon — but it’s not technically against the rules. The site also allows users to quickly create anonymous accounts. Bands of anonymous, racist users can completely overrun smaller subreddits, which is what happened to /r/blackgirls, a predecessor to /r/blackladies.

“Our sub was created after a previous sub we'd frequented was overrun [by] hate groups,” pro_creator said in an email to Mashable. The user requested anonymity out of fear of “doxxing,” or the public disclosure of personal information online. The abuse “would come in waves as they grew upset with being rejected and banned.” Racist redditors had previously congregated at /r/n*ggers, a subreddit that was eventually banned for its open attempts to brigade other subreddits, including /r/ black-girls. A year and a half later, /r/blackladies, which bills itself as "designed specifically to be a safe space for black ladies on Reddit," is dealing with the same problem. Moderators are growing weary.

In addition to the upvote and downvote system, moderators, know as “mods,” are also a key part of Reddit. These unpaid volunteers regulate each subreddit, some of which have millions of subscribers. They have the power to block comments and ban users from their particular parts of the site. In the face of the types of organized attacks that hate groups have mounted on subreddits large and small, those tools are woefully inadequate, moderators say. Tyler Lawrence, a moderator of a variety of subreddits including /r/news, said that consistent and coordinated attacks have caused him to consider drastic action. This has become such a huge issue in /r/news alone that I've at multiple points conside-red outright closing comment sections to prevent hateful brigading from racist communities within Reddit," Lawrence told Mashable in an email.

Moderators’ pleas have almost entirely fallen on deaf ears. Reddit’s commitment to remaining as open as possible is well documented. Most recently, Reddit CEO Yishan Wong penned a defense of the site’s lack of action concerning its role in disseminating leaked celebrity photos. Moderators who spoke with Mashable are fatalistic about the site’s future. If Reddit was built in part by the darker corners of the site, why would it change now? “There's no desire to address the various -isms that have grown to dominate the site, so it doesn't seem like it will be resolved any time soon. Which is unfortunate, because the attitudes displayed by a good number of Reddit's target demographic are firmly on the wrong side of history,” pro_creator wrote. “The site is positioning itself as a playground for racists and misogynists. And if racism and sexism are paying the bills, why would they move against it?” Reddit declined to respond to questions on this topic.

The beginning
Reddit at its core is a group of communities. The site's structure and format — relying on the voting system to elevate or bury content and comments — made it the ideal place for users with any number of interests to connect. Reddit now hosts thousands of sections, known as subreddits, and served more than 170 million unique users last month. Censorship is the site's mortal sin, even when being applied to the most odious content. This laissez faire ideology is an ingrained part of the plat-form, lending it a certain legitimacy. All are welcome and governed by the same rules. This led to the site playing host to a certain amount of racism and hate speech. Racism on the Internet preceded Reddit, and it will exist if the site ever goes away. But there was a relative peace among the various groups, which operated under something of an unspoken detente. You stay in your corner, we stay in ours.

That is until the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. The Zimmerman trial really stands out in my mind. It served as a rally point for racists every-where," said Logan Hanks, a former Reddit programmer, in an email to Mashable. "This manifested on Reddit as a lot of new racist memes popping up here and there, drama around racists squatting on the 'TrayvonMartin' subreddit to mock the African-American community, and an uptick in bullying directed at minority subreddits," he said. "It became a prime opportunity to mock and harass minorities on Reddit." Since then, a battle has raged between Reddit's corps of volunteer moderators and racist activists. "After the Zimmerman trial, they were briefly dispersed, but never entirely gone, and this year they've returned as strong and bold as ever," Hanks said.
Battlefield Reddit
Racism is nothing new to the Internet, but rarely has it been so organized and on a platform that can quickly put it in front of millions of users. Numerous moderators who spoke with Mashable for this story say that hate groups are coordinating to disrupt large, mainstream sections of the site and occupy others. Moderators can delete posts and comments that violate subreddit rules. Some have taken screenshots of attacks in hopes of providing evidence to admins — Reddit employees that help run the site — and spurring them to take action. Examples can be found here, here and here. There's also evidence of plans to take these efforts to Twitter. Lawrence, the moderator, sent the following screenshot as an example of the type of action that he has had to deal with on a near-daily basis.
unnamed (3)
Many subreddits have their own rules, enforced by moderators. It is up to them to regulate content and comments with limited tools. They can block users and delete comments, but these efforts are sometimes not enough. While Reddit has 65 employees, it relies on thousands of unpaid mods. "The tools available to mods mainly offer limited reactive approaches, so they have to monitor submissions 24 hours a day to remove slurs and ban each new account created specifically to bully them," said Hanks, who was known to be a particularly active admin during his time at Reddit. "Whenever they were hit by a particularly hard deluge they would escalate to us, and sometimes we were able to stem the tide briefly," Hanks said. "If things get too bad, they have to close their subreddit until the bullies and trolls forget about them and move on."

It's also a strain on the mods. Ryan Perkins, a moderator of several subreddits, said in an email that he had lost count of the number of racist commenters he has had to ban. "This makes moderating any reasonably large subreddit with an eye towards being inclusive actually quite a lot of very emotionally and mentally taxing work," he said. Racism is only one type of hate speech on Reddit. The site has seen similar battles surrounding misogyny and more recently the GamerGate fiasco. Reddit has taken some action against organized hate groups. Banning the original hub for anti-black hate speech was a big step, but one that lacked much impact. Banning either a subreddit or a user is among the most aggressive moves that Reddit administrators can take. It also barely changes anything. New subreddits are easily formed, and new usernames created.

The moderators Mashable spoke with pointed to “the Chimpire,” a group of subreddits that had become the new hub for hate speech on Reddit. Two moderators associated with the Chimpire told Mashable through Reddit’s messaging system that brigading was forbidden in their subreddits and denied organized attempts at vote manipulation.

No help in sight
Successful platforms that began with a spirit of openness have learned to quickly change as they attempted to turn into successful businesses. Facebook and Twitter decided, whether as part of a moral or business decision, that freedom of expression on its platforms has limits. Tumblr cracked down on porn. Reddit recently announ-ced a $50 million round of funding. It has been eight years since Condé Nast parent company Advance Publications bought Reddit, and it’s no secret that the site is try-ing to figure out how to monetize. The recent celebrity leak just about coincided with news of the fundraising round, putting the site in an awkward position. In this case, Reddit took action. A subreddit called /r/TheFappening that had been created to host the leaked pictures was eventually banned. That move drew no shortage of criticism within Reddit for a perceived double standard.

"The core in this case is the same as the core in the celebrity hacking scandal, except in that instance, they only removed the subreddits once they received significant media coverage and legal pressure," said Lawrence, the /r/news moderator. Reddit is walking a fine line. The site is trying to be tough on content that could harm its prospects while also catering to its users that demand Reddit retain its anything-goes foundation. In the calculus between Reddit’s ideals, its business, its users and its moderators, the site seems to have decided that it can most afford to lean on the moderators. This has left them frustrated and angry, but still redditors for now. “We are here, we do not want to be hidden,” the letter on /r/blackladies concluded, “and we do not want to be pushed away.”
© Mashable


After Twitter ruling, tech firms increasingly toe Europe’s line on hate speech

23/10/2014- A little over a year after a French court forced Twitter to remove some anti-Semitic content, experts say the ruling has had a ripple effect, leading other Internet companies to act more aggressively against hate speech in an effort to avoid lawsuits. The 2013 ruling by the Paris Court of Appeals settled a lawsuit brought the year before by the Union of Jewish Students of France over the hashtag #UnBonJuif, which means “a good Jew” and which was used to index thousands of anti-Semitic comments that violated France’s law against hate speech. Since then, YouTube has permanently banned videos posted by Dieudonne, a French comedian with 10 convictions for inciting racial hatred against Jews. And in February, Facebook removed the page of French Holocaust denier Alain Soral for “repeatedly posting things that don’t comply with the Facebook terms,” according to the company. Soral’s page had drawn many complaints in previous years but was only taken down this year.

“Big companies don’t want to be sued,” said Konstantinos Komaitis, a former academic and current policy adviser at the Internet Society, an international organization that encourages governments to ensure access and sustainable use of the Internet. “So after the ruling in France, we are seeing an inclination by Internet service providers like Google, YouTube, Facebook to try and adjust their terms of service — their own internal jurisprudence — to make sure they comply with national laws.” The change comes amid a string of heavy sentences handed down by European courts against individuals who used online platforms to incite to racism or violence.

On Monday, a British court sentenced one such offender to four weeks in jail for tweeting “Hitler was right” to a Jewish lawmaker. Last week, a court in Geneva sentenced a man to five months in jail for posting texts that deny the Holocaust. And in April, a French court sentenced two men to five months in jail for posting an anti-Semitic video. “The stiffer sentences owe partly to a realization by judges of the dangers posed by online hatred, also in light of cyber-jihadism and how it affected people like Mohammed Merah,” said Christophe Goossens, the legal adviser of the Belgian League against Anti-Semitism, referring to the killer of four Jews at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012.

In the Twitter case, the company argued that as an American firm it was protected by the First Amendment. But the court rejected the argument and forced Twitter to remove some of the comments and identify some of the authors. It also required the company to set up a system for flagging and ultimately removing comments that violate hate speech laws. Twitter responded by overhauling its terms of service to facilitate adherence to European law, Twitter’s head of global safety outreach and public policy, Patricias Cartes Andres, revealed Monday at a conference in Brussels organized by the International Network Against Cyber Hate, or INACH. “The rules have been changed in a way that allows us to take down more content when groups are being targeted,” Cartes Andres told JTA. Before the lawsuit, she added, “if you didn’t target any one person, you could have gotten away with it.”

The change went into effect five months ago, but Twitter “wanted to be very quiet about it because there will be other communities, like the freedom of speech community, that will be quite upset about it because they would view it as censorship,” Cartes Andres said. Suzette Bronkhorst, the secretary of INACH, said Twitter’s adjusted policies are part of a “change in attitude” by online service providers since 2013. “Before the trial, Twitter gave Europe the middle finger,” Brokhorst said. “But they realized that if they want to work in Europe, they need to keep European laws, and others are coming to the same realization.”

According to Komaitis, the Twitter case was built on a landmark court ruling in 2000 that forced the search engine Yahoo! to ban the sale of Nazi memorabilia. But the 2013 ruling “went much further,” he said, “demonstrating the increasing pressure on providers to adhere to national laws, unmask offenders and set up flagging mechanisms.” Still, the INACH conference showed that big gaps remain between the practices sought by European anti-racism activists and those now being implemented by the tech companies.

One area of contention is Holocaust denial, which is illegal in many European countries but which several American companies, reflecting the broader free speech protections prevalent in the United States, are refusing to censure. Delphine Reyre, Facebook’s director of policy, said at the conference that the company believes users should be allowed to debate the subject. “Counter speech is a powerful tool that we lose with censorship,” she said. Cartes Andres cited the example of the hashtag #PutosJudios, Spanish for “Jewish whores,” which in May drew thousands of comments after a Spanish basketball team lost to its Israeli rival. More than 90 percent of the comments were “positive statements that attacked those who used the offensive term,” she said. Some of the comments are the subject of an ongoing police investigation in Spain launched after a complaint filed by 11 Jewish groups.

But Mark Gardner of Britain’s Community Security Trust wasn’t buying it. “There’s no counter-speech to Holocaust denial,” Gardner said at the conference. “I’m not going to send Holocaust survivors to debate the existence of Auschwitz online. That’s ridiculous.”
© JTA News.


Czech authorities alarmingly unwilling to prosecute online hate crimes

Ill-will, incompetence or indifference. In which category does the inactivity of the Czech Police with respect to racist threats and verbal attacks belong?

22/10/2014- The failures of the criminal justice authorities result in making it possible for incitement to racism and threats to be made with impunity in the virtual realm, especially on social networking sites. Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of the ROMEA organization, recently became the target of such threats. More and more Czech citizens are personally experiencing this every day. People are becoming the victims of online threats because of their alternative opinions, religion, skin color, or - in the case of the director of ROMEA - because they refuse to agree with incitements to racism or to participate in disseminating xenophobic opinions.

When people fear for their lives, it is natural for them to turn to the police for help and protection, as the police motto goes. However, after experiencing bureaucratic obstacles and the time it takes to write up various documents and requests or make official statements, many realize the futility of seeking such police assistance; while rank and file detectives in the police departments do their best to help, their dependency on the often absurd instructions given them by police command ties their hands.

Incitement to murder
On 17 February a Czech-language Facebook page was launched with hateful content and an unambiguous name: "We Demand the Public Execution of the Executive Director of Romea, o.s., Zdeněk Ryšavý" ("Požadujeme veřejnou popravu výkonného ředitele Romea o.s. Zdeňka Ryšavého"). In addition to other texts inciting violence against a particular group, on 28 February the following discussion post also turned up there: "Not only will Zdeněk Ryšavý and his daughter have to pay with their blood, but so will Tomáš Bystrý, Jarmila Balážová and the dubious artist and perverted homosexual David Tišet" [sic, the correct spelling is Tišer - editors]. A Facebook user appearing under the name Gabriel Zamrazil then posted: "I totally agree. He deserves death.... Let me do it."

This commentary indicated a readiness to personally commit a crime or to otherwise ensure its realization. Ryšavý reported the page to Facebook as hateful and demanded that it be removed. "We immediately reported the page and called on our fans to do the same," Ryšavý told news server Facebook sent a response within moments. "We have checked the page you reported as containing hateful language or symbols and found it does not violate our Community Principles," read the answer. This is the automatic reply that Facebook sends out within just a few minutes in such cases.

Publicity helped
Ryšavý, afraid for his own life and for the security of his family, filed a criminal report on 5 March about the facts indicating that the making of criminal threats (Section 353 Act No. 40/2009, Coll.), incitement to commit a crime (Section 364) and approval of a crime (Section 365) had all been perpetrated. The presumption also exists that the people who supported these Facebook threats by clicking the "like" button (another 27 people) have committed the felony of approving of a crime. The police response that followed could have been a model for an absurd tragicomedy about how the rule of law works, one that should be screened in police academies as an example of how police officers and the state prosecutor are definitely not supposed to proceed when fulfilling their obligations. Ultimately, what helped the case was publicizing it; most probably, when the perpetrator learned from the media that a criminal investigation was underway, he got scared and erased the Facebook page himself.

Lost in translation
"The unwillingness of the Police of the Czech Republic to pursue serious verbal crimes like this is alarming," said Klára Kalibová, a lawyer who directs the In IUSTITIA organization, which participated in writing up the criminal report. The correct URL address of the Facebook page was included in that communication. Police had to first have the text of the report translated into English, and it then underwent approval according to a so-called Telecommunications Service Monitoring protocol, in accordance with the Czech Criminal Code, after which it was sent by the Police Presidium to the country at issue. In the first phase, that was Ireland, which is where Facebook has its European branch.

Not only did that entire procedure take several months, but the Czech Police sent the wrong URL address to Ireland. "Understandably, they wrote back from Ireland that the URL address was wrong and needed correction," Kalibová comments, adding, "but [the Czech Police] didn't correct it - instead they issued an absurd decision that was not based on the truth, claiming that they had not managed to find the perpetrator and that the case was being postponed." After some time, there was nothing left to do but to resubmit the motion to the police, again with the correct URL address. The police were repeatedly called upon to communicate with Face-book.

In the interim, however, an internal methodological instruction for the Police of the Czech Republic took effect according to which officers must first consult every-thing with the state prosecutor, who will decide on how to proceed. This, of course, meant that the excruciating process of the criminal investigation was far from over. "One state prosecutor, whom I will not name, but who is presented as a leading specialist in extremism, by the way, has already shelved several cases of verbal crimes, saying they are allegedly not serious and are covered by freedom of speech protections," Kalibová said. Those cases have involved, for example, right-wing extremists from the National Resistance, or Patrik Banga's criminal report filed against a journalist who invented and published a "news" story about Romani people allegedly robbing a collection that had been taken up for flood victims. "In Zdeněk Ryšavý's case, a police officer consulted it with [the state prosecutor] and she decided not to file charges. She allegedly insisted in her decision that in her experience, the Americans would not pursue this," Kalibová said.

The excuse of freedom of speech in the USA
What is absurd about the state prosecutor's approach in this context is the fact that she has argued in her decision that freedom of speech is extensive in American legislative practice. The state prosecutor's interpretation of that information is that US law tolerates these kinds of threats. That claim is dubious to say the least, because death threats against a specific individual are prosecutable in the USA, just as they are in the Czech Republic. It is mainly dubious in another sense: The state prosecutor either does not know or does not want to know that she was supposed to have been turning in this case not to the USA, but to Ireland, where EU legislation applies.

She is, therefore, involuntarily participating in creating de facto impunity for verbal crimes committed in a racist context in the Czech Republic. What is paradoxical is that according to our information, the Irish branch of Facebook responsible for Central Europe is friendly and helpful when it comes to intervening against such excesses, but of course they need the correct information to do so, and the Police of the Czech Republic, and indirectly the state prosecutor, basically were incapable of supplying it. "I was in contact with Irish Facebook's head of public relations for Central Europe, who said that if the police can prove this to her, she would cooperate with them. She told me: Have them write it up properly and we will be happy to oblige," said Kalibová, "but the Czech police officers, of course, did not respond to that."

Calls for murder illegal in US too
Kalibová believes this points to a serious systemic problem in addressing hate crime in a cybercrime context, because Europe cannot be toothless in its cooperation with the United States, and the clarification of specific crimes should not have to depend upon whether Czech police officers speak English or not. The state prosecu-tor's key argument, that the case of Zdeněk Ryšavý falls under the protection of freedom of speech as it is interpreted in the United States, is doubly moot. Even if the case were to fall under American legislation (and not Irish law, as it actually does), any call for the specific murder of a specific person is clearly illegal in all of these systems. "This is extremely serious misconduct by the criminal justice authorities and it is endangering the security of a specific person and his family," Kalibová stresses; she is considering using her final enforceable procedural tool, that of a complaint to the supervising Prosecutor's Office, which could order the state attorney to proceed in accordance with the Criminal Code.

Grist to the mill of the xenophobes
Giving the excuse that threats to publicly execute a Czech citizen and his family cannot be prosecuted by referring to the practically unlimited freedom of speech in the United States of America is unacceptable for two reasons: Such an excuse not only contravenes the facts, it mainly contributes to a false legal analysis and reinforces Czech racists and other extremists in the illusion that their behavior is tolerated by society and the state. This is particularly dangerous in a situation where blogs, the media, and social networks are abuzz with incitements to hatred.

Such lack of action further disseminates the feeling that calls for violence against ethnic minorities, or against those whose opinions differ from ours, are generally tolerated. In this context, the futile, long-term, strenuous efforts of this author to contact those responsible at the Police of the Czech Republic for a statement on this issue is symptomatic of a bigger problem; if the Czech Police provide us a statement after this piece is published, we will be glad to publish it.
© Romea.


Poland: Team behind Hatred lashes out in blog post, thanks press for attention

21/10/2014- Destructive Creations, the Polish studio behind the upcoming game Hatred, has been accused of being neo-Nazi sympathizers and anti-Islamic xenophobes because of the organizations and people that they "like" on Facebook. Their game is, in their own words, over-the-top violent and purposefully insensitive to "social justice" themes. Yesterday, CEO Jaroslaw Zielinski spoke with Polygon about his feelings over the accusations and promised more clarification. Today, individual members of the development team made personal statements. In a blog post titled "The First Storm Resisted" Zielinski and others formally responded to the accusations made against them. "My great-grand father was killed by Gestapo," writes Zielinski. "Some members of my family were fighting against nazi occupation in the Polish underground army called 'Armia Krajowa'. My forefathers suffered greatly because of totalitarian regimes, so who the fuck would I be if I'd truly support any of Nazi activists?

"The hateful title I'm working on (where virtual character hates virtual characters), doesn't have any connection to what I truly believe and think, there is a real-life outside, you know? Maybe you should try it? I will never ever again respond to any of those accusations, this is my ultimate statement." "Nazi Germany is responsible for killing 6 million people in Poland," writes Marcin Kazmierczak. "Half of them were Jews, half of them Polish. My family suffered many losses during the World War II. Anybody accusing me for being a follower of said ideology should really think twice before doing so and consider reading some books on the topic. ... Values like pluralism, democratic opposition and the right to manifest one's own views shouldn’t be called ‘the lack of tolerance’. Finally regarding my attitude towards gays let me just say that I have a few gay friends that I deeply respect as people and have no problem with their sexual orientation."

"In response to repeated allegations against me," writes Jakub Stychno, "I’d like to state that I’m opposed to all totalitarian ideologies. The t-shirt that I’m wearing on our team picture refers to National Polish Army troops, that in 1945 refused to lay down arms and continue fighting against the new invader, to regain independent Poland. They did so because they’ve rightly anticipated Soviet security service repressions against Poland's already demilitarized army. I would also like to emphasize that until the year 1945 those troops were actively fighting against the Third Reich occupation. Those soldiers are Polish national heroes and as such deserve commemoration." CEO Jaroslaw Zielinski also states that while "we knew that our reveal will cause some shitstorm" his team did not expect such a wide or vocal reaction.

"Many can call us 'attention whores,'" Zielinski continued. "Well, we try to get world's attention to our product and as you can see — it worked perfectly. ... We wish to thank all of our haters and all upset press for a great marketing campaign they've done for us. "A week ago, we were a little company from the middle of nowhere, just some guys making some game. Today everyone heard about 'Hatred' and us. All thanks goes to those who were trying to harm us (with no desired effect, what a pity)."
Edit: The original version of this story listed the company name as Destructive Games. It is in fact Destructive Creations. Additionally, we've cleaned up the quoted sections of copy for readability.
© Polygon


Who Has the Right to Be Forgotten on the Internet?

By Katie Engelhart

21/10/2014- Last Thursday, at a public hearing about the “right to be forgotten” in central London, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt had a bit of trouble pronouncing the names of the eminent Europeans with whom he shared a stage. But he tried his best. And he muddled his way through. It’s an apt metaphor for the way that one of the world's most powerful companies has been struggling in the wake of a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in May on the so-called “right to be forgotten.” The court ruled that Google (and other search engines) must allow individuals to erase certain results that appear on web searches of their names—when the linked-to information is “inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive.” The court’s reasoning: Normal people have a right to be forgotten online. Reaction to the ruling bordered on hysterical. Depending on your view, the ECJ has either safeguarded individual privacy or heralded the slow death of the free and fair Internet in Europe. MailOnline publisher Martin Clark said that de-linking was “the equivalent of going into libraries and burning books you don’t like.”

When a site is “forgotten” on Google, it’s not actually deleted at the source, or even erased from all internet searches—but it does disappear from searches of the individual requester’s name. Now, if you Google search for a name in Europe, a notification appears at the bottom of the search page: “Some results may have been removed under data protection in Europe.” But the court was vague in its definition of “inadequate, irrelevant, or excessive” data. As a result, Google has been reluctantly cast in the role of pan-European judge and jury of the internet's collective memory, responsible for deciding (behind closed doors) what constitutes the continent’s public interest. Shortly after the May ruling, an evidently pissed-off Schmidt cobbled together an “Advisory Council on the Right to be Forgotten,” which includes an Oxford ethics philosopher, a former German justice minister, and Wikipedia boss Jimmy Wales. Google followed that up by launching a road trip. Last Thursday’s event was one of seven town-hall style meetings being held by the company across Europe.

Some have dismissed the tour as a PR stunt, and suggested that the company is engaging the public only to show up the clusterfuck that has been born of the ECJ ruling. If that’s true, well, mission accomplished. On Thursday, I went to one of Google’s public meetings in London to find out who does and does not have the right to be forgotten on the internet. Four hours later, I left feeling sure of one thing: Implementing the ECJ’s decision is going to be really, really hard. Schmidt began the day by discussing some more clear-cut cases. A victim of physical violence wanted references to the assault removed from web searches of his/her name. Google said OK. A pedophile wanted recent data about his conviction de-linked. Google said nuh-uh. So far, so simple. But in other cases, lawyers have wavered. Google has struggled with the case of an adult who wanted reference to a teenage drunk driving incident de-linked and the case of a former member of a far-right party who no longer holds extreme political views.

In deciding whether or not to de-link, Google must consider how “relevant” online data is, taking into account factors like “time passed,” the “purpose” of the information, and the role that the data subject plays “in public life.” Google must balance “sensitivity for the person’s private life” with “the public interest.” And it must determine if linked-to data is “inadequate” or “excessive.” But what does all that it even mean, at a practical level? What terrible things can you do and then have expunged from the internet’s collective memory forever? Let’s start with a fairly likely scenario. You’ve been recorded or photographed doing something that the internet deems hilarious at your expense—enthusiastically making out with someone who looks really bored, dancing really energetically and embarrassingly, that kind of thing. If the web has tied that meme to your name, do you have the right to hide from the digital public?

Gabrielle Guillemin of the nonprofit Article 19 suggested that embarrassment is not a good enough reason to request de-linking. But Google Advisory Council member Peggy Valcke, a law professor in Belgium, suggested that it could be. And anyway, argued Oxford University philosopher Luciano Floridi, another Advisory Council member, “Embarrassment comes in degrees. Social embarrassment becomes social stigma becomes losing your job… Do you we have a way of understanding when embarrassment, discomfortm and unpleasantness become harm?” Does the calculation change when the data involves a child? Or an otherwise vulnerable person? It didn’t really get cleared up. What if the source of the embarrassing material is you? Say you posted an emo selfie on MySpace ages ago and now it’s ruining your nascent cage-fighting career. Schmidt conceded that things get tricky when requesters themselves published the data that they now want de-linked. Recently, a media professional in Britain asked Google to erase links to “embarrassing content” that he himself posted online. Google said no.

What about if you’ve done something more serious? Say you’d rather everybody didn’t know about all that embezzlement you got caught doing at your last job. Panellists agreed that de-linking information on things like criminal convictions would depend, in part, on whether the requester is a public figure. But how do we define a “public figure”? David Jordan, the BBC’s director of editorial policy and standards, introduced the hypothetical case of a voluntary school board member—a guy who's "famous" evaluating the quality of school lunches. Is this man a public figure? And so, does all his data belong in the public domain? Evan Harris, a former member of UK Parliament and now associate director of the Hacked Off campaign, suggested that people might ask for information about prior fraud to be de-linked, then later run for public office. By extension, is everyone’s data in the public interest on the grounds that we’re all potential future elected officials or important people? Again, it wasn’t made clear, but to stand a better chance in that election, you should request that Google forgets before printing your campaign posters.

Already, many de-link requests have come from criminals. Schmidt gave the real-life example of a convicted criminal served his time and who now wants reference to the conviction erased from search results. Should old convictions be “forgotten”? How old is old enough? This was also left—you guessed it—unclear. Increasingly, advocates on both sides of the line are joining together to issue a common plea that these critical decisions be made in European courtrooms rather than in Google boardrooms. They also insist that Google’s decisions be subject to external review. Currently, there is no appeals process for content publishers who disagree with a Google de-linking decisions. That may change, and soon. European regulators are already at work, beefing up the continent’s data protection policy, with an eye to codifying the right to be forgotten.

Philosophy aside, Google is faced with a logistical nightmare. The company has reportedly hired dozens of lawyers and paralegals to deal with de-link requests on a case-by-case basis. “It’s not obvious to me that this can ever be automated,” said Schmidt on Thursday. Already, Google admitted to errors—and has re-linked some of the half a million de-link requests that they have fielded since May. And yet, for now, there remains a simple way to maneuver around this new European internet. Going to (rather than, say, or transports European internet searchers to virtual America—and thus gives them access to the entirely “remembered” internet that they once knew. On Thursday, Schmidt was asked whether European searchers should simply start using the .com site. “I am not recommending that,” he said, with a wry smile.
© Vice


UK: Britain First 'tricks' Facebook users with Lynda Bellingham post

Thousands of Facebook users 'liked' the post, featuring a picture of Lynda with All Creatures Great and Small co-star Christopher Timothy

24/10/2014- Lynda Bellingham’s tragic death has been exploited on Facebook by far right extremists, it emerged last night. Britain First encouraged people to like and share a picture of the Loose Women star minutes after her death was announced on Monday. Thousands of Facebook users 'liked' the post, featuring a picture of Lynda with All Creatures Great and Small co-star Christopher Timothy. However, many would not have been aware that the photo was being spread by Britain First, an ultra-right campaign group. Its supporters use the Britain First Facebook page to call for British Muslims to be “wiped out” and non-whites deported. Formed from former BNP and EDL members, Britain First made headlines this year by invading mosques and threatening imams.

Men in the group’s paramilitary-style uniforms pushed their way into several mosques in England and Scotland. Founder of Britain First, Jim Dowson, later quit the group over its “unchristian” paramilitary-style “mosque invasions”, saying they were “provocative and counterproductive”. He added that they were attracting “racists and extremists” to the organisation, which has taken over from the British National Party and the English Defence League as the biggest far-right threat in the UK. Mr Dowson, from Belfast, left the BNP in 2010 to form a “Christian” group opposing the rise of radical Islam. But he told the Mirror he had pulled the plug on the group’s funding, closed their office in Belfast and severed all links.

He described the mosque invasions as “unacceptable and unchristian”, adding: “Most of the Muslims in this country are fine."They are worried about extremists the same as us. So going into their mosques and stirring them up and provoking them is political madness and a bit rude.” Matthew Collins, of anti-racist group Hope not Hate, said: “It is the most dangerous group to have emerged on the far right for several years.” But a Britain First spokesman told The Sun: “We do this regularly when British celebrities pass away. We pay our respects.” Brave Lynda lost her battle with cancer at the weekend after the disease spread from her colon to other parts of her body. She died in her husband Michael's arms on Sunday, aged 66.
© The Daily Mirror


British man gets jail time for sending lawmaker anti-Semitic tweet

22/10/2014- A 21-year-old British man was sentenced to four weeks in jail for sending an anti-Semitic tweet to a Jewish member of Parliament. Garron Helm pleaded guilty Monday to sending the offending message to Labour Party member Luciana Berger. In addition to the jail sentence, Helm was ordered to pay Berger $128. The tweet, which called Berger a “communist Jewess,” showed a photograph of her with a Holocaust yellow star photoshopped onto her forehead and the words, “You can always count on a Jew to show their true colours eventually.” It had the hashtag “Hitler was right.” Helm’s home contained Nazi memorabilia and a flag for an extremist right-wing group called National Action. “This sentence sends a clear message that hate crime is not tolerated in our country,” Berger said in a statement. “I hope this case serves as an encouragement to others to report hate crime whenever it rears its ugly head.”
© JTA News.


U.K. Seeks Help From Tech Firms in Combating Extremists Online

Representatives From Google, Twitter and Others to Meet with Cameron Advisers on Thursday

22/10/2014- The U.K. government is intensifying efforts to enlist the help of large technology companies such as Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. in combating extremist content online amid growing concerns about terrorist threats. Representatives from the companies, which also include Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. , are due to meet with policy advisers for British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday to discuss how they can reduce ways for terrorists to recruit and spread their messages online, according to government officials. While the large technology companies have been generally cooperative, British officials say, thorny issues remain. Among them: what to do about material authorities consider extremist and want removed but that isn’t necessarily illegal, such as some videos of sermons by radical preachers or posts by extremists encouraging Westerners to join the fight in Syria. Privacy considerations are another challenge in instances where U.K. authorities have asked technology companies to hand over details of the people posting the content, such as names, usernames, email addresses and Internet protocol addresses, which can help identify a person’s general location.

Thursday’s meeting, which is due to take place at Mr. Cameron’s official residence at Downing Street, will be chaired by Jo Johnson, head of the prime minister’s policy unit. A spokeswoman for Mr. Cameron said the purpose of the meeting is to discuss “what we can do collectively in this area.” She added that the big technolo-gy companies have been collaborative in working with the government to remove terrorist and extremist material, though they have raised some concerns in general about data protection. Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft declined to comment on the Downing Street meeting. Big technology companies say they are generally responsive to government requests in removing terrorist-related content and many have policies against posting violent or threatening content.

Technology companies have tried to push back against some of the requests to remove content or turn over user data, though. Internally, some technology executives say they are worried that censorship techniques more common in countries such as Russia and Turkey could become more generalized as governments grant themselves more power. Some companies are skeptical about handing information about their users to governments, particularly if the user hasn’t done anything illegal, said Michael Clarke, director at the Royal United Services Institute, an independent think tank on defense and security. “It’s a very delicate relationship at the moment,” he said. Still, the companies say they seek to work with government. In the U.K., for instance, Google handed over information in response to 1,100 of the more than 1,500 requests it received from the government, according to data released by the company. French police officials say many companies have dedicated pages that allow law enforcement organizations to send requests directly to the firms for information such as names, email addresses, credit card billing information and other information.

Sophisticated and prolific use of social media for propaganda purposes has been a hallmark of Islamic State, the militant group that has captured large stretches of territory in northern Iraq and Syria. Extremists have posted content ranging from images of killings to promotional-type videos intended to lure young Westerners to fight. The concern for many European countries, including the U.K., France and Belgium, is that the material will serve to fuel the already large numbers of citizens going to fight with extremist groups overseas—and that they will be more likely to take part in terrorist activity when they return. U.K. authorities say, on average, five people a week travel from Britain to Syria and Iraq to fight and there has been a sharp increase in the terror-related arrests at home. On Wednesday, police arrested a man and a woman separately on suspicion of terrorist activity as part of separate Syria-related investigations.

As a result, the U.K. and other governments are stepping up efforts to delete content and track down the authors of extremist content online. London’s Metropolitan Police, known as Scotland Yard, says it has been removing around 1,000 pieces of such content from the Internet each week, most of which is related to Iraq and Syria. This includes videos of beheadings and other killings, torture and suicides. “Dealing with material which may be described as extremist, but does not obviously infringe (upon) U.K. terrorist legislation, is more difficult,” a senior U.K. government security official said. “We have proposed to companies that they consider seriously whether this material is consistent with their terms and conditions.”

European Union officials met in Luxembourg earlier this month with representatives of Google, Facebook, Twitter and other companies to discuss ways to combat online propaganda from terrorist groups. France has recently beefed up its antiterrorism laws to allow, among other actions, authorities to cut off Internet access for people defending terrorism and websites labeled “terrorist.” The measures also permit wider terrorist surveillance online. But some specialists in counterterrorism question the effectiveness of governments increasing reliance on censorship and filtering to counter online extremism. Ghaffar Hussain, managing director of London think tank Quilliam Foundation, said such moves tend to be costly and potentially counterproductive. He said a more effective method is producing content for online initiatives that counter extremist ideas, such as parody videos making fun of recruits militant group Islamic State. “To simply shut the debate down doesn’t allow any progress to be made on the counter-extremist front,” Mr. Hussain said.
© The Wall Street Journal.


United against Salafism, right-wing scene surges in Germany

Violent hooligans, backed by right-wing extremists, have teamed up against a new enemy: Salafists. For months now, they have lashed out online - and now they're taking to the streets.

18/10/2014- It began on Facebook, where anti-Islam soccer fans have been venting their anger in online forums for months now. But lately, in German cities, like Essen, Nuremberg, Mannheim, Frankfurt and Dortmund, hostile and extremely violent hooligans, usually at odds with each other, have united against a new enemy: Salafists - a radical and militant branch of Islam. Their initiative, currently known as Ho.Ge.Sa. - "Hooligans gegen Salafisten" ("Hooligans against Salafists") - has seen its profile repea-tedly blocked by Facebook, but it always reappears under another name. It's here that the group is stoking the flames against the hard-line Salafist movement. Next stop: a demonstration planned for October 26 in front of the Cologne Cathedral.

The current mood and the protests organized by Kurds across Europe are giving hooligans and right-wing sympathizers the chance to "apparently demonstrate against the Salafists, but really only to express their own Islamophobia," Olaf Sundermeyer, a journa-list and author, told DW. "We are 'hooligans against Salafixxxx.' Together, we are strong," reads the group's Facebook page. They see themselves as "a movement that has brought together hooligans, ultras, soccer fans and ordinary citizens in a common fight against the worldwide 'Islamic State' terror campaign and the nationwide Salafist movement." In Facebook posts and on banners at their demonstrations, they call their group the "resistance" against "the true enemies of our shared homeland." The latest protest in Dortmund drew around 400 people. "On 26.10.2014 in Cologne, we will significantly increase this number of participants," a moderator recently announced on the site. "Peaceful, unmasked and without rioting."

'Salafists are the greater evil'
These slogans have actually served to bring together opposing hostile fan bases, who usually meet up before and after sports events to fight each other. Gunter A. Pilz, an expert on fan behavior from the Sport University in Hanover, calls this phenomenon "a temporary fighting alliance." However, he said that this coalition will only last as long as the common enemy: the Salafists. Sundermeyer, who points out that anti-Islam attitudes are widespread in the soccer fan scene, said there's a risk that ex-treme right-wing groups will be tolerated because the brutality of "Islamic State" militants in Syria and Iraq is proof to many that Salafists are the greater evil. In an interview with German public radio Deutschlandfunk, Sundermeyer said that "Hooligans against Salafists" is still a relatively small group, but stressed that it could attract more followers - even those with less radical viewpoints. Soccer, he said, is the ideal environment to radicallize and recruit young people to the extreme right-wing cause. Officially, though, the league has distanced itself from the right-wing extremist movement.

Mobilizing apolitical hooligans and soccer fans
But there's an obvious overlap with the neo-Nazi scene: Ho.Ge.Sa. is backed by Dominik Roeseler, a member of the rightwing Pro NRW party who sits on the Mönchen- gladbach city council. He plans to be at the demonstration in Cologne. Roeseler is considered to be quite extreme and is, like all right-wing party members, under observation by German security officials. And there are further connections: At the protest in Dortmund, many shirts, jackets and banners were adorned with neo-Nazi symbols. The next day, a post on the Facebook group backtracked, saying that "unfortunately, we have found out that many neo-Nazis came to this event. We want to once again make it clear that we are not political."

There doesn't even seem to be a consensus over Dominik Roeseler among the Ho.Ge.Sa. members. A few days ago, they announced that they had parted ways with him. But one thing is certain: the Cologne demonstration is being organized by right-wing political officials. Is Ho.Ge.Sa., therefore, an attempt by right-wing extremists to drum up new members from within the ranks of hooligans and extremist soccer fans? At the most recent count, the number of Ho.Ge.Sa. fans had risen to more than 16,000. "We continue to grow, the media can hound us all it wants. This time, you will not be able to stop us," wrote a follower on the site. Until recently, soccer associations, clubs and other fans had been able to keep the hooligans in check, said Sundermeyer. Now, however, faced with the threat posed by the Salafists, the cause of the right-wing extremists is seeing increasing support.

© The Deutsche Welle.


Italy: Online racial discrimination on the rise

17/10/2014- In Italy, in 2013, for the first time ever, online racial discriminations exceeded those recorded as part of public life and in the workplace. More than ¼ of the cases (26.2%) refers to the mass media (compared to 16.8% in 2012). For a total of 354 cases. These are some of the figures, already widespread by the Italian National Bureau against Racial Discrimination), and reported in the “Third White Paper on racism in Italy” by Lunaria. The work, nearly three years after the publication of the second one, has monitored, analyzed, studied and summarized the multiple forms of xenophobia in this country.

Download Lunaria, Cronache di ordinario razzismo - Terzo Libro bianco sul razzismo in Italia, 2014 (PDF)
© West Info


Web retailers accused of selling Nazi-related paraphernalia

B’nai B’rith says Etsy, Ebay, Amazon, Sears and Yahoo! guilty of allowing users to sell offensive items

17/10/2014- International Jewish organization B’nai B’rith demanded several online retail outlets Wednesday to enforce policies against users selling “hateful parapher-nalia,” The Times of Israel reported Thursday. According to B’nai B’rith web retailer Etsy had “456 swastika-themed items...available for sale, as were 479 Hitler-themed items, 13 Ku Klux Klan-themed items, and one racist, Jewish caricature candlestick listed specifically under the topic ‘anti-Semitic.’” B’nai B’rith said Ebay, Amazon, Sears Marketplace and Yahoo!, were also guilty of allowing users to sell offensive items on their sites. Sears then removed a swastika ring from the roster of items offered for sale, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. The item description quoted in the report read "this Gothic jewelry item in particular features a Swastika ring that’s made of .925 Thai silver.” It then featured the following curious disclaimer: “Not for Neo Nazi or any Nazi implication. These jewelry items are going to make you look beautiful at your next dinner date.”

According to JTA, the item also was for sale on, though it is listed currently as unavailable. Sears issued an apology in a statement and on Twitter:
“Like many who have connected with our company, we are outraged that more than one of our independent third-party sellers posted offensive items on Sears Market-place,” the company said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize that these items were posted to our site and want you to know that the ring was not posted by Sears, but by independent third-party vendors.”
© i24 News


UK: Social media should not descend into a tool for far-right (opinion)

These days social media allows strangers and their opinions into our homes at all times of the day or night – but only if we allow it to
By Jade Wright

17/10/2014- It’s not every morning that I’m described as a fascist and ‘a silly young hack who resorts to insults at the first provocation’. Not before before I’ve finished my toast, anyway. Admittedly I am quite strict about separating my vegetarian fry up from my boyfriend’s carnivorous version, but most mornings are fairly peaceful in our house – until either of us picks up our phones and looks at Twitter. This week I spotted a message from a bloke (at least I think it’s a bloke, but there was no picture), which read: “Just read your June article in the Echo about Britain First. You are the reason people re-post their stuff. Wake up!” That one story, which I wrote in response to people sharing Britain First’s D-Day posts on Facebook, is still the best-read column I’ve ever written. I don’t know why, but it still gets re-posted and read every week, and I still get plenty of abuse from far-right supporters about it, as well as some nice comments too.

This bloke had clearly taken exception to me pointing out that Britain First are a right-wing political party and street defence organisation who encourage people to share their posts to spread their message. He didn't like me warning people against re-posting things without checking what they are. He said: “The issue is that people like YOU are wilfully ignoring why people like me turn to the far right. Only they give us a voice... We agree with your multicultural hogwash or you dismiss us as fascists. YOU are the fascist.” I laughed so hard I almost spat my tea out. Boyfriend looked crossly across the table, briefly distracted from his plate full of sausages and bacon. We try not to spend our rare time at home together arguing with strangers on Twitter. We have a no-phones-at-mealtimes rule.

But this was too funny for me not to respond. The man, who said he was part of the far right, was using fascism as an insult. That’s like me accusing someone of being a ‘lefty’ as a bad thing. He didn’t seem to realise that fascism is a form of authoritarian nationalism – the very thing he claims to support. Presumably he thought it was just a catch-all insult for anyone whose opinions he disagreed with. My response was probably a bit mean, looking back. I made fun of his insult and his poor use of grammar. I told him to come back and debate when he’d read his history books. This prompted the “just a silly young hack who resorts to insults at the first provoca-tion” tweet.

He’s not that far wrong – I am silly and I quite liked being described as young – but then I came to my senses, put down my phone and picked up my knife and fork. Time was when I had to leave the house to be insulted by a stranger (rather than insulted by someone I know, which happens all the time). These days social media allows strangers and their opinions into our homes at all times of the day or night – but only if we allow it to. I’m putting down my phone.
© The Liverpool Echo


UK: Jewish student union uses new media to fight oldest hatred

In late September and early October every year, hundreds of thousands of new and returning students journey from their family homes to university campuses across Britain. This includes over 8,500 Jewish students who, in the addition to the usual pressures associated with resuming university life, are having to consider what this summer’s record spike in anti-Semitic incidences will mean for them in the coming year.

13/10/2014- At JW3 in north-west London, The Times of Israel spoke with Ella Rose, president of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), the peer-led body which represents British Jewish students and is a confederation of 64 Jewish societies (JSocs) from across Britain’s universities. As president, Rose is responsible for representing the interests of students to the wider community as well as setting the strategic goals and objectives for the UJS during her one-year term. During our interview, we discussed how the UJS has prepared for the new university year, as well as issues of anti-Semitism on campus and the place of Israel advocacy in the union’s work.

Tell us what you and the UJS have been doing in the past two weeks and what you’ve found.
This is my first day in the office in about two weeks! Last night, I slept on the floor of a freshers’ dorm in Bristol – which was awful. We’ve been doing our campus visits, about forty visits in two weeks between the eight members of our program staff, going to all the different freshers’ fayres, freshers’ events. For example, yesterday I went to visit Bath JSoc for their freshers’ fayre and then over to Bristol for their freshers’ barbecue. We’ve been building relationships on campus, making sure they’re comfortable going onto campus, that they can sign people up and just being a friendly face and a helping hand. Jewish students are getting on with their lives. At Bristol last night, there were around 150 people at the barbecue, which is fantastic. There was very little Jewish life there four or five years ago. Now, they’re one of the biggest JSocs in the country and that’s because people created a welcoming Jewish life, other people hear about it and they come along. I think there are about sixty kids from JFS [a Jewish secondary school in north London] at Bristol now. It’s brilliant.

Given the summer we’ve had in terms of heightened anti-Semitism in the UK, what has the UJS been doing in preparation for the start of the new university year?
We were worried. There’s rising anti-Semitism and campus is a microcosm, so what you see in our communities is often reflected on campus. But, we’ve had really strong and positive start to term. As far as I am aware, we’ve not had any incidences where people have felt uncomfortable because they’re Jewish. We had a leadership and political training summit at the beginning of September and we talked about these issues and we said, ‘This might be an issue, this is what you should do, this is what you should think about preparing for campus.’

We started a campaign called #keepitkosher, with the tagline ‘Snap It, Send It, Stop It’, and it’s about stopping online anti-Semitism because that’s where some of the students would feel it more strongly, and we work with the CST [on that]. It’s about creating a safe space for Jewish students and students feeling that there is someone there to support them. But I went to Nottingham, I never experienced anti-Semitism when I was there and I’m pretty sure everyone knew I was Jewish because it’s not something I keep quiet about. I believe it’s an incredible time to be a Jewish student and I don’t believe that will change this year.

What are your plans for the coming year concerning Israel advocacy and creating safe spaces on campus to discuss Israel?
On Israel, we are unified but not uniform. We are a union of Jewish students but that doesn’t mean we expect anyone to have the same uniform opinion within that. We do not mandate what individual JSocs do: some choose to be involved in Israel debate, some don’t. It’s important to recognize that while the majority of Jewish students do have a connection with Israel as part of their identity, all identities are multi-faceted and none of them are the same.

Having said that, we do have mandated policies that are voted on every year at the UJS conference. We proudly support the two-state solution, we proudly stand against anti-Semitism, we also stand against BDS. At Sussex last year, for example, which is seen to be a very left-wing university, a BDS resolution failed because Jewish students took their own initiative and said that an academic boycott would be unacceptable. This policy isn’t imposed on JSocs but, as a union, we are opposed to BDS and will combat the delegitimization of Israel and work with our communal partners to do so.

What did you think of the discussion earlier this year about whether the UJS’ mandated policies on Israel exclude anti-Zionist students from JSocs?
It was a really interesting discussion and it stemmed from a debate we had at the UJS conference about how we do Israel. UJS is an inclusive space: we are cross-communal, peer-led, and representative, and I would hate to not to be to able to include anyone because of their beliefs. It’s difficult because you have some students who are anti-Zionist and some for whom Zionism is part of their Jewish identity and if they didn’t get Zionism at a Jewish society, they would feel like they were missing something. It’s two Jews, three opinions – it’s impossible. I’m not convinced it’s something you can ever completely solve. I would want an open and inclusive space and it’s up to students within that to have the conversation.

When did you become involved with UJS?
I started university in 2011 and I decided that I was going to sign up to women’s football and JSoc. I did play women’s football but I was part of a team that lost 24-0, which is approximately a goal conceded every three minutes, which is quite impressive and very tragic. That was around the time I gave up – obviously I wasn’t a very good striker. So, I got really involved in JSoc when I gave up football. I ran for the campaigns committee and was involved in their Israel work and then got involved in the UJS because of this.

Two years ago, Alex Green [a former president of the UJS] put the idea of running for president into my head. I was on the UJS National Council, went on a trip with the EUJS to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, and I loved it. It was different, interesting, fun and all about peer leadership which is a value I grew up with in BBYO and I loved that idea that you could empower someone to do things themselves rather than just doing it for them.

What are your ambitions for your term as president?
I ran on a platform of accountability and representation and strengthening the functions we already have. One thing that’s already gone live is that we have a feedback form on our website because, as a first year [student], it’s really intimidating to call someone who works at the UJS. It shouldn’t be for them to feel like they have to make that move, we should be accessible to them, and through the feedback form people can have an instantaneous connection to the union. Another priority is improving student services, including our liberation networks [a women’s, LGBT+, and disabled students’ network] which I feel can really grow over the next year. They’re relatively new, started in 2011, and I still think they have a way to go before they can enact change on the ground. Even if it’s just a social tool, these networks are really important as a space to help people come together, although I think they can be much more than that.

What major campaigns or initiatives is the UJS running at the moment?
Jewish Experience Week, which actually started last year, and it was unbelievable. You had thirty different campuses, and around 300 Jewish student leaders reaching around 3,000 non-Jewish students, talking to them about what it means to be Jewish. We had Jewish students telling people, ‘Did you know that there are Ethiopian Jews, Sephardic, Ashkenazi, Irish and Indian Jews?’ That we’re not a uniform body. I’m so excited to see that re-run this year and I think it’s going to be even stronger in its second year. UJS hadn’t done something that big campaigns-wise in around seven years and I’m so proud of Maggie Sussia [UJS campaigns director] for pulling that off.
© Times of Israel


Dutch government pressures ISPs to remove 'jihadic' web content

14/10/2014- Dutch internet companies are coming under pressure from the government to censor comments and place limits on freedom of speech, the Financieele Dagblad said on Tuesday, quoting industry campaigners. Justice ministry officials are asking providers and hosting companies to remove websites from the internet without any legal basis, industry representatives told the FD. ‘They are making us responsible for deciding if something is against the law,’ said Michiel Steltman, director of the Dutch Hosting Provider Association (DHPA). ‘We rent web space and platforms. But because the justice ministry can’t trace the tenant, they dump the problem on us.’

In particular, providers are critical of the government’s plan to tackle radicalisation and jihadism which involves curbing the spread of ideas supporting violence. The paper did not give any examples of sites which have been shut down or videos which officials have requested be removed. But Steltman quoted the recent example of a video of a group of men sitting around a campfire firing guns and shouting 'allahu akhbar'. 'Have they just killed someone, are they angry that someone has been killed or have they killed a goat for a party?' he said. Alex de Joode, company lawyer with the Netherlands' biggest hosting provider is also criticial. 'We are not about checking ages and censorship,' he said. 'The government has the right legal instruments to remove content but chooses not to use it when it comes to claims of jihadism.' Dutch counter terrorism chief Dick Schoof said in a reaction that he understands the providers position but that ‘I believe they should assist efforts to counteract jihadist radicalisation within the legal limits’.
© The Dutch News


Freedom of expression complicates EU law on 'right to be forgotten'

Justice ministers are struggling to balance the right to freedom of expression and the right to be forgotten in the EU’s data protection reform bill.

10/10/2014- The political debate on Friday (10 October) in Luxembourg surfaced following a ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling in May against Google by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In the ruling, the Court concluded it was reasonable to ask Google to amend searches based on a person’s name if the data is irrelevant, out of date, inaccurate, or an invasion of privacy. Google has so far received 143,000 requests, related to 491,000 links, to remove names from search results. The ECJ decision only affects search requests based on a person’s name. The content at source remains untouched. But critics like Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales described the decision as "one of the most wide-sweeping internet censorship rulings that I've ever seen".

Others say it produced clarity on issues of jurisdiction but did not go far enough in explaining how Google – or other data controllers – should handle people’s requests to have their names swiped from search engine results in the first place. "We can't leave it up to those who run search engines to take a final decision on the balance between these different fundamental rights," said Austria's justice minister. Ireland, where Google has its European head quarters, also doesn't like the idea. For the European Commission, the ECJ ruling does not pose a problem with right to be forgotten in the draft bill. It notes the right is already included in the proposed regula-tion along with an exception on the freedom of expression.

EU justice commissioner Martine Reicherts also noted the EU’s main privacy regulatory body, the “Article 29” Working Group, is coming up with operational guidelines for big companies like Google on how best to put the court’s decision into practice. “This will strengthen legal certainty, both for search engines and individuals, and will guarantee coherence,” she said

Not everyone is convinced.
The justice ministers differed on to what extent the ruling will affect the EU data protection regulation currently under discussion at member-state level. The heavily lobbied bill, which was tabled in early 2012, is set for adoption next year but has run into problems among national governments. The EU Italian presidency is hoping to reach an agreement by the end of the year in order to start formal talks with European Parliament. On Friday, the ministers managed to come to a general agreement on parts of the text in terms of international data transfers and exempting businesses with fewer than 250 employees. But member states like the UK still want to downgrade the bill into a directive, a weaker legal instrument compared to a regulation. "We need to be careful about creating rights that are not deliverable in practice as well as wider regulatory burdens," the British minister said.

As for the ECJ ruling, the question remains if additional rules or clarifications based on the court’s judgment should be inserted into the bill. Germany, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, the UK and others oppose referencing the court’s judgment in the bill. “To us this could be a dangerous precedent for the future and could perhaps negatively affect the freedom of speech,” said Poland’s justice minister. Instead, Germany wants more text in the bill to guarantee the freedom of expression by lifting the article from Charter of Fundamental rights and inserting “it into our data protection regulation.” Lithuania backs this idea. France also expressed reservations, noting that the right to be forgotten cannot be an absolute right. “How can we respect our citizens right to be forgotten without standing in the way of the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press at the same time?,” said the French minister. Spain, which brought the case against Google in May, backs the ECJ ruling and says it is "no way incompatible" with the right to the freedom of expression and information.
© The EUobserver


Czech Republic: Neo-Nazis hack websites of human rights NGOs

8/10/2014- The website of the Czech Helsinki Committee (ČHV) has been targeted for attack by "nationalist" hackers from the White Media group. The hackers publicly announced on their own website that they attacked the human rights organization as part of their annual "Week against Anti-Racism and Xenophilia", which began on 28 September. In addition to the ČHV's website its Facebook profile was attacked, as was the personal Facebook profile of director Lucie Rybová and her personal email account. The Brno branch of Amnesty International in the Czech Republic was hacked as well.

"It's alarming how defenseless you are in such a situation," Rybová told news server While negotiations with Facebook regarding the blocking of the profiles and creating new slogans took place fairly quickly, negotiations with the operator of her email account and the operator of the ČHV website are remarkably problematic, according to Rybová. "The operator of the Czech Helsinki Committee's website, the Forpsi server, says it has never encountered such a situation. We reported the hacking to them and asked them to post a text on the site explaining why the pages are not available, but all that shows up there is the message "inoperative", thanks to which we seem unreliable. It looks like we haven't paid for the domain, and it is also harming us in other areas, including our clients - they can't access our contact information so they can't call the counseling center," Rybová said.

In addition to the organization not being able to fully focus on some of its activities because of its non-functioning website, ČHV also cannot now report online about those activities, which is usually a frequent obligation with respect to projects. Addressing the situation with the stolen email account is even more complicated. The hackers have stolen Rybová's password to her personal email account on Seznam and have changed it. "I have to prove the email is actually mine, using the same online form as when you forget your password. I have done it three or four times and nothing happens. When I call the hotline they refer me back to the online form and are unable to connect me with anyone who can handle my situation or even temporarily block the account," she explained to

While Seznam has taken a passive approach to the situation for several days already, the neo-Nazis have continued to enjoy unfettered access to Rybová's personal email account. ČHV is considering filing a criminal report against the hackers. Even that, however, will not be easy, because while the racist and xenophobic content of the White Media website violates Czech law, its domain is registered with a web hosting company in California and is subject to the laws there. Those laws are much more benevolent when it comes to freedom of speech, including the dissemination of hate, than are laws in the Czech Republic.
© Romea.


EU hosts anti-extremist tech meeting

A "private" dinner between tech firms and government officials from across the EU is to take place on Wednesday.

7/10/2014- The purpose of the meeting is to discuss ways to tackle online extremism, including better cooperation between the EU and key sites. Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Facebook will all be attending in Luxembourg. Governments are becoming increasingly concerned over how social media is being used as a recruitment tool by radical Islamist groups. Further details about the meeting could be shared by the EU later on Wednesday ahead of the dinner taking place. It will be attended by ministers from the 28 EU member states, members of the European Commission and representatives from the technology companies. The European Commission said: "There is strong interest from the European union and the ministers of interior to enhance the dialogue with major companies from the internet industry on issues of mutual concerns related to online radicalisation."

In particular, it said the meeting would focus on:
@ "the challenges posed by terrorists' use of the internet and possible responses: tools and techniques to respond to terrorist online activities, with particular regard to the development of specific counter-narrative initiatives"
@ "internet-related security challenges in the context of wider relations with major companies from the internet industry, taking account due process requirements and fundamental rights"
@ "ways of building trust and more transparency"

The BBC understands this is the second time since July that the firms have been called in to discuss possible measures. However a notable absence at the meeting will be, a social network believed to have been extensively used as a recruitment tool for radical Islamist groups. The firm was owned by Latvian brothers Ilja and Mark Terebin, but in August was bought by the American company behind The site's new owners told the BBC: " has not been invited. "If we had known about it, we would have attended for sure."

Running battles
Representing the UK government at the meeting will be security minister James Brokenshire. "We do not tolerate the existence of online terrorist and extremist propaganda, which directly influences people who are vulnerable to radicalisation," he told the BBC. "We already work with the internet industry to remove terrorist material hosted in the UK or overseas and continue to work with civil society groups to help them challenge those who promote extremist ideologies online. We have also made it easier for the public to report terrorist and extremist content via the website." The government's Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU), set up in 2010, has removed more than 49,000 - pieces of content that "encourages or glorifies acts of terrorism" - 30,000 of which were removed since December 2013.

Details on the EU dinner are sparse.
But there is increasing concern over the role social media plays in disseminating extremist propaganda, as well as being used as a direct recruitment tool. However, there is also a significant worry that placing strict controls on social networks could actually hinder counter-terrorism efforts. "The further underground they go, the harder it is to gleam information and intelligence," said Jim Gamble, a security consultant, and former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop). "Often it is the low level intelligence that you collect that you can then aggregate which gives you an analysis of what's happening." Mr Gamble was formerly head of counter-terrorism in Northern Ireland. There were, he said, parallels to be drawn. "There's always a risk of becoming too radical and too fundamentalist in your approach when you're trying to suppress the views of others that you disagree with. "In Northern Ireland, huge mistakes were made when the government tried to starve a political party of the oxygen of publicity. I would say that that radically backfired."

Current estimates put the number of British citizens recruited to fight for radical Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq at more than 500. Mr Gamble said the recruitment process focused on singling out those who looked most susceptible. "They identify the isolated, the lonely, those people who have perhaps low self-esteem, and are looking for something, or someone."'s site hosted several discussions regarding the practicalities of getting to Syria or Iraq. Many of these discussions remained online for a considerable amount of time - some for several weeks.

However, in an interview with the BBC, said it had had few requests from governments to take such material down. "In the past 18 months we've only received about a dozen requests from law enforcement," it said. "Sometimes these issues are really hard to discover when you've not got the full concept of what's going on outside the social network that you run. "We really do want to forge partnerships with law enforcement to be able to take meaningful action on this." In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Met Police said 1,100 pieces of content that breached the Terrorism are removed each week from various online platforms - approximately 800 of these are Syria/Iraq related.

Update 09/10/14: EU commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano - who both hosted the dinner - have issued a statement. It reads: "The participants discussed various possible ways of addressing the challenge. It was agreed to organise joint training and awareness-raising workshops for the representatives of the law enforcement authorities, internet industry and civil society."
© BBC News


Just Because a Hate Crime Occurs on Internet Doesn't Mean It's Not a Hate Crime (opinion)

Let's talk about nude photo leaks and other forms of online harassment as what they are: civil rights violations
By Danielle Citron

7/10/2014- Over the past few weeks, a prominent—and nearly all female— group of celebrities have had their personal accounts hacked, their private nude photos stolen and exposed for the world to see. Friday brought the fourth round of the aggressive, invasive, and criminal release of leaked photos. Whether the target is a famous person or just your average civilian, these anonymous cyber mobs and individual harassers interfere with individuals’ crucial life opportunities, including the ability to express oneself, work, attend school, and establish professional reputations. Such abuse should be understood for what it is: a civil rights violation. Our civil rights laws and tradition protect an individual’s right to pursue life’s crucial endeavors free from unjust discrimination. Those endeavors include the ability to make a living, to obtain an education, to engage in civic activities, and to express oneself—without the fear of bias-motivated threats, harassment, privacy invasions, and intimidation. Consider what media critic Anita Sarkeesian has been grappling with for the past two years. After Sarkeesian announced that she was raising money on Kickstarter to fund a documentary about sexism in video games, a cyber mob descended.

Anonymous emails and tweets threatened rape.
In the past two weeks, Sarkeesian received received tweets and emails with graphic threats to her and her family. The tweets included her home address and her family’s home address. The cyber mob made clear that speaking out against inequality is fraught with personal risk and professional sabotage. Her attackers’ goal is to intimidate and silence her. Revenge porn victims face a variant on this theme. Their nude photos appear on porn sites next to their contact information and alleged interest in rape. Posts falsely claim that they sleep with their students and are available for sex for money. Their employers are e-mailed their nude photos, all for the effort of ensuring that they lose their jobs and cannot get new ones.

Understanding these attacks as civil rights violations is an important first step. My book Hate Crimes in Cyberspace  explores how existing criminal, tort, and civil rights law can help combat some of the abuse and how important reforms are needed to catch the law up with new modes of bigoted harassment. But law is a blunt instrument and can only do so much. Moral suasion, education, and voluntary efforts are essential too. Getting us to see online abuse as the new frontier for civil rights activism will help point society in the right direction.
Danielle Citron is the Lois K. Macht Research Professor & Professor of Law at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. She is an Affiliate Scholar at the Stanford Center on Internet and Society and an Affiliate Fellow at the Yale Information Society Project. Her book, Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, was recently published by Harvard University Press.­­­­
© Time


Northern Ireland: Facebook: A Breeding Ground For Racism (opinion)

In the past twelve months racist attacks in Northern Ireland have increased by 50%.

6/10/2014- In the early hours of Sunday morning yet another home was attacked in South Belfast – an attack that the PSNI described as a hate crime’. A bottle was thrown and smashed the living room window of a house owned by a Bangladeshi family on Ulsterville Avenue and a car owned by a Kuwaiti family was set alight. The attacks have been widely condemned by politicians from across the political spectrum. Where do the attitudes that provoke these hate crimes originate and why are racist attitudes seemingly on the increase? A few hours before the latest attack a Facebook user in South Belfast posted this video. The video has been viewed more than 10,000 times and numerous comments have been posted in support of the man responsible.

The Facebook user subsequently attempted to defend his actions seemingly oblivious to the fact that – regardless of the circumstances – verbally and racially abusing a fellow human being in broad daylight would be regarded by most as unacceptable. The true nature of his motivations are perhaps best summed up by one of his own comments on the original video thread. On Saturday 4th October Shankill Leisure Centre permitted the use of a hall to celebrate Eid al-Adha, one of the most important festivals in the Islamic calendar. The loyalist Facebook page Protestant Unionist Loyalist News TV picked up on the news with predictable results: A torrent of racist commentary followed the original post – all unchallenged by the administrators of the page.

An even more sinister Facebook page has seen significant growth in recent days. The subtly named N.I. Resistance Against Islam so far has 735 followers and users have posted a selection of choice comments. Stung by criticism the page administrators have banned anyone who dares to challenge their racist mindset and have set up a closed group where no doubt the select few who share their warped views can interact in private (the administrators of the page are visible on some browsers). In all cases the posts and pages responsible have been reported to Facebook and complainants have received the stock response that such activity does not contravene “community standards.”
Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition”. However Facebook adds the caveat that “because of the diversity of our community, it’s possible that something could be disagreeable or disturbing to you without meeting the criteria for being removed or blocked”. So in effect Facebook and not civil society is the final arbiter of what is or is not ‘hate speech’.

In a society that is already riddled with sectarianism and where there is clear evidence that Facebook has been used to stir up sectarian tension in the past, is it not incumbent on the organisation to act swiftly and remove posts that would be viewed as ‘hate speech’ in every day society? There are those that would argue that such action would be a form of censorship and an attack on free speech but surely social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter have a social responsibility to prevent the spread of dangerous views that can lead to attacks such as this in August 2014?
© Slugger O'Toole


Germany: Right-wing extremism on the internet (annual report 2013

6/10/2014- continuously analyses how right-wing extremists try to attract young internet users and takes action against endangering or harmful content. Furthermore, focuses on prevention and develops concepts to give young people encouragement to critically deal with right-wing extremism on the internet. This report informs about the work and findings of in the field of right-wing extremism on line in 2013.


USA: Supreme Court To Weigh Facebook Threats, Religious Freedom, Discrimination

6/10/2014- The U.S. Supreme Court opens a new term Monday, but so far the justices are keeping quiet about whether or when they will tackle the gay marriage question. Last week, the justices met behind closed doors to discuss pending cases, but when they released the list of new cases added to the calendar, same-sex marriage was nowhere to be seen. But that really doesn't mean very much. About 2,000 cases have piled up over the summer, each seeking review on all manner of subjects. So when the court met last week to sift through all that, there really wasn't enough time for the justices, as a group, to focus on the same-sex marriage cases. With a big issue like this, and multiple appeals before the court, the justices need to decide which cases are the "best vehicles" (as it's known in the trade) for review. Indeed, all of the vehicle talk prompted one media wag to comment last week that all of the flossy lawyers, each pointing to their own case as the best vehicle, sounded more like car salesmen than Supreme Court advocates.

With seven cases currently before the court, the justices will likely pick just one or two to hear. They might, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested earlier this fall, even wait for more cases. Right now, the only cases pending before the court are lower court decisions favoring the right of same-sex couples to marry. But a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals panel, which heard arguments last August in Ohio, sounded as if it might go the other way. If it does, that would provide the kind of traditional conflict the Supreme Court looks to resolve. Truth be told, with both sides already pressing the court to act, most court observers think the justices will want to take the plunge sooner rather than later. For now, though, all is speculation.

This term will mark the 10th year that John Roberts has served as chief justice. Without a doubt, the court has grown dramatically more conservative since his appointment. But, as Brianne Gorod of the Constitutional Accountability Center observes, the question is: "What role has John Roberts played in this movement?" Is he "strategically and deliberately leading the court to the right?" Kendall asks, "Or is it, as some have suggested, the 'Kennedy Court' or even the 'Alito Court'?" Justice Anthony Kennedy is often referred to as the "swing justice," and has written many of the court's major 5-to-4 opinions. Justice Samuel Alito is far more conservative than the justice he replaced, Sandra Day O'Connor, and has cast many votes and written major opinions that have shifted the court in a more conservative direction. The issues on the docket this term range from race and religion cases, to pregnancy discrimination, and even to threats on Facebook.

But once again the court, responding to challenges brought by conservatives, has chosen to delve into some elections issues that had been thought long settled. In a case from Arizona, the court could prevent the increasing use of citizen commissions to draw congressional district lines. Arizona, California and some other states have, in one way or another, used these commissions to take the redistricting issue out of the hands of self-interested state legislatures. But in Arizona, where the independent commission was enacted by referendum, the Republican-controlled Legislature is now challenging the practice as unconstitutional. In a case that could dramatically alter the way judicial elections are conducted, the court will decide whether states that elect judges can bar judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions. Of the 39 states with judicial elections, 30 have such bans. The test case is from Florida, where the state Supreme Court upheld that state's ban on the grounds that allowing judicial candidates to personally solicit campaign contributions would raise questions about their impartiality on the bench. Those challenging the ban say it violates their free speech rights.

Another free speech case involves the question of what constitutes a threat on Facebook. The facts are pretty hairy. Anthony Elonis was convicted of making threats against his estranged wife and an FBI agent. His posts said things like, "I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts." Soon he moved on to suggest that he might make "a name" for himself with a school shooting. "Hell hath no fury like a crazy man in a kindergarten class. The only question is ... which one?" At that point, a female FBI agent paid him a visit, which provoked a post in which he said that he'd had to control himself not to "slit her throat, leave her bleeding from her jugular in the arms of her partner." At Elonis' trial, the judge instructed the jurors that to convict, they had to conclude that this was not merely exaggeration. His Facebook posts needed to be statements that a reasonable person would interpret as a serious expression of an intention to inflict bodily injury. Elonis contended that he was just mimicking rap songs — indeed, he often linked to songs with his post. He argued that he should not be convicted without actual proof that he intended to threaten, intimidate or harm.

The intent standard that Elonis argued for might make it much more difficult to win a conviction for making illegal threats. But whatever rule the justices come up with, observes University of Virginia law professor Leslie Kendrick, it will likely apply not just to Facebook and Twitter, but to all forms of communication — including people speaking face to face or publishing in the newspaper. In other words, says Kendrick, when crafting a rule, the justices will ask if the standard "is going to chill people who engage in speech that is borderline but ultimately protected." Protected, that is, by the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. Most court experts seem to believe that Elonis may win because of the culture of today's social media. "The context of rap music these days suggests that what Elonis put out there really isn't all that unusual for what's going on on Facebook and what's going on in the popular culture," says professor William Marshall of the University of North Carolina School of Law.

After all, the current Supreme Court may be viewed as conservative, but it has, with little or no dissent, already upheld a fair amount of "fringe speech" — whether it's crush videos, demonstrations at military funerals or the sale of violent video games to kids. Not everyone, however, agrees that the Facebook threat case is in the same category. Former Solicitor General Gregory Garre notes that Elonis' posts "ticked off all the boxes" — domestic violence, school shootings, violence against a federal officer. Garre says he "wouldn't be surprised if [Elonis' Facebook posts] struck the justices as something very problematic." A different part of the First Amendment — the free exercise of religion — is at issue in two cases involving federal statutes. One case tests whether retailer Abercrombie & Fitch illegally discriminated against a Muslim woman when she was denied a job because her headscarf conflicted with the company's dress code. The other case tests Arkansas' refusal to allow a Muslim prisoner to wear a short beard for religious purposes.

The prisoner sued under a federal law aimed at shoring up prisoners' religious rights. Interestingly, in this case, the prisoner has the backing of a wide variety of corrections officials and organizations, plus the federal government. The federal prison system and 43 states allow beards, largely because it is much easier to hide weapons and other contraband in clothes, hair and body cavities. There is a similar coalition of strange bedfellows in a pregnancy discrimination case before the court. Anti-abortion and women's rights groups have joined together to urge the court to require employers to treat pregnancy the same way other temporary disabilities are treated on the job. In this case, a UPS driver asked for light duty, carrying less than 20 pounds, during the latter part of her pregnancy. But the company refused, and she lost both her job and her insurance coverage.

The company contends that it had "no animus" toward the employee because of her pregnancy; her request for light duty just wasn't covered by either the provisions of federal disability law or the union contract. She argues that she should have been covered under the 1978 federal law barring discrimination based on pregnancy. The case is very important for businesses because pregnancy accommodations cost money. But it's very important to women too, observes Emily Martin of the National Women's Law Center. "Lots of women with some sort of work limitation arising out of pregnancy face similar issues — especially women in low-wage jobs that are often more physically demanding," she says. The first case the court hears on Monday is one that amazes former Solicitor General Paul Clement, who wants to know: "How in the world did we go 225 years and not have this issue decided?" The issue is whether police may make a traffic stop based on a mistaken understanding of the law, and then use evidence from a subsequent search to convict the car's occupants of a crime.

Other controversies to look forward to include cases that involve racial gerrymandering and Medicaid funding, and a major housing discrimination case that could make it harder to prove discrimination. The court will even be tackling a case about fish — yes, fish! It's an obstruction of justice case that, depending on your point of view, involves either the deliberate concealment of illegal fishing or a classic example of prosecutorial overreach. More to come on that later.


South Africa: Vicious tweets scare Jewish community

He calls himself Montero. But that’s all that’s known about him – that and his “vicious” anti-Semitic posts on Twitter. And his hate speech has been singled out as one reason that the country’s Jewish community is on high alert during Yom Kippur this weekend.

4/10/2014- Montero, says Mary Kluk, the Jewish Board of Deputies national chairman, “is probably one of the most vicious individuals we have ever come across”. He is untraceable. His Twitter account leaves no clue as to who he is, what he does or who he works for. On Thursday alone, he posted 50 anti-Semitic pictures, and he regularly makes reference to the board, she reveals. These messages include: “F*** the Kikes,” and “Jew parasites should all be killed and wiped off the earth.” Others profess: “Keep calm, kick a kike,” and “I like my Jews like I like my bread… toasted.” “I support Isis and all other Muslim freedom fighters who kill Jews… Every Jew they kill is one less I have to kill.” Synagogues around the country have increased their security – and are now guarded by 24-hour security teams, concrete barriers and the Joburg Metro Police, who have closed roads during worship.

Joburg metro police spokesman Wayne Minnaar says the board approached the traffic police to “assist with security and road closures during the holy month”, though he could not confirm what threats the Jewish community faced. Kluk claims that since the recent war in Gaza, “this anti-Semitic rhetoric has reached levels unseen for many decades. We are concerned about an increased security risk to our community over the high Holy days. “What is particularly alarming is his (Montero’s) ability to tweet anti-Semitic images with untold venom. He talks about personally killing Jews and supporting the work of Isis,” she said. “This is an individual who we feel deems thorough investigation as he violates the constitutional laws of this country.” Groups he subscribes to include New age Nazi, Notorious anti-Semites and Neo-Nazi Monsters. Brigadier Neville Malila, the provincial police spokesman, says they have not received any complaints by, or threats to the Jewish community. “The deputy provincial commissioner as well as the provincial CPF (community policing forum) chairperson are in constant liaison with the Jewish board to discuss security issues.”

Moulana Ebrahim Bham, the secretary-general of the Council for Muslim Theologians, believes it is “alarming” the Jewish community perceived itself to be under an increased security threat from “jihad terrorism”, as stated by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein. “As the Jewish community beefs up safety and security around shuls and tips its members off on precautions, it’s only proper that any credible reports of threats be brought to the attention of the relevant national authorities. “By the choice of his words, the rabbi’s claim places the source of this threat on the doorstep of Muslims,” said Bham. “As a Muslim community, we are not aware of any such condemnable plots of potential attacks on South African soil. “It is therefore important that the rabbi should be careful with his language that is prejudicial and likely to incite violence against members of the Muslim community. “It’s our sincere hope that this development will not again lead to situations where clandestine Zionist-linked security agencies start to harass innocent civilians at public facilities, as has happened before, even when those targeted did not pose any danger to anyone.”

On Thursday, the Jewish Board met President Jacob Zuma and a high-level government delegation where it briefed him on “the sharp rise in anti-Semitic activity in South Africa, including threats and intimidation against the Jewish community and its leadership”. Zuma, said the board, “stressed that his government remained committed to combating such prejudice. He further emphasised the need for there to be harmony between people of different backgrounds and opinions” in the country. Referring to a Twitter post cited earlier by Kluk that “Hitler was right, pity he didn’t finish off all Jews”, Anneli Botha, a terrorism expert at the Institute for Security Studies, believes the Jewish community’s reaction to these social media messages is “a bit extreme”. “The reality is that there are many people with anti-Semitic views in the country, and it’s sad that’s the case, but to heighten security based on messages on social media, that might be taking it a bit far.”
© The South African Independent


It’s time Facebook repents (opinion)

On the Morning of Rosh Hashannah a petition signed by 10,306 people arrived at Facebook Headquarters asking the company to change their policy on Holocaust denial. Facebook’s current position on Holocaust denial is that “the mere statement of denying the Holocaust is not a violation of our policies”. They justify this by treating the Holocaust not as a unique tragedy in human history, but as just another historical event, and they say they won’t prohibit Holocaust denial because they “recognize people’s right to be factually wrong about historic events”.
By Andre Oboler

3/10/2014- A letter from Facebook outlining their position is on the public record as part of a report in online antisemitism published by the Israeli Government last year. In recent times Facebook has moved away from the inflexible application of generic rules and has reversed their position across a whole range of issues. The new approach is much more strongly based on common sense and meeting reasonable public expectations about community standards. The arrival of the new petition is a timely call for Facebook, and its founder Mark Zuckerberg, to reflect and reconsider their position on Holocaust denial, which remains an open wound to not only the Jewish community but all civil society more broadly. The existing policy simply cannot be sustained in light of the way Facebook in 2014 responses to similar concerns.

In May 2013, after two years of regarding content that made light of rape as “humorous”, and therefore “acceptable” on Facebook, the company relented and agreed that misogyny was not acceptable under its community standards. At the time Facebook stated that “it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate”. This is another positive example of Facebook changing its approach to meet users’ expectations. It’s a pity it took two years and a major campaign, including loss of significant advertising, to make this happen.

A few months ago Facebook quietly lifted a ban on pictures of breastfeeding women. The ban was considered a form of gender-based discrimination by some women’s groups. The ban dates back to 2008 and news of a major effort to enforce it was announced by the same spokesperson and at the same time as news of Facebook’s position of permitting Holocaust denial on their social media platform. Michael Arrington wrote a very powerful article about the hypocrisy of these policies, the article was called “Jew Haters Welcome At Facebook, As Long As They Aren’t Lactating”. It seems half the issue has been solved, and the problem we are left with is simply “Jew Haters Welcome at Facebook”. It’s time that was addressed.

In recent days Facebook has reversed course over an effort to close the profiles of members of the LGBT community on the basis they were not using their ‘real names’. As David Campos explained, “for many members of the LGBT community the ability to self-identify is a matter of health and safety. Not allowing drag performers, transgender people and other members of our community to go by their chosen names can result in violence, stalking, violations of privacy and repercussions at work.” In this case Facebook recognised the damage their approach was causing and reversed course. Holocaust denial too is dangerous, it helps rehabilitate Nazi groups and facilitate their recruitment drives.

The problem of users posting Holocaust denial on Facebook was first raised at a meeting of the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism in February 2008, it was one of the primary examples of “antisemitism 2.0”. Facebook’s unwillingness to tackle this problem gained  major media attention from early 2009. Their position is so out of touch with global public expectations that it has led to international meetings in which Facebook has been questioned, a protest letter from Holocaust survivors organised by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a grassroots protest outside Facebook’s offices, efforts to resolve the issue through cooperation by the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism, and many other initiatives from organisations, communities, individuals and companies. Facebook has grown as a company, and it has also matured, but this one issue is holdover of social media history.

The new petition is the result of dedicated work over three years and comes from the administrators of the closed Facebook group “Ban ALL Holocaust Denial Pages and Groups from Facebook” who also operate a Facebook page with just shy of 22,000 supporters. The decision to close the petition and send it to Facebook at this point in time was a choice and I believe it was a good one. Facebook’s response to the LGBT issue shows they are now taking public concern more seriously and are able to check themselves and reverse course when needed. The change of policy in respect to pictures of breastfeeding months shows that even old well established positions can be changed.

As Facebook improves the way it deals with sensitive topics and community expectations, the lack of resolution on the Holocaust denial problem is a weight that grows heavier. Holocaust denial should not be a sacrificial goat, blessed by Facebook, and sent into the wilderness to placate those demanding the sort of free speech which costs others their dignity and safety. This Yom Kippur, it’s time for those at Facebook to reflect, reconsider, and yes, repent. It’s time those Holocaust survivors who wrote to Facebook in 2011 to receive a new answer, while at least some are still alive to receive it. It’s time this issue was put to bed.
Dr Andre Oboler is CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute and co-chair of the Online Antisemitism Working Group of the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism.
© The Online Hate Prevention Institute


The right to be forgotten; Drawing the line

Google grapples with the consequences of a controversial ruling on the boundary between privacy and free speech

3/10/2014- Sometimes a local spark can cause a global fire. In 1998 La Vanguardia, a Spanish daily, ran an announcement publicising the auction of a house to pay taxes owed by Mario Costeja González, a lawyer. The event would have been consigned to oblivion had the newspaper not digitised its archives a few years later. Instead, it came first in Google’s results for searches for Mr Costeja’s name, causing him all manner of professional problems. When the online giant refused to remove links to the material, Mr Costeja turned to Spain’s data-protection authority. The case ended up in the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which ruled in May that Google must remove certain links on request. The ruling has established a digital “right to be forgotten”—and forced Google to tackle one of the thorniest problems of the internet age: setting the boundary between privacy and freedom of speech.

The two rights had coexisted, occasionally uneasily, offline. But online, border skirmishes have become increasingly common. “It’s like two friends who don’t always get along, but are now being confined to one room,” says Luciano Floridi, a professor of philosophy and the ethics of information at Oxford University. Complicating matters is a transatlantic split. America allows almost no exceptions to the first amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech. Europe, not least because of its experiences of fascism and communism, champions privacy. The ECJ’s ruling was vague. Even if information is correct and was published legally, the court said, Google (or indeed any search engine) must grant requests not to show links to it if it is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”—unless there is a “preponderant” public interest, perhaps because it is about a public figure. With no appeal possible, Google went to work. It helped that it already had a procedure for removing links to copyrighted material published without permission. Just a few weeks later it had put a form online for removal requests.

The firm’s dozens of newly hired lawyers and paralegals have their work cut out. Between June and mid-September, it received 135,000 requests referring to 470,000 links. Most came from Britain, France and Germany, Google says. It will publish more detailed statistics soon. Meanwhile numbers from, a free website that makes filing removal requests easier, give a clue to the sort of information people want forgotten. Nearly half of the more than 17,000 cases filed via the service refer to simple personal information such as home address, income, political beliefs or that the subject has been laid off. Nearly 60% were refused. If the material is about professional conduct or created by the person now asking that links to it be deleted, removal is unlikely. Requests relating to information which is relevant, was published recently and is of public interest are also likely to fail.

Many of the decisions look quite straightforward. Google has removed links to “revenge porn”—nude pictures put online by an ex-boyfriend—and to the fact that someone was infected with HIV a decade ago. It said no to a paedophile who wanted links to articles about his conviction removed, and to doctors objecting to patient reviews. In between, though, were harder cases: reports of a violent crime committed by someone later acquitted because of mental disability; an article in a local paper about a teenager who years ago injured a passenger while driving drunk; the name on the membership list of a far-right party of someone who no longer holds such views. The first of these Google turned down; the other two it granted. The process is “still evolving” says Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel. A Dutch court recently decided the first right-to-be-forgotten case, upholding Google’s refusal to remove a link to information about a convicted violent criminal. After more appeals have been heard by data-protection authorities and courts, the firm can adjust its decision-making. The continent’s privacy regulators are working on shared guidelines for appeals.

Another steer will come from an advisory council set up by Google itself. Its eight members include Mr Floridi; Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia; a journalist at Le Monde, a French paper; and a former director of Spain’s data-protection agency. It has already held four public meetings in as many European cities, with three more to come before it reports back to Google early next year. One question asked at the meeting in Paris on September 25th was how users should be made aware of the fact that the results of a search have been affected by the ruling. Currently, a notice at the bottom of the results page says that “some results may have been removed”, which perhaps defeats the purpose by raising a red flag. Another was how publishers should react. In Britain newspapers published articles about the fact that Google no longer linked to previous articles, again bringing to prominence information that the firm had found merited being forgotten.

More broadly, many wonder whether Google should remove links from searches everywhere, not just on its European sites. That would lead to a transatlantic row, but could also trigger a debate in America about why, for instance, American victims of revenge porn should not also be able to ask Google to stop linking to such content. Some have dismissed Google’s advisory council and its tour through Europe as a public-relations exercise. “Google is trying to set the terms of the debate,” said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, the head of France’s data-protection watchdog, last month. Predictably, those involved see it differently. Asked why he joined Google’s council, one of the members said: “Because it’s terribly interesting.” As the virtual world’s boundaries are redrawn, it matters who gets to hold the pen.
Clarification: Google displays "some results may have been removed" at the bottom of the results page for any search in Europe for a name (unless it is that of a public figure), not just those for names of people whose removal requests have been granted.
© The Economist


Germany: SoundCloud faces wave of jihadi postings

Berlin-based SoundCloud, which allows anyone to share audio files online, plays host to huge numbers of jihadi accounts and postings supporting the Islamic State (Isis). But the uploads do not contravene German law and are not being caught by the startup's moderators.

2/10/2014- A search for the word “jihad” in Arabic on the site returned page after page of matches on Monday, although it was impossible to say how many track postings there were as SoundCloud's counter only goes up to 500. Many feature amateur images from Middle Eastern conflicts, including men brandishing black Isis flags and Kalashnikov rifles, or embellished propaganda images of figures such as Osama bin Laden. There are also several accounts whose names are variations on Isis and Islamic State.

When contacted by The Local, a SoundCloud spokeswoman said that the site has "a dedicated Trust and Safety team" which was responsible for "dealing with all reports of suspicious or illegal on-site behaviour, including the removal of content that supports or promotes terrorist activity". Despite the numerous pro-jihad postings, SoundCloud's Terms of Use state it prohibits “any content... that promotes violence, terrorism, or illegal acts". But the most popular pro-jihad accounts have existed for over a year, posting tracks which have accumulated thousands of plays and been shared and liked dozens of times.

Commonly posted content includes Nasheed songs which have been used by Salafists to accompany propaganda videos. Three Nasheed “battle songs” by former Berlin rapper Denis Cuspert, who went by the name Deso Dogg before his conversion to radical Islam, were banned by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPjM) in 2012. Cuspert has since left Germany to fight for Isis in Syria and has become close to the group's leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, according to a dossier published recently by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV). He is just one of almost 400 fighters believed to have left Germany for Syria since 2012.

Banned in Germany
In September 2014, the Interior Ministry took the drastic step of banning Isis in Germany. This means that the group and its symbols are illegal and any activities under-taken on behalf of the group, including publicizing or supporting it, are forbidden. Activities supporting Isis are punishable under the criminal law's section 89a, “Preparation of a serious violent act that endangers the state”. If Cuspert, for example, were to return to Germany and publish pro-Isis propaganda, he could be prosecuted under the law. But the nature of the internet causes a problem for authorities when regulating content posted to platforms like SoundCloud, which hosts its content on Amazon Web Services servers, all of which are physically located outside of Germany.

'The internet isn't German'
“The internet isn't German, and most of the sites which contain this content are not hosted in Germany,” a BfV spokeswoman told The Local. “Of course we try to have these things removed. We flag things up to them [social networks], the police can do that too if a crime has been committed.” But she added court cases were only likely to be brought under the Isis ban against individuals or companies who upload propaganda in Germany. “The point of contact is an act committed within Germany,” an Interior Ministry spokeswoman confirmed. “It's not about whether it's a German company, but where the servers are located."
© The Local - Germany


USA: Brooklyn Coffee Shop Owner Posts Anti-Semitic Rants on Facebook, Instagram

2/10/2014- The owner of a well-reviewed Bushwick coffee shop took to Instagram on Wednesday to tell the world that just about the only thing worse than a bad coffee is a greedy Jew. Why is this new, artisanal coffee shop (simply known as the Coffee Shop) mad at the People of the Bagel? Because they’re gentrifying, silly, and pushing out real Bushwick residents, like proprietors of fancy coffee shops. Hello, pot. Meet kettle.

