Rise Recorded in Web Sites Pushing Hate, Violence; SurfControl Cites Increase in Messages Espousing Anti-Semitism, Anti-Americanism

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Web sites featuring hateful rhetoric and calls for violence have spiked to record levels this year as extremist groups issue their messages to coincide with world events.

The number of sites advocating hate or depicting violence rose from 8,667 at the end of 2003 to 10,926 at the end of April 2004, according to SurfControl Inc., a Scotts Valley, Calif., Web-filtering company. It's the largest increase in such sites seen by SurfControl over an entire year. Hate and violence sites are showing up on the Internet at a faster rate than pornography.

SurfControl separates all Web sites into 40 categories, such as arts and entertainment, games or education. It defines a "hate" site as any site that promotes a "political or social agenda that is supremacist in nature and exclusionary of others based on their race, religion, nationality, gender, age, disability, or sexual orientation." It also includes any site that advocates an attack on or degradation of these groups.

A site is considered violent by SurfControl if it depicts torture, mutilation or horrific death, advocates people to put themselves or others in danger, or provides instructions on how to make bombs or similar devices. News sites are not included in these categories. SurfControl has used these criteria in its Web-filtering practice since 1996.

Groups that track Internet content said sites advocating hatred of Jews, Muslims, blacks and gays have become more pervasive and more extreme in their calls for violent acts, including murder. General anti-American Web sites have become more hostile as well, SurfControl said, and the amount of graphic violence and death appearing online has jumped.

"The kind of thing we're seeing is more connections to hate and violence," said Susan Larson, SurfControl's vice president for global content. "The line between what was acceptable two to three years ago to now has changed. …