A new report from UK-based e-mail filtering company SurfControl says that the number of hate and violence websites has grown by nearly 300 per cent since 2000. The company said that in 2000, it was monitoring about 2,756 websites that were categorised as hate and violence sites. By April 2004, that figure had risen to 10,926.
Even more worrying, however, is that since January 2004, the number of sites that SurfControl considers hate and violence sites - or sites that promote hatred against Americans, Muslims, Jews, homosexuals and people of non-European ancestry, as well as graphic violence - have risen by over 25 per cent. During all of 2003, the number of such sites was up by 30 per cent.
The firm went on to claim that some existing hate sites have expanded in shocking or curious ways, such as the inclusion of graphic images of dead and mutilated human beings. Another example given by the company was a white supremacy website that included a dating service and a $1,000 scholarship contest for a student that could write the best essay on "actionable, practical solutions" for dealing with anyone who is not white.
"We've begun to see a convergence of sites promoting violence and those advocating hate," said Susan Larson, SurfControl's vice president for global content. "We monitor websites, tracking as they go from merely expressing strong opinions to using the language of hate, or as they cross the line from advocating hate to barely veiled threats of violence."
Driving the rise of hate sites, according to Larson, are hot political and cultural events such as new and proposed legislation to deal with homosexual marriages. Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" has also sparked an online firestorm from groups expressing hatred of non-Christian religious groups. Anti-Semitic sites, anti-Islamic and anti-American sites are also all on the rise in the last number of years.
"These sites seem to reflect a growing tolerance for anti-social behaviour and a polarisation of religious and political public opinion that attracts certain elements of the US population who share a fascination with extremist views," Larson said.
SurfControl said it announced the results of its research following news last week that the FBI would step up its monitoring of Web hate group sites after the conviction in the US of white supremacist Matthew Hale on charges that he sought to have a federal judge murdered.