Cyberhate was initially spread in emails and chat rooms but with social networking sites like Facebook. Social networking sites are intended to allow people to socialize with known or unknown individuals for the purpose of networking, friendship, sharing and entertainment. