Nearly one quarter of the world’s population uses the internet and it has become the prime means of communication and marketing around the world. I, for example, am able to easily share the details of my daily life with my friends and family in California, the United Kingdom, Germany and Taiwan in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, this fantastic technology that unites us can be used just as easily to spread hatred.
In fact, as the World Wide Web has expanded, so have hate based websites. In 2007, there were 7000 sites, 8000 sites were identified in 2008. This year, some 10,000 websites advocating hate and terrorism have been identified.
More troubling is the existence of online games that perpetuate stereotypes and encourage violence. Such games are bright, colorful cartoons designed to appeal to children. Games like Border Patrol, the objective of which is to “keep them out at any cost”, are hosted or reviewed on mainstream gaming sites such as eBaum’s World. To a child, they seem like harmless fun; in reality they plant a sinister message in impressionable minds.
The use of technology goes beyond the World Wide Web. In 2008, Kenyans were bombarded with text messages encouraging them to participate in tribal attacks which lead to immediate, widespread violence against certain ethnic groups in the country. Last month, the Oklahoman reported that gangs in Oklahoma City and Tulsa have started using cell phones and text messaging to conduct criminal activities in addition to using Facebook and YouTube to recruit members as young as seven years old.
Our constitution guarantees our right to freedom of speech while other countries, such as Germany and the United Kingdom, have criminalized hate speech. It’s unlikely we can pass similar laws in this country, so what can we do to prevent the proliferation of hate? We can use the same tools to share messages of tolerance and compassion. In other words, spread the love, not the hate.