Christopher Wolf on hate speech on the Internet

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October 29, 2013 · 2 comments

Christopher Wolf, director of the law firm Hogan Lovells’ Privacy and Information Management group, addresses his new book with co-author Abraham Foxman, Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet. To what extent do hateful or mean-spirited Internet users hide behind anonymity? How do we balance the protection of the First Amendment online while addressing the spread of hate speech? Wolf discusses how to define hate speech on the Internet; whether online hate speech leads to real-world violence; how news sites like the Huffington Post and New York Times have dealt with anonymity;¬†lessons we should impart on the next generation of Internet users to discourage hate speech;¬†and cases where anonymity has proved particularly beneficial or valuable.



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  • Linda Catoe


    In my Digital Media Ethics class, we have been discussing possible solutions to combating hate commenting, that hides behind First Amendment rights in anonymous postings. As more companies like the NY Times and the Huffington Post give priority to named posts and address these issues without stepping on the toes of free speech, anonymous hate speech will lose its appeal. Moreover, I am especially encouraged by the idea of using counter speech to neutralize hate websites and by the idea of Google stepping up to the plate, providing a link to the ADL website and a note addressing the nature of hate sites. Along with what Adam Thierer termed a “rigorous” Internet literacy and education campaign on the local level, working in tandem with Internet intermediaries and civil rights activist like the ADL, I can actually see viable solutions to online hate. Thank you for your work and here’s to your new book.

  • Linda Catoe


    I just listened to the Chris Wolf podcast. In my Digital Media Ethics student, we have been discussing online anonymity and the issues facing news sites and other websites with commenting features in the tendency of inflammatory or hate mongers to post comments anonymously.

    Although I realize the value of anonymity for marginalized factions of the online community, and for users seeking info anonymously, I am encouraged by the actions of The New York Times and the Huffington Post in prioritizing named posts over anonymous posts as a way of curbing hate speech. Most of all, I am encouraged by the idea of Google stepping up to the plate with a special note concerning hate websites in search results, along with the implementation of counter speech and by providing a link to the ADL site alongside known hate sites. With the advocacy of digital literacy campaigns on the rise at the local level, plus Internet intermediaries and civil and human rights organizations intervening on global and national levels, I can actually see real solutions to combatting the growing wave of hate speech on the Internet without stepping on anyone’s right to free speech.