A Web of Hate: Hate Groups and the Internet

Originally, hate groups relied on person to person recruiting – pounding the streets, hanging up fliers, targeting teenagers in schools. These tactics have become more subversive, however, with the Internet’s rise in popularity. Groups now use web sites to aggressively target children and teenagers – relying on anonymity and recruiting in larger numbers than ever before.
Studies show that parents often worry about their teens exposure to sexual sites on the Internet, but rarely give a thought to hate groups. These groups remain under the radar, and your teenager could be a member without you ever knowing. In fact, more than 50% of parents interviewed by Psychiatric News stated that their parents placed no limits on their Internet usage in the home.
Hate groups often strive to be appealing to teenagers and children. They present the material as modern knowledge that parents are to old or out of date to understand. The sites often include colorful graphics and cartoon characters, and may even have online games and coloring pages – targeting children at an alarmingly young age. Audio and video files may be available, with music genres that are designed to be appealing to teens.
Other sites take advantage of the search engine algorithms to spread their message. For quite some time, a Google search for the word “Jew” returned results to an anti-semitic website. The site’s search rankings have been removed, and an explanation from Google currently holds the top spot. Achieving a top search engine ranking isn’t difficult for those experienced in the algorithm, and hate groups are taking advantage of this fact more and more frequently.
Some hate sites are even disguised as legitimate sites. For example, a visit to www.martinlutherking.org will introduce your child to hate filled literature, descriptions of King having illicit sex, and printable hate group flyers that they can download and distribute at their school. Imagine how easily your child could find a site like this inadvertently while doing research for a school project. Sites like these are protected under federal law unless they are a direct threat to someone’s life, and are protected by anti-censorship laws.
The best thing that you, as a parent, can do to prevent your child’s exposure to hate groups is to take the time to educate them. Teach them your families values and beliefs, as well as how to evaluate what they read critically. Remind them that on the Internet, anyone can be an author, regardless of actual authority. Don’t make the mistake of relying only on web filters or blocking software, as many programs will not recognize a hate site, and many are cleverly disguised. Instead, keep your computer in a public area and regularly monitor your child’s Internet usage. Ask them to tell you what they’re working on in school, and help them learn to critically evaluate the Internet as a research source.
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