The Internet is the largest marketplace of ideas the world has ever known. It enables communications, education, entertainment and commerce on an incredible scale. The Internet has helped to empower the powerless, reunite the separated, connect the isolated, and provide new lifelines for the disabled. By facilitating communication around the globe, the Internet has been a transformative tool for information-sharing, education, human interaction, and social change. We treasure the freedom of expression that lies at its very core.
Unfortunately, while the Internet’s capacity to improve the world is boundless, it also is used by some to transmit anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, racism, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, and other forms of hate, prejudice and bigotry. This hate manifests itself on websites and blogs, as well as in chat rooms, social media, comment sections, and gaming. In short, hate is present in many forms on the Internet. This diminishes the Internet’s core values, by creating a hostile environment and even reducing equal access to its benefits for those targeted by hatred and intimidation.
In an ideal world, people would not choose to communicate hate. But in the real world they do, all too often. And hate expressed online can lead to real-world violence, nearby or far away. The challenge is to find effective ways to confront online hate, to educate about its dangers, to encourage individuals and communities to speak out when they see it, and to find and create tools and means to deter it and to mitigate its negative impact.
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 the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to co-convene a Working Group on Cyberhate. The mandate of the Working Group was to develop recommendations for the most effective responses to manifestations of hate and bigotry online. The Working Group includes representatives of the Internet industry, civil society, the legal community, and academia.
The Working Group has met four times, and its members have shared their experiences and perspectives, bringing many new insights and ideas to the table. Their input and guidance have been invaluable, and are reflected in the Best Practices in this document. Obviously, the challenges are different for social networks, search engines, companies engaged in e-commerce, and others. Nevertheless, we believe that these Best Practices can contribute significantly to countering cyberhate.
BEST PRACTICES FOR RESPONDING TO CYBERHATE
It is our hope that the following Best Practices will provide useful and important guideposts for all those willing to join in the effort to address the challenge of cyberhate. We urge members of the Internet Community, including providers, civil society, the legal community, and academia, to express their support for this effort and to publicize their own independent efforts to counter cyberhate.
1. Providers should take reports about cyberhate seriously, mindful of the fundamental principles of free expression, human dignity, personal safety and respect for the rule of law.
2. 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.
3. Providers should offer user-friendly mechanisms and procedures for reporting hateful content.
4. Providers should respond to user reports in a timely manner.
5. Providers should enforce whatever sanctions their terms of service contemplate in a consistent and fair manner.
THE INTERNET COMMUNITY
1. The Internet Community should work together to address the harmful consequences of online hatred.
2. The Internet Community should identify, implement and/or encourage effective strategies of counter-speech – including direct response; comedy and satire when appropriate; or simply setting the record straight.
3. The Internet Community should share knowledge and help develop educational materials and programs that encourage critical thinking in both proactive and reactive online activity.
4. The Internet Community should encourage other interested parties to help raise awareness of the problem of cyberhate and the urgent need to address it.
5. The Internet Community should welcome new thinking and new initiatives to promote a civil online environment.
By John Mann MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, on behalf of the ICCA