ADL Releases Software to Block "Internet Hate" Web Sites

By Twing, Shawn | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, February 1999 | Go to article overview

ADL Releases Software to Block "Internet Hate" Web Sites


Twing, Shawn, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


ADL Releases Software to Block "Internet Hate" Web Sites

The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, a Washington, DC-based organization that monitors and combats anti-Semitism worldwide, recently released "HateFilter" software that blocks Web sites and other areas of the Internet with content it deems offensive.

Installed on a personal computer, "HateFilter" restricts access to a constantly updated list of Web sites the ADL considers hate-related. When an Internet user attempts to access these sites, he or she instead is directed to an ADL page that reads: "Hate Zone. Access Restricted. To Find Out More, Click the ADL Logo [below]."

When the ADL logo is clicked, visitors are directed to a special section of the ADL's Web site with information on nine different categories of hate, including: Internet hate, anti-Semitism, Racism, Holocaust Denial, Neo-Nazi Skinheads, the Ku Klux Klan, the Identity Church Movement, the Nation of Islam, and Homophobia. [Anyone interested in viewing this section may find it directly at http://www.adl.org/hate-patrol/1.html]

Each category subsection has a definition of the subject, a brief history of the topic, and an explanation of why the ADL considers the material to be offensive. Many of the subsections also are cross-linked with other information available within the ADL's Web site, as well as recommendations for ADL-printed publications on the subject at hand.

"HateFilter" is a component of another Internet blocking software package called Cyber Patrol, which allows users to voluntarily restrict access to Web sites, chat rooms, and news groups that contain pornography and other material that is not suited for children. Rather than using key-words that appear in the text or code of Web sites to restrict access -- a method that has been criticized repeatedly for its inability to differentiate between sex in pornographic sites and sex in sexual education, for example -- the ADL's "HateFilter" software uses a list of Web site addresses, created and modified daily by humans, to deny access to material it considers offensive.

For its part, the ADL contends that "HateFilter" was developed to protect children. "Many parents are concerned that the Internet gives easy access to bigotry and prejudice. ADL HateFilter is designed to empower parents who want to restrict their children's access to hate sites," the ADL Web site reads (emphasis in the original).

"Hate sites," according to the ADL, "are those sites on the Internet operated by individuals or groups that, in ADL's judgement, promote hatred or hostility toward groups -- Jews and others -- on the basis of their religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other immutable characteristics" (emphasis in the original).

On the surface, the ADL's "HateFilter" software seems relatively harmless. No one is trying to force it into public libraries -- yet. It is installed voluntarily on an individual personal computer, and can be disabled or uninstalled without serious complications.

The problems with "HateFilter" and what it represents, however, are numerous, as are legitimate concerns about the organization that created and constantly updates the list of "hate sites": the Anti-Defamation League.

"HateFilter" sits atop a long, slippery slope covered with free speech issues, and the ADL has a terrible track record for protecting, or even considering, the free speech of others. The ADL also has a history of serious rights abuse, including spying on more than 12,500 American citizens -- primarily pro-Palestinian and anti-apartheid activists -- and compiling blacklists of individuals holding these and similar views (see story on facing page). …

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ADL Releases Software to Block "Internet Hate" Web Sites
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