Of course, that might not be the real reason, as his Instagram screed is barely intelligible, reading, in part:
My stubborn Bushwick-oroginal neighbor is a hoarder and a mess- true.. and he's refused selling his building for lots and lots of money. His building and treatment of it makes the hood look much less attractive and I would like him to either clean up or move along. BUT NOT be bought out by Jews however, who in this case (and many cases separate- SORRY!) function via greed and dominance. A laymen's terms version of a story would simply be- buying buildings, cutting apartments in half, calling them luxurious, and ricing them at double. Bushwick IS rising and progressing, and bettering, but us contributing or just appreciating this rise and over all positive change do not want to be lumped with greedy infiltrators.

Further clues are found on the shop’s Facebook page, where owner Michael Avila posted a video praising ultraorthodox Jews for opposing Zionism. “I love LOVE these Jews [smiley emoticon],” he wrote. “These men have the right idea.” On his personal Facebook page, he acknowledged the controversy, writing, “Sometimes I cause a little trouble just because I know I can handle it. I'm pretty good with the fine line so I go for it.” (There's expanded anti-Jewish ranting, too.) Yeah, that “fine line” post seems like hubris now. Silva explained himself to DNAinfo, saying, "I think they [Jews] took it personally even if it doesn’t to apply to them. Sometimes I feel misunderstood. I’m fine with being misunderstood. I’m quite used to it. I don’t really mind." (This post originally featured a photo of Avila with Giovanni Finotto, a man Avila identified as his mentor. Finotto has vehemently disavowed Avila's comments, saying, "Regardless of excuses he has made, claiming that he was misunderstood, his behavior is completely inexcusable.")

Disagreeing with Zionism is one thing. Expanding your views into a rant about greedy Jews in Brooklyn? Quite another. And that’s unfortunate, since by most accounts, the coffee was good. Now it just smells like decaf. And anti-Semitism.
© New York Magazine


Google Chief Sees Bots as Weapon on Anti-Semitism

Source: JTA
Could Artificial Intelligence Root Out Online Hate?

2/10/2014- Last week, the Anti-Defamation League released a list of “Best Practices” to counter hate speech on the Internet. Sober and serious, it includes suggestions like “Share knowledge and help develop educational materials and programs that encourage critical thinking in both proactive and reactive online activity” and “Respond to user reports in a timely manner.” It even advises to try “comedy and satire when appropriate.” Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, hopes there might one day be a more exciting option for dealing with hate speech: artificial intelligence.

“AI systems may ultimately allow us to better prioritize and better understand how to rank and deal with evil speech,” Schmidt told JTA in a phone interview. Schmidt, who was presented last Friday with the ADL International Leadership Award, said Google’s current philosophy is for its search engine to mirror what is available on the Internet as accurately as possible. Google searches are based on an algorithm that is content neutral, so the prospect of nudging aside hate speech would mark a shift.

“It’s a very tight line to walk because we are against filtering and we are against censorship, so you have to be careful here,” Schmidt said. Even without invisible anti-hate bots, Schmidt said the Internet makes it easier to track and counter hate — and to identify hateful people, if necessary — and thus is a greater tool in defeating hate rather than spreading it. Of course, identifying hate speech via computer will be plenty difficult given how often humans disagree over what is or isn’t hateful. And given the prevalence of existing concerns about privacy and tracking, AI-enhanced search engines will probably add another layer of complexity to such debates rather than resolving them. Who knows? They may even provide some fodder for comedy and satire. When appropriate, of course.
© The Forward


Facebook agrees to drop ‘real name’ policy which banned drag queens

Facebook has agreed to make changes to the way it works, after locking the accounts of a number of drag queens because they weren’t using their “legal names”.

1/10/2014- The social network has been under fire over the policy, after it last month began locking the accounts of users with noticeable drag names. Following protests the company agreed to temporarily reinstate some drag performers’ profiles , but previously insisted the policy itself would remains unchanged. However, at a meeting with the San Francsico drag community organised by Supervisor David Campos today, Facebook representatives said the ‘flawed’ policy had hurt people, and would be changed. Mr Campos said: “The drag queens spoke and Facebook listened! Facebook agreed that the real names policy is flawed and has unintentionally hurt members of our community. “We have their commitment that they will be making substantive changes soon and we have every reason to believe them. “Facebook apologized to the community and has committed to removing any language requiring that you use your legal name. “They’re working on technical solutions to make sure that nobody has their name changed unless they want it to be changed and to help better differentiate between fake profiles and authentic ones.”

Drag artist RuPaul had previously weighed in to the controversy, saying: ” it’s bad policy when Facebook strips the rights of creative individuals who have blossomed into something even more fabulous than the name their mama gave them.” Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox, updated his page with a lengthy apology which read: “I want to apologize to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we’ve put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks. “In the two weeks since the real-name policy issues surfaced, we’ve had the chance to hear from many of you in these communities and understand the policy more clearly as you experience it. We’ve also come to understand how painful this has been. We owe you a better service and a better experience using Facebook, and we’re going to fix the way this policy gets handled so everyone affected here can go back to using Facebook as you were.

“The way this happened took us off guard. An individual on Facebook decided to report several hundred of these accounts as fake. These reports were among the several hundred thousand fake name reports we process every single week, 99 percent of which are bad actors doing bad things: impersonation, bullying, trolling, domestic violence, scams, hate speech, and more — so we didn’t notice the pattern. “Our policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name. The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life.

“We see through this event that there’s lots of room for improvement in the reporting and enforcement mechanisms, tools for understanding who’s real and who’s not, and the customer service for anyone who’s affected. These have not worked flawlessly and we need to fix that. With this input, we’re already underway building better tools for authenticating the Sister Romas of the world while not opening up Facebook to bad actors. And we’re taking measures to provide much more deliberate customer service to those accounts that get flagged so that we can manage these in a less abrupt and more thoughtful way. To everyone affected by this, thank you for working through this with us and helping us to improve the safety and authenticity of the Facebook experience for everyone.”
© Pink News


The burqa debate: lifting the veil on Islamophobia in Australia (comment)

By Raihan Ismail

1/10/2014- Following the national news and social media over the last fortnight, one might be led to believe that women wearing burqas and niqabs are as significant a threat to Australia's security as the alarming number of young men who have been caught by the spell of ISIS. The burqa kerfuffle seemed to escalate when Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi woke up to the news of anti-terror operations in Sydney and saw pictures of a veiled woman outside the raided houses. He responded on Twitter by referring to the burqa as a "shroud of oppression and flag of fundamentalism". Presumably Bernardi saw different news footage from me, as the woman displayed prominently in news photographs that I saw was wearing the niqab. The niqab is a face-covering veil, worn by a very small number of Australian Muslims, which leaves open a slit for the eyes. The burqa, on the other hand, even more rarely worn, has mesh covering the eyes. Whatever Bernardi saw or meant, his comments unleashed yet another firestorm of Islamophobia on its most fertile breeding ground: the internet.

Last week, after Bernardi's comments, I was interviewed by the ABC for an explanatory article on the burqa, the niqab, and my choice of garment, the hijab, which covers only a woman's hair, neck and shoulders. Bizarrely, when posted by the ABC on Facebook, the article received more comments than the ABC's reports on the anti-terror raids themselves. The comments section is sobering reading for anyone with any doubts about the perniciousness of Islamophobia in Australia. To give one example from among the comments, a self-described "maintenance planner" for Fortescue Metals Group in Perth stated: "It's Australia you came here for whatever reasons embrace our culture" [sic], and asked why minorities should be allowed to "influence our awesome country".

Twitter is another haven for Islamophobia. The ABC tweeted the article, accompanying it with the question "Why do some women wear the burqa, niqab or hijab?" A real estate agent from Frankston, Victoria, responded "Cause they are butt ugly". This real estate agent is one of over 800 on Twitter who openly follow a self-described mother, psychology student and cat lover from Perth, who tweets almost daily with missives such as "It's time practicing Islam in Australia is outlawed and all that [sic] practice it are charged and prosecuted", and diatribes against Islam as a "cult" of violence and paedophilia.

This could all be ignored, and it would almost be amusing, if it were not for the fact that Islamophobia is increasingly affecting real people in their daily lives. Last week, a mosque in Brisbane was spray-painted with the words "Get the f--k out of our country!" A teacher and a student at a Sydney school were reportedly threatened with a knife by an uninvited guest who asked whether it was a "Muslim school". Even in Canberra, an enlightened and educated town, I have been harassed on the streets and in shopping malls, from Woden, to Belconnen to Civic. Sometimes it is no more than a snarling look from a passer-by; sometimes it is the muttering of an epithet such as "terrorist"; on two occasions it has amounted to physical intimidation.

This is the real and ultimate manifestation of Islamophobia. It is practiced a small group of Australians, no more representative of Australia than ISIS sympathisers are of Muslims, but their actions are making Muslims – and women in particular – fear for their safety. The Islamophobic movement is not as small as we would wish. Nor is it hidden in the dark corners of the internet. Many online practitioners of Islamophobia can very easily be identified with full names, and their addresses and employers traced with a few short Google searches. Of course, the rampant Islamophobia should not obscure the presence of plausible and considered critiques of the burqa and the niqab. They are worn by a small minority of Muslim women. Most Muslims consider the garments to be the result of an unnecessarily strict interpretation of the religion's modesty requirements, grounded more in culture than in the text of the Quran or the teachings of its principal prophet, Muhammad.

Those concerned with women's rights suggest, with some force, that some women might wear the burqa or the niqab due to oppression from male relatives, especially husbands. But this is not sufficient reason to ban the wearing of the garments. Where they are worn because of oppression, any ban would simply result in the women concerned remaining house‑bound, while women who wear the garments as a genuine personal choice would find their religious freedoms curbed by the state. Laws banning the burqa or niqab in limited places, or requiring their removal for identification and security reasons, may have more merit. But it needs to be demonstrated that people wearing the garments pose a genuine security risk, and that the laws would be effective in addressing that risk. Without that justification, off-the-cuff calls by politicians to ban the garments, whether generally or in limited circumstances, do no more than inflame the internet hordes. The effect of this practice on Australian Muslims is real.
Dr Ismail is an Associate Lecturer in Middle East politics and Islamic studies at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (The Middle East and Central Asia) at the Australian National University.
© The Sydney Morning Herald


Headlines September 2014

Austria: Fine and jail time for Nazi comments

A 27-year-old man has been handed a €7,200 fine and a one year prison sentence for inciting hatred and re-engagement in National Socialist activities.

26/9/2014- Korneuburg Regional Court convicted the man after he confessed to posting countless Nazi and xenophobic comments and content online. The prosecutor noted that he had trivialised the Holocaust and had an ‘88’ tattoo on his back, which stands for HH, or Heil Hitler. The prosecutor said he would not bother reading out any of the man’s postings as “any normal person would find them disgraceful”. When questioned the 27-year-old admitted that he had extreme right-wing views and said that he had developed an aversion to immigrants, Jews, Muslims and Africans since being at school. He also admitted possessing illegal weapons purchased in the Czech Republic. The 27-year-old already had a criminal record after being involved in violent brawls. His defence argued that he had been unemployed for some time and in his frustration had become influenced by right-wing propa-ganda. He said that he has since had most of his tattoos removed, or altered into Hawaiian symbols, and was a “changed man”.
© The Local - Austria


Goodbye Facebook, Hello Ello: Gay Users Are Leaving the Site En Masse

25/9/2014- Facebook has been the center of controversy many times, but this may be the first time that their changing of the rules may hit them where it hurts. LGBT+ users who are shocked, saddened and offended by Facebook's new "real name" policy are flocking to a new network: Ello. If you haven't heard of Ello before this week, you're not alone. Just this morning my Facebook timeline blew up with friends offering invite codes for what I assumed was a new Gilt-like shopping site, and what turned out to be a new and friendlier social network, which would allow anyone who wanted to be a part of it be who they wanted to be, complete with the name they've chosen for themselves.

Ello's uptick in popularity comes from Facebook's new decree that everyone on the site must now use their real name. For some, like me, this isn't a problem. I use my real name for everything (because I am fairly histrionic). For others, those who are better known by their drag names, those who are concerned about being stalked and those who don't want to be found under their real name, this is a huge problem. Facebook claims that the new policy (which requires all users to register under the name which appears on their ID and not under GIRL YOULOOKINGFINE) is meant to keep the community safe, but The Daily Dot points out that it may also be a way for making performers migrate from personal profiles to fan pages in an effort to make more coin for the site's already overflowing coffers. And, according to Sister Roma, a sister of Perpetual Indulgence who's been very vocal about the new rules, using your legal name might even be dangerous or traumatizing for some.

This issue is discriminatory against transgender and other nonconforming individuals who have often escaped a painful past. They've reinvented themselves or been born again and made whole, adopting names and identities that do not necessarily match that on their driver's license. Enter Ello, the Facebook alternative that's less icky than Google+, ad-free and willing to let you be the person you've always wanted. Well, with carefully chosen photographs and status updates, of course. According to The Daily Dot, more and more users have been flocking to the site and, after an influx of radical faeries, Ello's creator says that the site is having a huge surge in registrations from those in the LGBT+ community. Ello is refreshingly simple. According to creator Paul Budnitz. The Daily Dot reports that the social network's abuse team can quickly respond to users and that the network takes any form of harassment very seriously. "You don't have to use your 'real name' to be on Ello. We encourage people to be whoever they want to be," Budnitz said. "All we ask is that everyone abide by our rules (which are posted on the site) that include standards of behavior that apply to everyone. We have a zero tolerance policy for hate, stalking, trolls, and other negative behavior and we'll permanently ban and nuke accounts of anyone who does any of this, ever."

Awesome! No wonder people are migrating. But how capable is Ello of handling even a small percentage of users? It's definitely not big yet, but as word spreads, how long before it's also inundated with more users than the abuse team can handle. And how long before Ello's creators decide that ad revenue isn't just desirable, but possibly necessary? As for Sister Roma, she'll continue fighting Facebook's new policies. A protest is scheduled for October 2nd.
© Jezebel


ADL Releases “Best Practices” for Challenging Cyberhate

Major Internet Companies Express Support for Initiative 

23/9/2014- The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today announced the release of “Best Practices for Responding to Cyberhate,” a new initiative that establishes guide-posts for the industry and the Internet community to help prevent the spread of online hate speech. The Best Practices initiative is the outcome of months of discussions and deliberations by an industry Working Group on Cyberhate convened by ADL in an effort to develop a coordinated approach to the growing problem of online hate speech, including anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, racism, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia and other forms of online hate. Members of the Working Group included leading Internet providers, civil society leaders, representatives of the legal community, and academia.

As participants in the Working Group, representatives of Facebook, Google/YouTube, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo have expressed support for ADL’s efforts. They were among those who offered advice to ADL in the formulation of the Best Practices, and the final document embodies some of their own current practices. In conjunction with today’s announcement, these companies are taking new steps to remind their own communities of their policies regarding online hate and how users can respond when they encounter it.

“We challenged ourselves collectively to come up with effective ways to confront online hatred, to educate about its dangers and to encourage individuals and communities to speak out,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and co-author, with Christopher Wolf, of Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet. “The Best Practices are not a call for censorship, but rather a recognition that effective strategies are needed to ensure that providers and the wider Internet community work together to address the harmful consequences of online hatred. This is an opportunity for the Internet community to present a united front in the fight against cyberhate.”

“It is our hope the Best Practices will provide useful and important guideposts for all those willing to join in the effort to address the challenge of cyberhate,” said Christopher Wolf and Art Reidel, ADL leaders and co-chairs of the Working Group. “We urge members of the Internet community to express their support for this effort and to publicize their own independent efforts to counter cyberhate. We believe that, if adopted widely, these Best Practices could contribute significantly to countering cyberhate.”

The Best Practices call on providers to:
Take reports about cyberhate seriously, mindful of the fundamental principles of free expression, human dignity, personal safety and respect for the rule of law.
Providers that feature user-generated content should offer users a clear explanation of their approach to evaluating and resolving reports of hateful content, highlighting their relevant terms of service.
Offer user-friendly mechanisms and procedures for reporting hateful content.
Respond to user reports in a timely manner.
Enforce whatever sanctions their terms of service contemplate in a consistent and fair manner.

The Best Practices call on the Internet Community to:
Work together to address the harmful consequences of online hatred.
Identify, implement and/or encourage effective strategies of counter-speech — including direct response; comedy and satire when appropriate; or simply setting the record straight.
Share knowledge and help develop educational materials and programs that encourage critical thinking in both proactive and reactive online activity.
Encourage other interested parties to help raise awareness of the problem of cyberhate and the urgent need to address it.
Welcome new thinking and new initiatives to promote a civil online environment.

ADL has long played a leading role in raising awareness about hate on the Internet and working with major industry providers to address the challenge it poses. In May 2012, the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA), an organization comprised of parliamentarians from around the world working to combat resurgent anti-Semitism, asked ADL to convene the Working Group on Cyberhate, including representatives of the Internet industry, civil society, the legal community and academia, with a mandate to develop recommendations for the most effective response to manifestations of hate and bigotry online.

In the coming weeks, ADL and industry leaders will be urging others in the Internet community to join in this effort. A number expressed support for the initiative on its launch today. “Facebook supports ADL’s efforts to address and counter cyberhate, and the best practices outlined today provide valuable ways for all members of the Internet community to engage on this issue,” said Monika Bickert, head of global policy management at Facebook. “We are committed to creating a safe and respectful platform for everyone who uses Facebook.” “Every day, millions of people post content on YouTube, Blogger, and Google+. In order to maintain a safe and vibrant community across our platforms, we offer tools to report hateful content, and act quickly to remove content that violates our policies,” Google said in a statement. “We support the ADL’s continued efforts to combat hatred online.”

“Microsoft is committed to providing a safe and enjoyable online experience for our customers, and to enforcing policies against abuse and harassment on our online services, while continuing to keep freedom of speech and free access to information as top priorities,” said Dan Bross, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship at Microsoft. “The Best Practices document is a tool that can foster discussion within the community and advance efforts to combat harassment and threats online.” “Twitter supports the ADL’s work to increase tolerance and raise awareness around the difficult issue of online hate, the company said in a statement. “We encourage the internet community to seek diverse perspectives and keep these best practices in mind when dealing with difficult situations online.” "Yahoo is committed to confronting online hate, educating our users about the dangers and realities, and encouraging our users to flag any hostile language they may see on our platform," Yahoo said in a statement. "As a member of ADL's Working Group on Cyberhate, we support ADL's efforts to promote responsible and respectful behavior online."

More information on the Best Practices is available on the League’s web site at
© The Anti-Defamation League


Social Media Trace Australia Islamophobia

Members of Australia's Muslim community have set up a Facebook page to track religious hatred and discrimination.

22/9/2014- Amid increasing anti-Muslim sentiments coupled with anti-terror police raids, a Facebook page has been launched to track Islamophobia in Australia, encouraging the Muslim minority to report attacks on them. "We have been hearing about a recent surge in incidents of Islamophobia but unfortunately there has been no formal register to record the incidents," the page, Islamophobia Register Australia, said in a post seen by Launched last week, the page was followed by one of the biggest anti-terror raids in Australian history in which 15 people were arrested from north-western Sydney. The page, that has attracted more than two thousand followers, urged Australian Muslims to report incidents through sending a private "message" to the page or by emailing it at Details like full name, street address, city, state, post code, email address, contact phone number are required to submit the report, along with the details of the incident.

Victims of the anti-Muslim sentiments also have to select the category of the attack from a list of Islamophobia incidents categories provided by the page. A few days after launching the page, several Islamophobic attacks were reported by Facebook users. The anti-Muslim attacks include "a mosque being defaced in Queensland, a senior scholar and member of the Australian National Imams Council detained for over 2.5 hours at Sydney airport, direct threats issued against the Grand Mufti of Australia," the page said. "Lakemba Mosque and Auburn Mosque from anonymous members of the Australian Defence League, women in hijab verbally abused in the streets of Sydney, at shopping centers and whilst driving. "Countless examples of social media vitriol targeting Muslims." The page itself became a target for hate messages and Islamophobic posts since its creation on September 16.

No Freedoms
Bracing to enact the new controversial anti-terror measures, the Australian premier Tony Abbott said that "Australians must accept a reduction in freedom and an increase in security for some time to come”. Addressing the parliament on Monday, September 22, Abbott urged Australians to back a shift in “the delicate balance between freedom and security”. “I can’t promise that hideous events will never take place on Australian soil, but I can promise that we will never stoop to the level of those who hate us and fight evil with evil,” Abbott was quoted by The Guardian. Away from freedom restrictions trends, other voices have called for fostering "integration" in the Australian community. "I believe in bringing people of different races, different religions, to this country but once you're here you've got to become part of the mainstream community," former Prime Minister John Howard told the Seven Network.

