A powerful medium for communication, the Internet has a dark side; the ease with which information is shared comes with a price. Every day, individuals and organizations use the power of the Internet as a shield to spread vitriol aimed at racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities, and other targets. Calls for violence, bigoted rants, lies, bullying, and conspiracy theories circulate openly on the Web, with effects on individuals and society that are profound – and dangerous. Is there an antidote to the virus of hate that has infected the Internet? Or is the problem too big to address?
In Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet (Palgrave Macmillan, June 2013), Abraham H. Foxman and Christopher Wolf examine the epidemic of Internet hate and provide examples of the real harm online hate does to people and to society. As they explain, “Words of hate can easily turn into acts of hate.” Foxman and Wolf expose how individuals and organizations from both the left and right, emboldened by anonymity and without worrying about repercussions, are freely spewing hateful vitriol on the Internet. The authors expose the threat that this unregulated flow of bigotry poses to the world, exploring how social media companies are struggling to reconcile the demands of business with freedom of speech.
Then they look at the options society has for addressing the problem, showing that the principles of free expression and the dangers of censorship make legal action the least viable option.
But that does not mean that society must simply accept Internet hate. Viral Hate is a call for increased action by Internet companies to speak out against hate-filled content and to take active steps toward a more civil Internet. It also provides a clear guide to the roles parents, teachers, and ordinary citizens can play to counteract the presence and effects of online hate.
“Abe Foxman and Chris Wolf have done a remarkable job in Viral Hate of balancing important concerns about freedom of expression with a blunt look at how the Internet can distort those freedoms to undermine a democratic society that we cherish. This is a significant book that will provoke discussion and the good news is that it is thoroughly readable as well.”
— Mike McCurry, Former Press Secretary to President Bill Clinton; Partner, Public Strategies Washington
“At a time when many question whether the First Amendment is up to the challenge of hate speech in a borderless medium, ( the authors)(Foxman and Wolf) argue that fealty to first principles must remain the lodestar. While the global Internet may have amplified the voices of hate, it has also enriched the responses available in our constitutional tool box. Our capacity for counter speech, education and responsible action is now unbounded. It is now up to all who benefit from the open Internet to heed the call.”
— Leslie Harris, President, CEO, Center for Democracy & Technology
“The trade-off between freedom of speech on the one end and the right to be protected from vicious wide spread hatred and bigotry on the other end was never more essential, more challenging, more urgent, and more tricky than it is today. The internet being, for better or worse, the ever-biggest propagation engine in history, makes it all the more critical. This tricky balance is thoroughly discussed by Abe Foxman and Christopher Wolf. A must read.”
— Yossi Vardi, Founding Investor, ICQ (Computer Instant Messaging Program)
“A straightforward, relevant discourse on the pernicious nature of online intimidation.”
— Kirkus Reviews
"Their book explains why the best approach to online hate is a combination of education, digital literacy, user empowerment, industry best practices and self-regulation, increased watchdog / press oversight, social pressure and, most importantly, counter-speech. Foxman and Wolf also explain why — no matter how well-intentioned — legal solutions aimed at eradicating online hate will not work and would raise serious unintended consequences if imposed. In striking this sensible balance, Foxman and Wolf have penned the definitive book on how to constructively combat viral hate in an age of ubiquitous information flows."
— Adam Thierer, Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center, George Mason University