Anything online, left alone long enough, will be abused.

Mark Zuckerberg is not the devil. I don't believe he has a malicious bone in his body. That is his problem.

If he had even the slightest inclination to abuse people with his creation,  he wouldn't have his current problem, and we wouldn't have ours. The same goes for Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and most of the other apps and platforms. All were convinced in the blissful ignorance that a grand idea empowering people would allow the best in society to prevail. They didn't see that the deck was stacked against them from the start.

There was internet before Facebook. It was all founded on the same boundless optimism. That electronic Garden of Eden started growing weeds on day one.  In 1995, when the commercial internet was launched, we got Amazon, eBay and Craigslist. It also brought us websites from the Klu Klux Klan and Stormfront (the grand daddy of all hate websites), followed soon after by the National Socialist Movement, white supremacist and violent extremist grou…

The Justified Banning of Klan Ken

Lessons of hate just keep on giving.

Ken is currently dressed in full KKK regalia and locked in storage closet. He is named Ken because that is what is molded into the back of his plastic head. He is a six foot tall mannequin.  His job is to model one of the ADL's civil rights artifacts, a full set of KKK robes. It is an important thing for people to see.  We knew using Ken to present the Klan robes would be powerful.

We had no idea.

Ken's Klan robes are the real deal, not some costume or idealized Hollywood version. Despite Ken's blank expression, the malice he emits is palpable. There is horror in the history of those robes which transcends my experience. Although perfectly clean, the robes are unmistakably stained with history.

I have no direct experience with the Klan. I have certainly had interactions with other extremists and I am fairly thick skinned in my own right.  I expected to have no problem managing my feelings about Ken. Sorry Ken, you are awful and shocking…

Six Months Later: White Supremacists After Charlottesville


On August 11, 2017, the world watched in horror as hundreds of torch-wielding white supremacists descended on the University of Virginia’s bucolic campus, chanting, “Jews will not replace us!” The next day, the streets of Charlottesville exploded in violence, ringing with the hateful, racist shouts of the neo-Nazis, Klan members and alt right agitators who put aside their internecine differences to gather in an unprecedented show of unity. Their stated common cause: To protest the removal of a 

Confederate statue from a local park. Their true purpose: The preservation and celebration of the white race, at any cost.
The promise of Unite the Right brought white supremacists of all stripes together for a weekend of protest that turned to deadly violence, and left counter-protester Heather Heyer dead. The rally itself, which was organized primarily by Jason Kessler, an alt right activist with ties to notorious…

Drivers of hate in the US have distinct regional differences

In a new study, University of Utah geographers sought to understand the factors fueling hate across space. Their findings paint a rather grim reality of America; hate is a national phenomenon, and more complicated than they imagined. The researchers mapped the patterns of active hate groups in every U.S. county in the year 2014, and analyzed their potential socioeconomic and ideological drivers. They found that in all U.S. regions, less education, population change, and ethnic diversity correlated with more hate groups, as did areas with higher poverty rates and more conservative political affiliation. The magnitude of the drivers had regional differences, however. The regional variation of the proposed drivers of hate may be a result of diverse ethnic and cultural histories. One surprising finding is that the geographical region seemed to determine whether religion has a positive or negative relative effect on…

Internet History Reviewed - We Screwed Up

I'm from New York, but I have lived online since dial-up networks, and continuously and deeply for over 15 years. I know my neighborhood. I know where to get good pizza and bad sushi. I know the internet that way too.

In the early days of the internet, and especially Web 2.0, we were optimistic, energized, enthused, and mostly wrong.

We were convinced we had ideas that would revolutionize the world and allow the best, strongest and most inspired human ideas and aspirations to become the predominant ethos of our world. 

Everyone was desperately protective of their products, ideas and companies. Each company built barriers, supremely convinced their idea was unique and needed to be secured. But we also built isolation.

In our optimism we forgot basic philosophy, that inescapable yin and yang of reality; good cannot exist without evil.  Within all good resides some bad.

With the lurking evil summarily ignored, we happily moved on.  More than 10 years later, the mantra that the best …

Time for a Universal Online Code of Conduct

Is there anyone who feels we don't need a Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC)for the internet? Probably. But those are most likely people who make a point of facilitating the abuse of others. Almost every civil society, community protection, civil rights or anti-hate group has considered, drafted or published such a thing. Many government agencies have created such documents and even some companies have policies stated as universal across their services.

These policy statements go by various names; Terms of Service, Code of Conduct, User Agreement, and Community Guideline. With minor variations, it all boils down to the same concept; an agreement on what the companies, users, community and government can expect from each other - or it should.

All the groups, agencies and companies who build such agreements do it from a highly subjective and self serving perspective.  Everyone has an agenda. This immediately compromises any hope of creating an agreement with parity. Understandably, no…

Deleting Hate Does Not Stop Hate

The EU is, rightly, very excited about their efforts to push the internet companies to better address hate speech has resulted in an estimated 70% removal rate. But the grim reality is that removing hate speech does not stop hate.

If only it was that simple.

Hate speech on-line is a manifestation of real world sentiments.  Removing it does not, by itself, change the reality creating it. During the period of EU's increased online enforcement,  far right groups and candidates still flourished in the European political arena and anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic displays blossomed across EU. The American experience over the past year, with neo-Nazi groups re-branded as alt-right, marching in average communities, also shows that muffling hate speech alone does not address the root problem of racist propaganda and divisive politics.

By focussing on the outward manifestations and not the underlying issues, the public and the governments are handing the companies a job they c…