Premier Colin Barnett has taken a different direction, choosing to assure Muslims in Western Australia that they were welcome in the state. "Australia and is a very welcoming country and a very peaceful country," Barnett was quoted by Sky News. "And the vast, vast majority of Muslims living in Australia are peace-loving, hard-working." Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population. In post 9/11-era, Australian Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned. A 2007 poll taken by the Issues Deliberation Australia (IDA) think-tank found that Australians basically see Islam as a threat to the Australian way of life. A recent governmental report revealed that Muslims are facing deep-seated Islamophobia and race-based treatment like never before.
© On Islam


Germany: Jewish community calls for more progress against anti-Semitism

16/9/2014- The Central Council of Jews in Germany has called on police to more thoroughly combat manifestations of anti-Semitism online. Speaking in an interview for the Bavarian newspaper Passauer Neue Presse, Dieter Graumann, the head of the Jewish organization, said many authors of anti-Semitic content use their real names online. The Council is convening a demonstration in Berlin this Sunday. "It would not be difficult at all to indict [the online anti-Semites]. Detectives must intervene consistently," Graumann said. "Sometimes the extent and the lasciviousness of the incitement against us on the blogs makes me sick. Neither I nor other Jewish people in Germany have ever experienced being targeted with so much hatred and resentment here," Graumann claims.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany is convening a demonstration in Berlin this Sunday to draw attention to manifestations of hatred toward Jewish people. Speakers at the Brandenburg Gate will include German President Joachim Gauck, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, chair of the German Conference of Bishops Cardinal Reinhard Marx, and Nikolaus Schneider, president of the council of the Evangelical Church in Germany. Thousands of people are expected for Sunday's demonstration, which will also be attended by other celebrities and politicians, including Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, the chair of the Social Democrats. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière told news server Bild-online he will attend the demonstration because he wants "Jewish people to be glad they live in Germany."

One of Sunday's expected speakers, World Jewish Congress chair Ronald Lauder, warned Europeans yesterday that they subject their countries to the risk of tarnished reputations when they vote for ultra-right politicians. He also expressed concern that Islamists would attempt to use every means possible, particularly the internet, to incite hatred, and noted the threat posed by radicalized Muslims returning from Iraq and Syria. The Associated Press reported that the May elections to the European Parliament brought success to ultra-right parties, particularly in France. "One extremist representing a country puts the whole land in a negative light," Lauder told the AP.

According to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, during Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip this summer, demonstrations were held in Germany and other European countries during which verbal attacks on Israel and against Jewish people were repeatedly heard. Lauder said he believes anti-Jewish demonstrations have been attended by just a small percentage of European Muslims; what he finds very disturbing are "political agitators on the side of Muslim extremists who are doing their best to exploit every means possible, especially through the internet, to incite people." "We want to show people that we will not let ourselves be terrorized, we will not let them take our courage from us. The message is: Jewishness has a future in Germany," Graumann said of the upcoming demonstration in Berlin.
© Romea.


USA: Facebook agrees to discuss "real name" policy with performers

Supervisors at Facebook have come to a brief cease-fire with drag performers, agreeing to meet with a handful to discuss their policy requiring users to use legal names on profiles.

15/9/2014- Facebook reached out to San Francisco-based Sister Roma shortly after she announced a planned protest on her Facebook page. Roma said Facebook representatives spoke with her, agreeing to meet with her and members of the drag community. She wrote: “Just got off the phone with Supervisor David Campos and representatives from Facebook. They have agreed to meet with us and members of the community for an open dialogue regarding their legal name policy.” For now, Roma says the protest has been cancelled. Last week Facebook deleted and made inactive hundreds of profiles for users who used names that did not match the name on their driver’s license or birth certificate

Sister Roma, of the drag house Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence brought the controversy to social media when she posted to her Facebook account. She wrote: “In light of the new demand by Facebook that we use our ‘real’ names I am considering shutting down my personal page to concentrate on my ‘FAN PAGE.’ I update it an [sic] interact as much as I can but I detest the idea of having a fan page. I have friends not fans.” An online petition, started by Seattle-based Olivia De Grace, urged Facebook to relent on the policy, as it was hurtful to performers. She wrote: “We build our networks, community, and audience under the names we have chosen, and forcing us to switch our names after years of operating under them has caused nothing but confusion and pain.” At this time, Facebook has not released a statement as to whether they intend to change the policy.
© Pink News


USA: Protesters confront racist social media comments

14/9/2014- In response to recent comments posted on the social messaging app Yik Yak, students and faculty gathered again Tuesday outside of Waterfield Library in one of several scheduled events targeted at creating a campus-wide discussion on racism. Following Sept. 4’s peaceful protest against the shooting of Michael Brown, anonymous posters from around Murray took to Yik Yak posting racist comments regarding the gathering, some suggesting possible violent retaliation. In addition to signs regarding the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., newly-made signs with “stop racism” and “end racism” written on them were held by protesters Tuesday.

Arlene Johnson, senior from Sikeston, Mo., said she was shocked by some of the comments written after the first protest. Johnson made headlines as a freshman in 2010 when she spoke out against one of her professors, Mark Wattier. According to Johnson, Wattier said that her tardiness to a class compared to the actions of slaves. “And (Wattier) said the slaves never showed up on time, so their owners often lashed them for it,” Johnson told the Murray Ledger & Times in 2010. “It just hurts so bad to see that this still exists,” she said.

Kesia Casey, junior from Hartford, Ky., like Johnson, attended both protests. She said no one should ever feel comfortable posting comments such as those on Yik Yak, even if they’re anonymous. “A lot of people think the solution to this problem is to keep quiet and it will go away,” Cacey said. “The solution, I believe, is to talk about it and become comfortable talking about it because it’s not going away.” A number of events are being planned to do just that – create rhetoric between students, faculty, staff and the administration about racism on campus. These events include a forum about racism and the state of black students on campus presented by The Black Student Council, activities during International Education Week and a “teach-in” organized by select faculty.

David Pizzo, associate professor of Humanities and Fine Arts, attended the rally this week and said that while the protest isn’t going to make an immediate impact, it is key to generating momentum and to keep the discussion on racism going. “We don’t think we’re going to end racism by holding signs,” Pizzo said. “But people are noticing and stopping. One thing I can promise you is if people don’t do this, it’s just going to disappear.” Since the initial posts on Yik Yak, Murray State administration has responded by forwarding screenshots of the offending posts to the University attorney, director of Equal Opportunity and the University chief of police.

SG Carthell, director of Multicultural Affairs, said his office is focused on finding out where “gaps” with tolerance and acceptance are at Murray State. He said the comments on Yik Yak aren’t necessarily caused by a gap in institution policies or how the University is run, but caused by the environments that people come from and are exposed to. “Some of it comes from misinformation, some of it comes from just direct negative influences and biases,” Carthell said. He said administration, including himself, has an obligation to be seen at these types of protests and events on campus. “We have a responsibility to be here to show that, number one, (students) know that they’re safe, but two, that they know we’re hearing them and we listen to them,” Carthell said.
© Murray State Uni News


Facebook is under fire from gay and transgender users who are being forced to use real names

There have been multiple reports that Facebook is forcing gay and transgender users to use their legal names instead of their online personas or chosen names, as part of a crackdown on pseudonyms, despite the danger this poses to some users

12/9/2014- Not that long ago, it looked as though Facebook might be softening its previous stance on real names, with comments from CEO Mark Zuckerberg that suggested he saw the value of anonymity in some cases — and at the same time, the social network has expanded the number of gender-related selections users have to choose from. Despite those moves, however, some gay and transgender users say the site is forcing them to use their birth names or have their pages blocked. According to the website Queerty, the network  has been ordering gay users who registered using their drag personas to either set up a fan page or change to their legal name, and has been asking them to send copies of birth certificates and driver’s licenses to verify their identity. Queerty said it was alerted to the crackdown by Sister Roma, the drag persona of a gay man named Michael Williams, who has been forced to change his account to his given name.

What’s odd about the move is that Facebook put together a significant PR campaign earlier this year to promote the fact that it had changed the gender-related menu choices for users, offering more than 50 options for the gay and transgendered — something it said was done after much consultation with gay and transgender advocates. In one article, a trans Facebook engineer named Brielle Harrison even talked about how important this option was for people like herself. Taylor Hatmaker at The Daily Dot says reports have been emerging from a number of gay communities that other users who registered under drag personas like Sister Roma are also being forced to change their names or risk losing their pages. Although setting up a fan page is an option, Hatmaker — who is gay — points out that this isn’t appropriate for many users, and that forcing them to do so or risk being shut out of Facebook altogether is unfair:
Presumably, Facebook wants to shoehorn these personal identities into Pages, like the ones brands and celebrities use. But for queer users more interested in keeping up with friends and building community than collecting followers, it’s an extremely poor fit. Facebook is making an implicit judgment call here, operating off of the hunch that an account in question is not the “true” identity of the user, which is an inappropriate position to begin with.

As Hatmaker and others like ZDNet columnist Violet Blue have noted, pseudonymity is not just a convenience for many gay and transgender users, but is something they are in many cases compelled to use because of threats of violence, or because revealing their identity could put their jobs at risk. Forcing them to use legal names essentially means forcing them not to use Facebook. As Jillian York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation pointed out during a discussion of the topic on Twitter, the action against Sister Roma and others may not be a sign that Facebook is actively targeting gay men or drag queens, but could be a result of complaints from those who do want to target those individuals, which Facebook then has to pursue. In any case, she says, the policy is unwise. Facebook and Google+ were both involved in a “real names” crackdown several years ago, saying their networks were designed for real identities and that pseudonyms made bad behavior more likely to occur. Google has since given up on its real-name policy for Google+, but it seems Facebook is still pursuing that goal — even though it may drive some users away.
© Gigaom


Canada: 'People of Winnipeg' Facebook page outlet for racism, says activist

Page littered with racial slurs, makes fun of people who are disabled or different

8/9/2014- A Facebook page that makes fun of Winnipeggers with photos has outraged several people, including a local activist that works with the homeless, but the page's administrator is adamant about keeping it running. The "People of Winnipeg" page has more than 17,000 members and contains posts that range from mocking people with disabilities to making racial slurs about multiple ethnic groups. Many of the images posted on the page show people passed out on the street and worse. "People [are] making fun of the homeless and the drunk people and just disgusting pictures that are developing," Althea Guiboche, who hands out food to the city's homeless every week, told CBC News on Monday. "I can't stand for that. I can't even believe Winnipeg people are taking part in that."

The page's administrator, Ricky Paskie, said he and the other people behind "People of Winnipeg" do their best to take down anything that could be deemed offensive, but with more than 200 posts a day that can be difficult. "If we do find that it's racist or indecent for people, it will be deleted," Paskie said. "That's not our goal … to make fun of anyone [who is] mentally ill, homeless." But Paskie noted that there are also plenty of posts that are positive about the city. "Our intent [is] just to show the funny things and the things you see in Winnipeg … whether it's someone dancing at the bus stop or a guy wearing a gorilla suit," he said.

'It's not right'
Britt James said she was mocked by people on the "People of Winnipeg" page after someone uploaded a photograph of her and another woman inside a medical clinic. "All I could think of was, 'How could you take a photo of somebody in a medical clinic?' You know, how is this even funny?" she said. "To have people you don't know publicly make fun of you, it's not right." James said the page's administrators initially would not remove the photo, and Facebook told her the image did not breach any of its terms. She said she took matters into her own hands by contacting the original poster's workplace and threatening legal action. The photo has since been removed, but James said the damage has already been done. "The majority of things, if you actually look on there, are hurtful, they're spiteful, they're rude. It's harassing, it's bullying," she said. Representatives from Facebook did not return calls seeking comment.

Facebook user responds
Jesse James, who has been a part of the Facebook group for more than a year, wrote a response to critics of the page saying, "This group is about posting pictures of people who are out in public doing crazy things that may seem very unrealistic but are very real. "The group is about finding the funny moments that are right in front of us every day because we live in a crazy city. This group is not here for people to be racist." But Britt James said she wants the Facebook page removed or completely overhauled. She plans to meet with a lawyer. Guiboche, also known as the Bannock Lady, said she has been personally attacked on the Facebook page for speaking out against it, but she believes the page does not have to be shut down as long as it stops being a forum for racism and hurting the homeless. "It just goes to further dehumanize them," she said. "We don't need them publicly parading our homeless around for public comments. Why don't they just step up and help them instead?"
© CBC News


Fighting racism " one keystroke at a time (opinion)

By Denise Oliver Velez

7/9/2014- How many times have you clicked on a news article or a blog piece, or watched a YouTube, only to find that the comments section attached to it is a slime pit of some of the most vile racist comments imaginable? Too often, your response may be like mine has been at times—you shrug and decide, "I don't read comments." You click away, and move on to the next story, web page or video. You don't have to deal with the racism, because it's no longer on your screen. Back in December 2012, I wrote a post, Ending racism—one person at a time. Contrary to recent opinions I've read, as a black person in the United States, I don't think racism has gotten worse, nor do I believe we are "post-racial."

What I do believe is that the relative anonymity of the internet has allowed many people to express their racism openly, rather than behaving one way in public spaces where someone from the group they hate may be present. Now they can give full rein to thoughts that might garner them public censure or worse if this crap was said face-to-face. The fact that elected officials, and the Teapublican Party touts its racism openly, with little or no pushback from its membership and only hypocritical "nopologies" when busted, has given license to "racists run wild" in cyberspace. Follow me below the fold for more.

Very few of the major traditional online news media sites have good comment moderation . The New Times is probably better at moderation than most, and the most egregious spew never makes it through the waiting period there for posting. Sometimes things do slip through though, but it is fairly easy to flag garbage, and the response, in my experience, is swift.

Recently while reading a Times piece on Michael Brown's murder and the ensuing events in Ferguson, I saw a comment, recommended by readers, that fit into the "but … but … but … Mike Brown was a thug" genre of post. It was a repost of a vile email and post making its way through racist networks that purported to show an arrest record for a Michael Brown. The problem is that the Michael Brown with the record was not the same Michael Brown whose life was cut short by Officer Darren Wilson. This is not to say that it makes one whit of difference if the deceased Michael Brown had or didn't have an arrest history—nothing in a person's background should excuse being executed. I'd already seen a debunking here on Daily Kos, and did some checking on my own. Weeks later, Michael Brown's lack of a record is now in the news and yet the smear campaign continues. When I read that story, and saw a recommended reader comment citing the false email, I flagged it, and when I checked back about an hour later it had disappeared. One small victory in a sea of cyber-hate.

The phenomena of cyber-racism is an area that is currently being explored in academia. The book, Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights by Jessie Daniels, is a good place to start learning more:
In this exploration of the way racism is translated froCyber m the print-only era to the cyber era the author takes the reader through a devastatingly informative tour of white supremacy online. The book examines how white supremacist organizations have translated their printed publications onto the Internet. Included are examples of open as well as 'cloaked' sites which disguise white supremacy sources as legitimate civil rights websites. Interviews with a small sample of teenagers as they surf the web show how they encounter cloaked sites and attempt to make sense of them, mostly unsuccessfully. The result is a first-rate analysis of cyber racism within the global information age. The author debunks the common assumptions that the Internet is either an inherently democratizing technology or an effective 'recruiting' tool for white supremacists. The book concludes with a nuanced, challenging analysis that urges readers to rethink conventional ways of knowing about racial equality, civil rights, and the Internet.

In her book, Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights, Jessie Daniels discusses the common misconceptions about white supremacy online; it’s lurking threats to today’s youth; and possible solutions on navigating through the Internet, a large space where so much information is easily accessible (including hate-speech and other offensive content). Daniels claims that although no one can say for sure how many white supremacy sites there are on the internet, the number is definitely rising (especially after Barack Obama’s election in 2008), and a majority of them are fueled by people in the USA.

A review from the blog and website for the African and African American Studies course, "Exploring Race and Community in the Digital World," taught by Carla D. Martin, states:
Daniels lays out three threats that white supremacists pose online to the the world:
Threat 1: Internet provides easy access—she coins the term “globalization”—and hence, perpetuates ”translocal whiteness”: a white identity that is not bound by geography.
Threat 2: Some white supremacist sites, that subject minorities to the “white racial frame,” motivate danger and violence in real life.
Threat 3: Through the nature of its medium, the Internet tends to equalize all sites, rendering what used to be intensely personal and political views in the 1960’s into a modern-day matter of personal preference.

Some of you may know Professor Daniels' work from the blog, RacismReview, which she co-founded with sociologist Joe Feagin.

Hate speech on the internet has become an issue of global concern, addressed by the United Nations, and groups like the International Network Against Cyber Hate, which is sponsoring a conference in Belgium in October. While I've focused on online racism in this post, the same problem exists for sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ethnocentrism, antisemitism, anti-Islam, anti-immigration, and all the other "isms" and haters. No one person alone can counteract the tidal wave of hate that swamps many websites. But each individual can help stem the flood. I frequently read grumbles here at Daily Kos about the moderation system. Frankly, at a site that gets an enormous amount of hits daily and thousands of comments, the incidents of racism that get a free pass here are minimal in comparison to other major sites. Trolls who make an account simply to spew are swiftly ban-hammered. The racist remarks from people who have a longer tenure here (yes they occur—no community, no matter how progressive, is immune to racism) are also fought against and hidden, and repeat offenders usually find themselves no longer welcome here. Does that mean we can't do better? No.

I believe that there are "more of us" than of them (the haters) but I also think that many of us have found it too easy not to push back, having determined that it is a thankless and/or futile task. Black Panther Party Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver once said, "You're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem." I agree with Eldridge. Since I'm on the net every day, searching for news sources for articles and for material to use in my classes, I've set myself a daily quota of pushback. I do about 10 per day (not counting efforts here at Daily Kos). It doesn't take up a lot of my surfing/reading time. I don't really participate much in Facebook or Twitter, other than to push a "post" button from here, but there are news outlets with comments sections I do use frequently. I also use video a lot, both here and for school. As disgusting as comments are on YouTube, they are pretty easy to flag, and to vote down.

"A few keystrokes a day can drive racism away" is my new motto.

Try it.
© The Daily Kos


Study: Hate Posts on Social Media Cause Real Harm

by Kilian Melloy

4/9/2014- If you're familiar with a feeling of helpless rage and frustration at vile anti-gay postings at Facebook, reader comments sections of online news outlets, and discussion threads around the Internet, you know what it's like: It feels like the sheer hate from venom-filled comments hurled across the digital medium leaves you sore and bruised. It feels, in other words, not so different from a physical attack. It turns out that sense of harm isn't just imaginary. A new study indicates that minorities of all sorts -- including racial and sexual minorities -- suffer measurable harm when subjected to hate speech in social media.

The study is the work of researchers at Sapienza University of Rome and the Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques du Grand-Duché du Luxembourg, a Sept. 3 posting at The Advocate reported. The study, titled "Online Networks and Subjective Well-Being," purports to "test [its] hypothesis on a representative sample of the Italian population," and finds a "significantly negative correlation between online networking and well-being." The study concludes that GLBTs and other minority individuals experience "anxiety, distress, and deterioration in trust" when exposed to hate speech in threads and posts online.

It's not just the case that members of minority groups are faced with hateful messages left for a general readership by bigots; just as bad, or worse, are the effects of minorities who speak up online and are targeted for hate speech. The researchers noted a tendency for the remove of cyber-speech to strip away the veil of civility, with hate messages taking on particularly virulence. "In online interactions, dealing with strangers who advance opposite views in an aggressive and insulting way seems to be a widespread practice, whatever the topic of discussion is," The Advocate quoted the report as saying.

The phenomenon of social media serving as a platform for anti-gay bullying among students has played a central role in the narrative about how GLBT youth suffer. But anti-gay animus affects adults, too. Furthermore, it's not necessary for sexual minorities to encounter undisguised hate speech online for their health to suffer; previous studies have uncovered evidence to suggest that simply living in an environment where one's legal status is called into question, such as states where marriage rights have been put to a popular vote via ballot initiatives, burdens GLBT individuals with higher levels of stress and anxiety.

But even in absence of such an animosity-charged political climate, low-level and pervasive anti-gay stigma can have similar effects. In 2011, a study from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law concluded that "stigma and social inequality can increase stress and reduce well-being for LGB people, even in the absence of major traumatic events such as hate crimes and discrimination."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.
© Edge on the Net


UK: Antisemitic incidents reach record level in July 2014

4/9/2014- Antisemitic reactions to this summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas resulted in record levels of antisemitic hate incidents in the UK, according to new figures released by CST today. CST recorded 302 antisemitic incidents in July 2014, a rise of over 400% from the 59 incidents recorded in July 2013 and only slightly fewer than the 304 antisemitic incidents recorded in the entire first six months of 2014. A further 111 reports were received by CST during July but were not deemed to be antisemitic and are not included in this total. CST has recorded antisemitic incidents in the UK since 1984.

The 302 antisemitic incidents recorded in July 2014 is the highest ever monthly total recorded by CST. The previous record high of 289 incidents in January 2009 coincided with a previous period of conflict between Israel and Hamas. CST also recorded at least 150 antisemitic incidents in August 2014, making it the third-highest monthly total on record. The totals for July and August are expected to rise further as more incident reports reach CST. 155 of the 302 incidents recorded in July (51%) involved direct reference to the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza. All incidents require evidence of antisemitic language, targeting or motivation alongside any anti-Israel sentiment to be recorded by CST as an antisemitic incident.

101 antisemitic incidents recorded in July involved the use of language or imagery relating to the Holocaust, of which 25 showed evidence of far right political motivation or beliefs. More commonly, reference to Hitler or the Holocaust was used to taunt or offend Jews, often in relation to events in Israel and Gaza, such as via the twitter hashtag #HitlerWasRight. 76 of the 302 incidents in July (25%) took place on social media. CST obtained a description of the offender for 107 of the 302 antisemitic incidents recorded during July 2014. Of these, 55 offenders (51%) were described as being of south Asian appearance; 32 (30%) were described as white; 15 (14%) were described as being of Arab or north African appearance; and 5 (5%) were described as black.

There were 21 violent antisemitic assaults recorded by CST, none of which were classified as ‘Extreme Violence’, which would involve a threat to life or grievous bodily harm (GBH). None of the 21 assaults resulted in serious injury. There were 17 incidents of Damage & Desecration of Jewish property; 218 incidents of Abusive Behaviour, which includes verbal abuse, antisemitic graffiti, antisemitic abuse via social media and one-off cases of hate mail; 33 direct antisemitic threats; and 13 cases of mass-mailed antisemitic leaflets or emails. CST recorded 179 antisemitic incidents in Greater London in July 2014, compared to 144 during the whole of the first half of 2014. There were 52 antisemitic incidents recorded in Greater Manchester, compared to 96 in the first six months of the year. 71 incidents were recorded in other locations around the UK during July.

