On September 23, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) announced the release of “Best Practices for Responding to Cyberhate,” a new initiative that establishes guideposts for the industry and the Internet community to help prevent the spread of online hate speech.
The Best Practices <http://www.adl.org/cyberhatebestpractices> initiative is the outcome of months of discussions and deliberations by an industry Working Group on Cyberhate convened by ADL in an effort to develop a coordinated approach to the growing problem of online hate speech, including anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, racism, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia and other forms of online hate.
Members of the Working Group included leading Internet providers, civil society leaders, representatives of the legal community, and academia.
As participants in the Working Group, representatives of Facebook, Google/YouTube, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo have expressed support for ADL’s efforts. They were among those who offered advice to ADL in the formulation of the Best Practices, and the final document embodies some of their own current practices.
In conjunction with this announcement, these companies are taking new steps to remind their own communities of their policies regarding online hate and how users can respond when they encounter it.
“We challenged ourselves collectively to come up with effective ways to confront online hatred, to educate about its dangers and to encourage individuals and communities to speak out,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and co-author, with Christopher Wolf, of Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet. “The Best Practices are not a call for censorship, but rather a recognition that effective strategies are needed to ensure that providers and the wider Internet community work together to address the harmful consequences of online hatred. This is an opportunity for the Internet community to present a united front in the fight against cyberhate.”
“It is our hope the Best Practices will provide useful and important guideposts for all those willing to join in the effort to address the challenge of cyberhate,” said Christopher Wolf and Art Reidel, ADL leaders and co-chairs of the Working Group. “We urge members of the Internet community to express their support for this effort and to publicize their own independent efforts to counter cyberhate. We believe that, if adopted widely, these Best Practices could contribute significantly to countering cyberhate.”
The Best Practices call on providers to:
1. 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. Offer user-friendly mechanisms and procedures for reporting hateful content.
4. Respond to user reports in a timely manner.
5. Enforce whatever sanctions their terms of service contemplate in a consistent and fair manner.
The Best Practices call on the Internet Community to:
1. Work together to address the harmful consequences of online hatred.
2. 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. Share knowledge and help develop educational materials and programs that encourage critical thinking in both proactive and reactive online activity.
4. Encourage other interested parties to help raise awareness of the problem of cyberhate and the urgent need to address it.
5. Welcome new thinking and new initiatives to promote a civil online environment.
ADL has long played a leading role in raising awareness about hate on the Internet and working with major industry providers to address the challenge it poses. 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 ADL to convene the Working Group on Cyberhate, including representatives of the Internet industry, civil society, the legal community and academia, with a mandate to develop recommendations for the most effective response to manifestations of hate and bigotry online.
In the coming weeks, ADL and industry leaders will be urging others in the Internet community to join in this effort. A number expressed support for the initiative on its launch on September 23.
“Facebook supports ADL’s efforts to address and counter cyberhate, and the best practices outlined today provide valuable ways for all members of the Internet community to engage on this issue,” said Monika Bickert, head of global policy management at Facebook. “We are committed to creating a safe and respectful platform for everyone who uses Facebook.”
“Every day, millions of people post content on YouTube, Blogger, and Google+. In order to maintain a safe and vibrant community across our platforms, we offer tools to report hateful content, and act quickly to remove content that violates our policies,” Google said in a statement. “We support the ADL’s continued efforts to combat hatred online.”
“Microsoft is committed to providing a safe and enjoyable online experience for our customers, and to enforcing policies against abuse and harassment on our online services, while continuing to keep freedom of speech and free access to information as top priorities,” said Dan Bross, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship at Microsoft. “The Best Practices document is a tool that can foster discussion within the community and advance efforts to combat harassment and threats online.”
Twitter supports the ADL’s work to increase tolerance and raise awareness around the difficult issue of online hate, the company said in a statement. “We encourage the internet community to seek diverse perspectives and keep these best practices in mind when dealing with difficult situations online.”