CST spokesman Mark Gardner said:
These statistics speak for themselves: a record number of antisemitic incidents, few of them violent, but involving widespread abuse and threats to Jewish organisations, Jews in public places and on social media. It helps to explain the pressures felt by so many British Jews this summer, with its combination of anti-Jewish hatred and anti-Israel hatred. The high proportion of offenders who appear to come from sections of the Muslim community is of significant concern, raising fears that the kind of violent antisemitism suffered by French Jews in recent years may yet be repeated here in the UK. CST will continue working with Police and Government against antisemitism, but we need the support of others. Opposing antisemitism takes actions not words. It is particularly damaging for public figures, be they politicians, journalists or faith leaders, to feed these hatreds by comparing Israel to Nazi Germany or by encouraging extreme forms of public protest and intimidation. Prosecutors also have their part to play. Those who have used social media to spread antisemitism are identifiable and should be prosecuted.
© CST Blog


Dutch security service broke privacy rules with web forum hacks

4/9/2014- The Dutch security service AIVD has broken privacy laws in its research into social media and wrongly hacked into website forums to gather information on all users, regulators said on Thursday. The report by the security service regulator CTIVD says five hacking operations were not properly motivated and were therefore unlawful. The hacks were carried out on behalf of foreign security agencies, the NRC reported. In four other investigations, privacy regulations were broken disproportionately, the CTIVD said.

These were large general web forums without a radical or extremist tint. and the privacy of a large number of ordinary citizens was wrongly invaded. The CTIVD did not mention any forums by name but the NRC cited website as a possible example. At the time the NRC first reported on the scandal, home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk said the hacking was within the law. In a reaction to the findings, Plasterk said he had instructed the AIVD to tighten up its procedures but stressed research into websites is necessary to allow the security service to do its job properly.

CTIVD39Toezichtsrapportsocialemedia.pdf (543,04 KB) (PDF full report in Dutch)

© The Dutch News

Ireland: Longer sentences for hate crimes proposed in report

New laws urgently needed to protect vulnerable communities, Limerick academics conclude

2/9/2014- Ireland urgently needs new laws to protect vulnerable communities from hate crime, according to a report being launched today by University of Limerick experts. The study proposes the creation of new offences and the passing of longer sentences for assault, harassment, criminal damage and public order crimes motivated by hostility, bias, prejudice or hatred. “The absence of hate crime legislation in Ireland is a glaring anomaly in the European context, and indeed across the West,” the report states. “Without it, Ireland stands virtually alone in its silence with respect to protecting vulnerable communities from the harms of this particular form of violence.”

Labour Senator and legal academic Ivana Bacik, who will launch the Life Free From Fear report today, said the study showed hate crime was a “very real phenomenon in Ireland today”. The academic experts surveyed 14 non-governmental organisations which advocate for various groups of people including those with disabilities; ethnic minorities; religious minorities; the LGBT community and prisoners. Along with sexual and verbal abuse, they reported instances of physical violence and harassment, while negative use of the internet was also highlighted.

The report proposes fresh legislation to create four new offences all aggravated by hostility: assault, harassment, criminal damage and public order. Alongside the new offences, the introduction of a sentence enhancement provision is recommended under which hostility, bias, prejudice or hatred would be treated as aggravating factors in sentencing. “We propose that legislation be introduced as a matter of urgency,” the report states. The study also recommends amending the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 to cover cases of sexual offences against disabled people.

It says Ireland should deal with the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems by signing and ratifying the additional protocol to the convention on cybercrime. Ms Bacik said people in Ireland were targeted because of characteristics including sexual orientation, race, religion, disability and age. “The report shows that the current legal regime is incapable of addressing hate crime, and that legislative change is required. Crucially, the report also presents useful proposals for the appropriate legislative model, and this is particularly welcome,” she said.

The report acknowledges the difficulty in identifying specific communities that are potential victims of hate crimes. However, among the groups the report names as having historically been targets of abuse and discrimination in Ireland are the Traveller community; single mothers; non-Catholics and members of the LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) community. More recently, the report suggests, the categories of race, national origin, trans people and ethnic origin could be included. “The authors would regard this list as still incomplete however,” the report states.

The authors of the report are Jennifer Schweppe of the School of Law and Dr Amanda Hynes and Dr James Carr of the Department of Sociology at the University of Limerick. They are members of the Hate and Hostility Research Group (HHRG), which was set up by academics in the University of Limerick with the aim of initiating scholarship in the area in Ireland.
© The Irish Times


Headlines August 2014

Austria: Teenager sentenced for running Nazi chat forum

Salzburg Regional Court has sentenced an 18-year-old youth to 12 months for operating a right-wing internet forum, under the Prohibition Act Section 3g.

22/8/2014- He must serve one month of his sentence behind bars, and cannot appeal. The 18-year-old has also been told he will be on probation and will have to undergo psychotherapy, as well as finishing college. He was also convicted of assault and serious commercial fraud. According to the prosecution the youth had been running a right-wing extremist forum on Skype, which he called "National Resistance and true National Socialists". He shared numerous videos and audio files which portrayed National Socialism in a positive light. In addition, together with a 20-year-old, he sprayed “Jews out” and a swastika on a glass pane of a local primary school. He was also charged with using the chat forum for fraudulent purposes. He offered Nazi paraphernalia such as badges and coats of arms for sale, although he didn’t actually possess any such items. One person paid him €25. The Prohibition Act of 1947 contains a number of provisions to combat the resurgence of National Socialist activities.
© The Local - Austria


Azerbaijani-Armenian Media Wage Virtual War

Heightened tensions lead to online battles, disinformation and website takedowns.
By Gohar Abrahamyan - Caucasus

21/8/2014- The recent spike in violence around Nagorny Karabakh has been accompanied by an upsurge in information warfare as hackers attack websites in both Armenia and Azerbaijan and news outlets are recruited to spread disinformation. The web attacks came as localised clashes – and casualties – increased on the front line around Armenian-controlled Karabakh and on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Both sides have expressed concern about breaches of the 1994 ceasefire that ended the Karabakh war but has never led to a formal peace deal. (See Azeri-Armenian Conflict Fears as Death Toll Rises.)

“From July 27, when it was already clear that the situation was evolving further and that there was a chance of war, it appears that the media changed and went to war,” said Laura Baghdasaryan, director of the Region think tank in Yerevan. “All other issues faded into the background, and everyone discussed what was happening on the border.” Edgar Chraghyan of Cyber Gates, an internet security company in Armenia, told IWPR that says that hackers in Azerbaijan disabled 15 Armenian websites over a period of two weeks. Armenians took down 13 sites in Azerbaijan, he added.

In one attack, on the Russian-language section of the news site, Azerbaijan hackers replaced an August 2 interview with Senor Hasratyan, a spokesman for the Karabakh defence ministry, with a press release purporting to be from the Armenian defence ministry. Hasratyan’s statement that his forces were in full control of Karabakh’s airspace were removed and in its place there appeared a fictitious news story of an artillery bombardment said to have killed 20 Armenian soldiers and injured 26. In fact, one died and one other was injured. The website published a correction within minutes, but Azerbaijani news outlets had already picked up the fake report, and subsequently interpreted its removal as evidence of Armenian censorship.

David Alaverdyan, editor of the Mediamax news agency and a journalism lecturer at Yerevan State University, said the key aim for a government fighting an information war was to ensure that its point of view drowned out all opposing opinions. He said that within Armenia, the defence ministry had more or less achieved that goal, and that its Azerbaijani counterpart, too, had been successful in dominating the narrative in that country. To illustrate the point, Alaverdyan cited the case of an Armenian national who died after crossing the border into Azerbaijan. At first, Azerbaijan described the man as a civilian, but then changed tack and followed the defence ministry’s lead, calling him a saboteur.

A number of websites aimed at Armenians but backed by Azerbaijan published reports of the death of Armenian troops that turned out to be false. Given the source, most Armenians would realise this was propaganda, but they are more liable to believe stories that appear in the Russian media. On August 12, when tensions had somewhat subsided following a meeting between Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev, chaired by President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, the Russian website ran a story claiming that Azerbaijan planned to “buy” Karabakh for five billion US dollars. “This is clear sabotage by Russian media,” said Baghdasaryan. “The article did not carry the usual byline, and just said it was by ‘politrus’. [Azerbaijani website] then reprinted the article, and it spread.”

On August 2, the Russian news agency Regnum published a story claiming that Azerbaijani armoured vehicles were advancing along the whole front line, and carried three photographs showing dozens of tanks. Many Armenians panicked, believing the photographs were of tanks actually deployed in the field, whereas in fact they were taken last year when Russia delivered a shipment of armoured vehicles to Baku. Samvel Martirosyan, who lectures on blogging and new media at Yerevan State University, says Armenian journalists have grown increasingly careful about sifting fact from fiction. “An interesting thing has happened to the Armenian media, which are normally very poor at checking information. They have always happily accepted disinformation spread by Azerbaijan. But this time they have orientated themselves very quickly, and most of the media have been very careful about spreading information,” he said.
Gohar Abrahamyan is a correspondent for in Armenia.
© Institute for War & Peace Reporting


UK: Police officers investigated for social media breaches

Hundreds of police officers have been investigated for breaching social media guidelines, research has revealed.

19/8/2014- Freedom of Information requests by the Press Association found officers made racist comments online and asked crime victims to become Facebook friends. Of 828 cases in England and Wales from 2009 to February this year, 9% ended in resignation, dismissal or retirement. The College of Policing said there was "no place... for officers who abuse the trust placed in us by the public". About a seventh (14%) of the cases reported resulted in no further action at all. The majority of other cases were dealt with through advice being offered to the officer in question. Various forces also said staff were investigated for comments deemed homophobic, racist or "religiously aggressive".

Greater Manchester Police reported the most investigations, with 88 over the period in question. West Midlands was second highest with 74, while the Metropolitan Police recorded 69. Chief Constable Alex Marshall, chief executive of the College of Policing, said: "People working in policing must always be mindful of the high standards that the public expect from us. "Our code of ethics, which was launched last month, sets out the standards which everyone in the service should strive to uphold whether at work or away from work, online or offline." He said most police officers and staff "uphold these high standards" and that social media can be a "really useful way of us talking to the people that we serve". But he added: "There is no place in policing for officers who abuse the trust placed in us by the public." "Everyone in policing has to remember that if you're not prepared to put it in a local newspaper with your name at the bottom, then don't say it on social media."

'Incredibly useful'
The college's code of ethics urges officers to "use social media responsibly and safely". It also suggests they "ensure that nothing you publish online can reasonably be perceived by the public or your policing colleagues to be discriminatory, abusive, oppressive, harassing, bullying, victimising, offensive or otherwise incompatible with policing principles". And it also says officers should not publish online or elsewhere, or offer for publication, any material that might undermine their own reputation or that of the policing profession. Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "Social media is an incredibly useful tool for engaging with local communities and gathering intelligence. "Forces must ensure officers are effectively trained and aware of the latest social media protocols. "It is important to acknowledge that the majority of police officers perform their duties with the utmost integrity, discretion and in accordance with the high standards of behaviour rightly expected of them by the public."

Examples of cases uncovered
@ A community support officer with Devon and Cornwall Police who received a final written warning after posing with weapons on Facebook
@ A sergeant with the same force who was given a written warning after making remarks about senior officers on the site
@ A civilian officer in central London who posted a comment online about Muslims in London failing to observe a two-minute silence
@ Two special constables who had to resign from Northamptonshire Police after they were pictured on a website in a "compromising position"
@ A Gwent Police officer who was given a written warning after he "inappropriately" asked a female member of the public to be his friend on Facebook during a house visit
@ Another PC from the force who received the same punishment for using Facebook to send an "abusive" message to a member of the public
@ A member of civilian staff in Lancashire who resigned over their "excessive and inappropriate use of the internet during working hours" - including online auction sites, internet banking and social networking
© BBC News


Google Is Planning to Offer Accounts to Kids Under 13

18/8/2014- Google plans to offer accounts to children under 13 years old for the first time, a move that will take the world’s largest Internet search provider into a controversial and operationally complex new market. Accounts on Google services such as Gmail and YouTube are not officially offered to children, though there is little to stop them from logging on anonymously or posing as adults to sign up for accounts. Now Google is trying to establish a new system that lets parents set up accounts for their kids, control how they use Google services and what information is collected about their offspring, according to a person familiar with the effort. Earlier this year, Google was developing a child version of its online video site YouTube suited to tablet computers that would let parents control content, another person familiar with the company’s plans said.

Google and most other Internet companies tread carefully because of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. The law imposes strict limits on how information about children under 13 is collected; it requires parents’ consent and tightly controls how that data can be used for advertising. (Companies are not liable if customers lie to them about user ages). The company’s new effort is partly driven by the fact that some parents are already trying to sign their kids up to the company’s services. Google wants to make the process easier and compliant with the rules, the person said. Technology news website The Information reported the company’s plans earlier on Monday.

News of Google’s changes in this area has already caused concern among privacy advocates. “Unless Google does this right it will threaten the privacy of millions of children and deny parents the ability to make meaningful decisions about who can collect information on their kids,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, an online privacy group. Chester said The Center for Digital Democracy shared its concerns on Monday about Google’s new effort with the Federal Trade Commission, which writes COPPA rules and enforces them with state regulators. The privacy group is also huddling with its legal team on Wednesday to create an action plan to monitor how Google rolls out its services for children and to make sure the system provides parents enough control over the privacy of their kids’ information, Mr. Chester added. FTC spokesman Jay Mayfield declined to comment, saying the agency does not comment on specific companies’ plans.
© The Wall Street Journal - Digits blog


As online anti-Semitism grows, so do efforts to counter it

15/8/2014- It’s been 17 years since Suzette Bronkhorst co-founded the Dutch Complaints Bureau for Discrimination on the Internet, but she said she doesn’t remember the level of anti-Semitic speech on social media platforms ever being this high. “There are thousands of incidents and we’re getting so many complaints,” she said of her organization, which registers complaints of hate speech online. “There’s been a huge surge since Gaza.” The Gaza conflict, which has led to the deaths of 1,900 Palestinians and 68 Israelis, has also sparked a wave of counter speech, with organizations like Bronkhorst’s attempting to tackle hate speech by debunking myths and stereotypes on blogs, forums and social media. “There’s a lot of chatter on the Internet that is not based on fact and there are different ways in which you can do counter speech,” said Bronkhorst, whose organization goes by the name MDI. “For instance, if there’s a discussion on Facebook, you join in and you try to give counterpoints to people who are just ill-informed.”

In one instance, Bronkhorst’s volunteers asked a Twitter user writing “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” whether he really wanted to murder people by gassing them. The user removed the tweet, apologized and said he didn’t mean it. In July, the number of Dutch-language anti-Semitic Facebook pages ran into the hundreds, according to MDI, which cannot keep up with the amount of hate-fueled posts, ranging from statements such as “Jews must die” to those praising Adolf Hitler. On Twitter, the hashtag “Hitler was right” appeared more than 10,000 times in July in connection with Gaza and became a trending topic, says MDI.

Sergey Lagodinsky, a lawyer and a member of the Jewish community’s representative assembly in Berlin, said comments by friends on Facebook shocked him. “It’s hardly tolerable because people are being attacked,” said Lagodinsky. “You have a lot of people who you thought were friends who articulate things in a way which leaves you speechless.” Berlin’s Technical University has just started a project analyzing around 100,000 Internet texts to see how anti-Semitism spreads online on social media and in comment sections, chatrooms and forums. “The Internet plays an important role here as more drastic use of language can flourish through links between websites as well as user anonymity,” said Matthias Jakob Becker, a member of the research team. The team has found that not only Islamist and right-wing circles have resorted to old canards, such as Jewish world-domination conspiracy theories, but so, too, has the educated middle class.

Anti-Semitism is a particularly sensitive issue in Germany. Special police protection is provided for Jewish buildings, ranging from synagogues to bakeries, and the growing anti-Jewish sentiment even prompted the country’s biggest newspaper, Bild, to wade into the fray. On its website, the newspaper created a button depicting a Star of David and the slogan “stimme erheben: nie wieder Judenhass” (raise your voice: never again Jew hatred) that people could share online. It has also added interviews with celebrities, politicians and ordinary people speaking out against anti-Semitism. Bild encouraged readers to tweet against anti-Semitism under the hashtag “stimme erheben.” While the campaign ran for just one day, Tobias Froehlich, a representative for Axel Springer, Bild’s owner, said the publication may follow up with similar campaigns. “You can still find it online and of course, depending on how the news develops, you could see it again in our newspaper,” said Froehlich. “The voice against anti-Semitism isn’t just for one day.”

Members of Germany’s Jewish community said the Bild campaign is a reminder that Jews in Europe are generally safe and that while anti-Semitism is a reality, it’s mainly kept in check. “The online world is a tool of propaganda for hate speech against everyone,” said 29-year-old Giulia Pines Kersthold, a Jewish New Yorker and author who has lived in Berlin for six years. But she added: “I have never really felt unsafe as a Jew in Germany and I would say that I still don’t.”

In France, where pro-Palestinian demonstrations in July culminated in attacks on eight synagogues, many Jews are fleeing to Israel. Between January and June, 2,830 French Jews emigrated to Israel. That number is expected to exceed 5,000 by the end of 2014 — marking the first time in modern history that a full 1 percent of a western Jewish community will move to Israel in a single year, according to the Jerusalem-based Jewish Agency for Israel. In 2013, 3,288 French Jews left for Israel. Yonathan Arfi, vice president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, called the anti-Semitic surge a new phenomenon that has intensified thanks to the Internet. “It is a space without laws,” he said. “You have many people on the Internet who are Jewish and easily accessible to people who target them.”

Bronkhorst at MDI acknowledges the difficulties but is optimistic and hopes the project will expand to other organizations in the International Network Against Cyber Hate, of which MDI is a member. “It’s a matter of resources right now,” said Bronkhorst. “We’re going to do it and we can only do it if we all work together to change our neighbor and let our neighbor change another one — one drop at a time to make an ocean.”
© The Washington Post


Trisha Prabhu wants to put an end to cyberbullying

13/8/2014- 13-year-old Mighty Girl Trisha Prabhu wants to put an end to cyberbullying so she decided to investigate an important question: would teens still post hurtful content online if they had to think about how it would affect others first? To answer this question, the young Chicagoan -- who has now made it to the finalist round of the 2014 Google Science Fair -- designed a software system that measures the number of mean or hurtful messages that adolescents were willing to post after being encouraged to "rethink" the impact of their messages. Trisha's study found that such re-thinking resulted in a tremendous 93% reduction in the number of hurtful messages posted.

Trisha’s idea emerged from research on adolescent brain function: in teens, the pre-frontal cortex, which is partially responsible for helping people think before acting, is not yet fully developed. As a result, teens are more likely than adults to act impulsively and post messages without thinking through the consequences. Trisha hypothesized that teens provided with an alert mechanism encouraging them to rethink the potential harm that their message could cause would post fewer hurtful or mean messages.

To test her hypothesis, Trisha designed two software programs: Baseline and Rethink. Each member of her test group, 150 boys and 150 girls between age 12 and 18, were presented with five different messages based on real-life examples from a cyberbullying research agency. She found that the Baseline group was willing to post 67.2% of the hurtful messages they viewed. In the Rethink group, the initial willingness to post was 71.07%; however, after viewing the prompt encouraging them to reconsider the message, only 6.57% went ahead with the post.

Based on these dramatic results, Trisha believes that if a system like the one she designed was integrated into social media sites and apps there would be a significant reduction in cyberbullying. She's now one of 15 global finalists in the 2014 Google Science Fair but whether or not she wins, Trisha plans on continuing the development of her software and has already put together a preliminary design demonstrating how the "Rethink" system could integrate with social media sites. She hopes that one day her system will help prevent cyberbullying at the "source" and, as she writes in her science fair report, is "looking forward to a future where we have conquered cyber-bullying!” Kudos to Trisha for her efforts to end cyberbullying and best of luck in the Google Science Fair!
To read more about Trisha's project, visit the Google Science Fair site at

For two helpful resources for youth about responsible technology use and cyberbullying, check out “lol...OMG!: What Every Student Needs to Know About Online Reputation Management, Digital Citizenship, and Cyberbullying” for ages 12 and up ( and "A Smart Girl's Guide to the Internet" for ages 9 to 12 ( There are also several helpful resources for parents on the growing problem of cyberbullying: "Talking Back to Facebook: The Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital Age" ( and "The Parent's Guide To Texting, Facebook, And Social Media: Understanding the Benefits and Dangers of Parenting in a Digital World" at

For a variety of books for kids and parents that address bullying of all types, we released a three-part blog series on bullying prevention. In the first part of the series, we showcase books for preschool and early elementary-aged children on teaching empathy and responding to bullying: "The End of Bullying Begins With Me": Bullying Prevention Books for Young Mighty Girls," at In the second post, we feature recommendations for tweens and tweens: "Taking a Stand Against Bullying: Bullying Prevention Books for Tweens and Teens" at

And, in our final post, we share resources for parents and educators to help them better understand childhood bullying and learn how best to respond to it: "Leading the Way: Bullying Prevention Books for Parents and Educators," at
© Facebook - A Mighty Girl


Slovak media closing online discussions due to hatred and racism

13/8/2014- The Slovak media are starting to run out of patience with readers who inundate the discussion boards beneath their online articles with hatred, lies and racism. Two popular news servers, and, have changed the format of their discussion boards in recent days. The main tool is not to post open discussions beneath articles on specific topics, but moderated discussions where every contribution is checked by a moderator before being published. started its changes at the start of August and began turning off its discussion boards yesterday; both servers had already instituted the requirement that discussants register to participate.

No more aggressive, lying, racist contributions
The editors of say their reason for the move is simple. "If we can't manage to control the discussion, if we don't know how to ensure that aggressive, lying, racist or vulgar contributions are not posted to our website, then we are forced not to open some discussion boards," news server writes on its editorial blog. The editors also point out that the most frequent complaints received by are about the level of the discussions posted beneath the articles. gave a similar justification for its own decision: "As of today we are closing the discussion boards on several types of articles. The reason is the growing hatred and deteriorating communications and vocabulary of the discussants. This has primarily to do with the topics of Islam, Romani people, Russia and Ukraine. The hateful discussions conducted among themselves by several people depreciate the articles, these topics, the events reported on and the people we are writing about."

Not censorship
Both editorial boards say the move is under no circumstances about censorship, but about taking responsibility. "No, this is not censorship. This is a responsible decision. At the end of the day, it's not just the authors of these discussion posts who are responsible for their content - we are too," write the editors of As points out, administering discussion boards is an extraordinarly demanding, sensitive matter, because "many discussants consider the removal of their contributions to be interference with their freedom of speech. That is not the case. has always approached discussion boards with maximum openness, but it is unacceptable for our discussion boards to become a place for communications by extremists (of any kind) or for individuals who intentionally unleash hatred... We are making this move for our readers who want to join responsibly join discussions that stay on topic."

Czech media not much bothered by hatred
It seems that for the time being calls for hatred, the dissemination of lies, racism don't much bother the Czech media. While discussion board formats have changed in the Czech media more than once, many hateful, racist contributions are left untouched by the administrators of the discussions posted beneath articles online. In the Czech Republic the news server that is probably most hospitable to aggressive discussants is, where discussants must register under their own name, and, where the discussions are supervised by several moderators led by Jan Dvořák. Differences of perception as to what constitutes hatred have been well-mapped by the magazine RESPEKT in an article entitled "If Hitler had only known" (Kdyby to Hitler tušil), which investigates hatred on the Czech internet. "They've had hundreds of years and they still live on the outskirts of society. However, it's not because of racism, it's only because of their approach to education, life and work," one discussant posts beneath an article about Romani integration on

According to Dvořák such a posting may remain online because "while it is a bit of a generalization, it is nonetheless a legitimate, rather sober way of expressing a critical opinion of Romani people." Representatives of news server and take a different view of the matter. "That's an ordinary generalization unsupported by any arguments. Our image isn't made just by the quality of our articles, but by what kind of discussions we allow under our brand," Filip Struhárik, one of the designers of the current form of online debating at, told RESPEKT. Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of the ROMEA organization, agrees, saying he believes the contribution made above by a reader of is hate speech and should be removed. "This is a classic example of a generalization that tars an entire group of people with the same brush," he says.

Ryšavý believes everything should be removed that offends either specific individuals or any group of people, from Romani people to wheelchair users to Czech soldiers. "Naturally I am under no illusions that such hatred would completely disappear, I don't believe it would. However, at least the followers of such hatred would not have acccess to the biggest websites and to wide-ranging discussions. They should be somewhere in the background, tucked away on their own websites, and as long as they don't break the law, let them discuss all they want there," he said.

Improvement in the justice system and police
We can see a slight change for the better, of course, in the work of the justice system and police in the Czech Republic. As RESPEKT reports, a contribution posted to a discussion on Facebook calling for death to Czech soldiers participating in foreign missions was found by police to be a misdemeanor against civil coexistence warranting a CZK 5 000 fine. The author of the hateful commentary, Jiří Pohl, ultimately did not have to pay the fine, as he apologized. Recently former Czech MP Otto Chaloupka (Public Affairs) received a first-instance verdict for his own anti-Romani statements on Facebook. News server reported that Chaloupka was sentenced to six months' probation by the District court for Prague 1. The court made its ruling without holding a hearing or asking for additional evidence.

The former MP, according to the court, incited hatred against an ethnic group. Chaloupka appealed the April verdict and a hearing will be held in his case this September. Last year Chaloupka posted a message to his Facebook profile on the events in Duchcov (Teplice district), where a small group of Romani people attacked and beat up a non-Romani married couple. "Decent people have put up with your aggresion, your thievery and your unjustified demands for more and more advantages for long enough," he wrote. During the subsequent discussion he added that "people are on edge - a few more gypsy provocations like this and the slaughter will begin. Then even the riot police won't save them."
© Romea.


Germany: Neo-Nazis increasingly target young net users

A German Internet watchdog has issued a new report on hate propaganda circulated online. It identifies a rising trend and calls for more international cooperation in tackling the problem.

12/8/2014- Blatant racism, homophobia and promotion of violence are on the increase in the German-speaking cyber world, finds the latest annual report published by, Germany's state-sponsored child protection service in matters relating to the Internet. The report, titled "Right-wing extremism online 2013"  ("Rechtsextremismus online 2013") finds that the more offensive and provocative the content, the more quickly and broadly it is circulated. "While in the past the propaganda was more subtle, today we regularly see blatant portrayals of Jews, Muslims, Sinti and Roma and homosexuals as second-class citizens," Stefan Glaser, deputy head of, said in a statement.

Not new, only worse
This general finding reflects the overall trend identified in the reports from previous years. "The first neo-Nazi websites appeared in the 1990s, and right-wing Internet content has increased dramatically over the years," Christiane Schneider, head of the political extremism department at, told DW. "With the rise of social networking, hate propagators have also grown smarter. They know how to present themselves in a friendly and appealing way to attract young followers." Methods such as humor and satire are used, which help disguise hate speech. "In addition, a widespread climate of hate online makes this kind of behavior look increasingly normal, which only attracts more people," said Schneider.

Beyond national borders
While the study focused on Internet content accessed by German youth, its findings extend beyond Internet platforms hosted in Germany. An increasing amount of young people are networking internationally or simply using foreign websites for sharing extremist content. An example is the Russian social networking site VK. Previously known as VKontakte, the platform has been described as a safe haven for right-wing extremists from countries like Germany, where the laws controlling Internet content are stricter. The network has recently been used for disseminating videos published by the Okkupay Pedofilyay group, an anti-gay movement started in Russia. The videos feature neo-Nazis attacking, beating, torturing and humiliating gay people.

So far, according to, VK operators have not given a sufficient response. They rarely delete hate-inciting content or block access for German users. "It's hard to control the activities of web portals based abroad," said Schneider. However, there have also been some examples of success. "There is a Latvian question-and-answer site called, which has been quite popular among young German users," explained Schneider. "When we noticed right-wing activity there we notified the operators. At first they didn't react, but through various international contacts and organizations we managed to put pressure on them and today they react much more quickly to complaints." representatives hope to have more influence of this kind in the future. According to Glaser, sites like VK and US microblogging and social networking site Tumblr do very little do ban extremist content.

A double goal
While it's hard to pinpoint the exact consequences of an individual piece of right-wing propaganda online, there are obvious dangers when one particular group is labeled as inferior. aims to prevent young people from becoming both perpetrators and victims of online extremism. "Hate propagators take advantage of the latest technology and popular social networking sites to influence young people," said Schneider. "Some of these people then cause emotional or physical harm to their peers, but young Internet users can also be harmed simply by what they read online."
© The Deutsche Welle.


Australia: 'Cut the throats' racist Facebook rant was a hack

11/8/2014- A Sydney Trains employee has been suspended after allegedly using his Facebook page to threaten to “cut the throats” of any Australian who opposed Islam. The tirade warns that opponents of Islam will “perish in the fiery depths of hell”. Sydney trains have suspended the employee and alerted police. But in an exclusive interview with 9News, the employee has claimed his Facebook account was hacked into and that he was not responsible for the outburst. “I don't care if you have a hijab on, a turban on, I don't care if you are from the most western parts of NSW - I will help you if you need my help.” the 22-year-old told 9News. He is now terrified of reprisals and asked for his name to be withheld. He said he has already received death threats. “It's thrown my whole world out of balance. It's scary," he said. "I'm scared to leave my house.”

The man, a non-practising Muslim, claims the anti-Islamic group The Australian Defence League is responsible for hacking into his account in an attempt to fuel tensions between communities in Sydney’s west. “Someone said they’re going to put a bullet in my head, someone is going to cut my throat- that I'm a marked man. They've put personal details out about my life.” In a statement, Sydney Trains said it had no choice but to suspend the employee until the matter had been fully investigated. “Sydney Trains expects our staff to behave in a courteous, respectful and lawful manner at all times. There are serious consequences if a staff member is found to have breached the guidelines that are currently in place, aside from any action taken by the police,” said a spokesperson for Sydney Trains.
© Channel 9 Australia


Sweden: Politician ousted after beggar 'parasite' post

A local politician representing the governing Moderate Party has been removed from his posts after describing Roma beggars as "parasites".

9/8/2014- "Damn you parasites ...," was how Joacim Benes described beggars he had had an altercation with in a post on Facebook, according to a report in the Smålandsposten daily. "They are a disgrace to their country and mess it up for those who actually need help," he added. Benes, who is a Moderate municipal councillor in Växjö and chairman of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) in Kronoberg, defended his comments when the newspaper called. "It describes a single individual, not the whole group," he said. Benes is also reported to have written on Facebook that he had not had "very positive experiences of Roma who think they can take advantage of your generosity". The Facebook comments were removed after Benes' interview with the newspaper, although not before they had drawn the attention of the party hierarchy. On Friday evening the Moderate Party in Växjö issued a statement stating that Benes had resigned from all his political positions in the municipality. "I profoundly regret and am ashamed of what I wrote. It was one of the most stupid things I have done in my life," Benes said in the statement.
© The Local - Sweden


Swedish Politician Quits Following Anti-Semitic Facebook Post

A Swedish politician is facing sharp criticism after he wrote on Facebook that "Jewish pigs" are responsible for mass murders in Gaza.

5/8/2014- Omar Omeirat, Social Democrat candidate for the town council of Filipstad, central Sweden, gave a speech in the town on Friday evening advocating diversity and openness. On Saturday he sang a very different tune. "The entire Muslim world is sitting and watching while our brothers and sisters in Palestine are slaughtered by the Jewish pigs," Omeritat wrote on his Facebook page. "May Allah strengthen those who defend Palestine, and be merciful towards the dead Muslims. Amen." His Facebook page also included a flag used by the Islamist group Isis, local paper NWT reported. The post quickly became public knowledge, and the young politician came under fire for his choice of words. "I called Omar about what he had written, and he said that he had watched a film where Palestinian women and children were murdered by Jews," Åsa Hååkman Feldt, Social Democrat spokeswoman in Filipstad, told The Local. Omeirat quickly regretted the post, and updated his Facebook status to an apology. "He never meant to judge people who are Jews, Christians, or anything else," Feldt explained. "He just meant to judge Israel as a state."

On Tuesday it was announced he would be stepping down from his position. "I regret what I said," Omeirat told Sveriges Television. "It was the wrong choice of words and no one should say something like that." Feldt confirmed that Omeirat had decided to leave politics, and said it was entirely his own choice. "Of course we condemn his statement," Feldt told The Local. "But it is Omar himself who has decided that he should take the consequences for his actions and leave the party." Feldt called the situation "unusual", saying that the most common reason to step down is sickness. She explained that the town's voting slips are already printed and that Omeirat's name will still be on the list, but that he will not be eligible for a position in autumn elections. "You really have to think about what you write on Facebook, especially as a politician," Feldt added. "It's a public record and there are consequences." Last month Social Democrat party leader Stefan Löfven was criticized for expressing his thoughts about Gaza, when he wrote on Facebook that "Israel has the right to defend itself".
© The Local - Sweden


The Useful Idiots' “Gaza Holocaust”

By Dr Andre Oboler, CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) and an expert in online public diplomacy and social media.

8/8/2014- While no civilian casualties are good, reports are now emerging that strongly question the number of civilian casualties in Gaza. The BBC’s head of statistics highlighted that the figures presented are highly improbable. He explains that, “some of the conclusions being drawn from them may be premature”. With that, the Hamas’s illusion begins to crack. The reality behind it is far uglier, and far more dangerous, than many have realised. Far away from the Middle East there are two additional sets of victims, neither Israeli not Palestinian. The first are Jews, facing raising antisemitism. The second group of victims includes many of those spewing out antisemitism. They too are victims as they act against their values in aid of a greater purpose. Those who have fallen into this trap will explain the uniqueness of the current conflict, and reflect on the reported number of civilian casualties. Their call to arms, however, rests on a carefully manufactured illusion.

It seems, statistically speaking, that the high civilian casualty rate in Gaza is very likely concealing many Hamas combatants. This is no surprise as a similar situation occurred in Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009) when Hamas, at the time, claimed only 50 fighters were killed but later admitted to a figure of between 600 and 700 fighters, a figure almost identical to Israeli reports during the conflict. The supposedly disproportionate civilian casualty rate has been used not only to justify and mobilise hostility to Israel, but also to defend outright antisemitism including comparisons to the Holocaust. "How dare you raise the issue of antisemitism when so many people are being killed!" one former Facebook friend essentially wrote to me. If the number of civilian casualties is in fact similar to other conflicts, or proportionally less than other conflicts, when comparing the rate of civilian to combatant casualties, then a lot of people have been working off a false premise.

The reliance on a false premise led many to the conclusion that Israel deserved unique condemnation, and the issue deserved priority above all else on the international agenda. If the conflict was not exceptional, there was no basis for this special treatment. As I write this, rockets have resumed and the IDF just announced they are about to take action to eliminate the threat. One Twitter user, with a free Palestine image, responded saying that another Nuremberg was waiting for Israel. This Holocaust analogy is a spectacularly bad analogy, and deliberately antisemitic. I’ve seen that Gaza Holocaust analogy repeated so many times is becoming a Big Lie. And therein lies the second crack in the Hamas illusion. The antisemitic imagery used in this conflict is beyond anything we have seen before. It looks like a deliberate social media strategy of Hamas, and one that follows perfectly from the antisemitism in their mainstream media channels, including on children’s TV shows like Tomorrow’s Pioneers. When you realise Hamas has form for such media strategies, it’s time to dig deeper. The treatment of all casualties as civilians and the overt antisemitism, particular the comparison of Gaza to the Holocaust, are it now emerges, part of a coherent Hamas social media strategy. The strategy has been openly promoted to activists via official Hamas channels, in Arabic of course. MEMRI translated this guide in mid July, but it seems it didn’t get enough attention.

Let’s consider what we’re seeing in light of two points taken from the guide:
Avoid entering into a political argument with a Westerner aimed at convincing him that the Holocaust is a lie and deceit; instead, equate it with Israel's crimes against Palestinian civilians”
“Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian from Gaza or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank. Don't forget to always add 'innocent civilian' or 'innocent citizen' in your description of those killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza

Our cracks suddenly open into fissures, and ground on which Hamas’s illusion rests should by all rights start to fall way. Both these point from the guide are being repeated time and time again in social media. Only some of that repetition is from hard core Hamas supporters who may have seen the guide. Much of it comes from people who have no idea about the ideology of Hamas, never mind Hamas’s social media war strategy. There is a technical term for those people who have been suckered into supporting the Hamas social media strategy, and therefore Hamas more broadly, without their knowledge. That term is “useful idiots”. Rich Lowry has written a great piece about the impact of these useful idiots, but missed the Hamas strategy to deliberately create more of them. I previously noted that Facebook was caught in a social media war, but I missed how antisemitism and the creation of useful idiots was part of this strategy.

In recent days I’ve explained the problem with the Holocaust analogy a number of times. Eventually I created a resource page to help others explain it. Some, including Muslims friends, quickly saw the problem. Others, anti-racism activists with no specific connection to the conflict, refused to see it. For them raising antisemitism was trying to dodge the issue of the casualties and the criticality of stopping Israel. Having not yet seen the fissures in the Hamas illusion, I felt I was staring down a rabbit hole. Comparisons between Israel and the Nazis are given explicitly as an example in the Working Definition of Antisemitism. It’s not a matter of interpretation or debate, it’s a matter of recognising what’s right in front of you. They way people around the world have been mislead as part of a deliberate Hamas run propaganda strategy is deserving of anger. The real civilian deaths, inevitable in any armed conflict, are still a tragedy, but to use support for human rights as part of a war strategy is morally reprehensible. We knew they were doing it with the living, now we see they are doing it with the dead as well. To promote Holocaust trivialization as part of a war strategy is also utterly reprehensible. Hamas advocates genocide of Jews in its charter, but how did anti-racists come to adopt this vile poison?

Those who have fallen for the Hamas propaganda strategy have fallen hard. Many have been told their comments are antisemitic, and reacted strongly against this. These people have been not only misled, but led to act entirely against their values. Hamas have turned anti-racism activists into tools promoting the agenda of genocide. Many have dug themselves in deeply, defending their position and use of antisemitic language with reference to the “unique nature” of the current conflict. With that premise exposed as a deliberate illusion, a propaganda construction, they have a very bitter pill to swallow. Many will seek other ways to validate their actions, at least to themselves. In doing so many may fall further into the arguments of racism which not only Hamas, but antisemites of all flavours, are currently flooding across social media. I don't have a solution, but unless people stop and take stock, Hamas may well achieve its real purpose, harm not just to Israel, but harm to Jewish people around the globe. The rise in antisemitism is a key outcome of this war, and it seems it is far from an accident.

Dr Andre Oboler is CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) and an expert in online public diplomacy and social media. OHPI's guide on reporting antisemitism on Facebook was released earlier today.
© The Jerusalem Post - Blogs


'Bomb Gaza' Apps Yanked From Google Store

Users Slam 'Shameless' Phone Games.

5/8/2014- Operation Protective Edge in Gaza inspired applications developers to create up-to-date games related to the conflict, but a few of the games and their creators have found themselves entangled in the international political furor surrounding the operation. A game entitled Bomb Gaza that was harshly criticized by surfers on Google Play Store was removed from the virtual shelves. Another one, entitled Gaza Assault: Code Red, is no longer available for download. The goal of Bomb Gaza, designed for mobile phones and tablets, is to assume the role of the Israeli army in order to strike as many Hamas terrorists as possible while steering clear of civilians. The terrorists are portrayed as characters in black who fire rockets. In Gaza Assault: Code Red, the player – who controls an unmanned aerial vehicle – must eliminate the Hamas terrorists but, as in most mainstream games, there are no civilians around.

The title of Bomb Gaza and the timing of its launch drew some angry responses and calls for its removal from Google Play Store. “Utterly shameful. Real people, many of them children, are dying in Gaza. Many of those who haven’t been killed face life with debilitating injuries, bereavement and without homes,” one commenter wrote. “Their suffering is as real as yours or mine, and to make light of it like this speaks of your essential failure as a human being. Shame on the creators of this game, and those who ‘play’ it.” Other commenters recommended that the game be reported to Google as containing offensive content. For his part, Roman Shapiro, the developer of Bomb Gaza, refused to answer Haaretz’s questions, but a Google spokesperson said, “This app is no longer available on Google Play. We don’t comment on specific apps but we remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies.”

The current hostilities have engendered several games. Some deal with Iron Dome, and at least one, called What the Hamas, deals with combat in the tunnels. It is similar to the old game Whack-A-Mole, in which players hit the heads of mechanical moles as they emerge from their underground tunnels. Another game constructed along the lines of Flappy Bird, in which the player is supposed to bombard Israel, is still available in the Google store. The history of controversial video games dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes back to the 1980s, to a game entitled Intifada, in which players were supposed to disperse riots in the territories while trying to avoid killing demonstrators. If too many were killed, a new and extreme-left government would be elected. The Intifada game caused quite an uproar in its day in Israel and throughout the world.

A game entitled Conflict: Middle East Political Simulator, which came out in the 1990s, gave players the opportunity to act as Israel’s prime minister, running the country until all the surrounding nations collapsed. Since then, there have been several games dealing with the conflict, some more seriously than others. One example is Peacemaker, in which the players act as prime minister (or the head of the Palestinian Authority) with the objective of making peace. Another game called Bomb Gaza was also created during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, but it was quite different from the current version. It was critical of Israel, portraying it as being responsible for mass murder in the Gaza Strip.
© The Forward


‘Bomb Gaza’ Google Play app lets Android users carry out Israeli air strikes on Palestinians

Users have called on Google to remove the game, which has been available to download since 29 July.

4/8/2014- Google is facing criticism for continuing to allow Android mobile users to download a game called “Bomb Gaza”, in which players are required to “drop bombs and avoid killing citizens”. The app, which was uploaded on 29 July, has been installed up to 1,000 times and received at least one report as “inappropriate”. As of Monday evening, the game was no longer listed on Google Play. According to the game’s description and a series of screenshots, users gain points by controlling aircraft marked with Israeli flags as they drop bombs on cartoon Hamas militants. It comes as more than 1,800 Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing Gaza conflict. Israel has confirmed that 64 of its soldiers have died in combat, while three civilians have been killed by cross-border shelling from Gaza.

Responding to the game in its review section online, Iqra Iqbal wrote that it was an “abomination”, adding: “This is a violation of human rights. My beloved brothers and sisters are dying in Gaza and some stupid ignoramus decides to make a game like this. Others said it was a “messed up game” and “disgusting”, while Saadat Ali said: “Request all to scroll to the bottom and flag this app as inappropriate to Google.” People also took to Twitter to voice their criticism of the game, and user Elliott Clarkson wrote: “Google Play's approval process? Non-existent. So games like Bomb Gaza get through.”

It is not the only game available on Google Play that involves bombing Gaza, including "Iron Dome", “Gaza Assault: Code Red” that tells users to “secure the region” by taking control of “an Israeli UAV equipped with powerful weapons in an attempt to secure the region”. A spokesperson for Google, which is not believed to pre-approve games uploaded by users to the Play store, was not immediately available for comment.
© The Independent


INACH - International Network Against CyberHate

The object of INACH, the International Network Against Cyberhate is to combat discrimination on the Internet. INACH is a foundation under Dutch Law and is seated in Amsterdam. INACH was founded on October 4, 2002 by and Magenta Foundation, Complaints Bureau for Discrimination on the Internet.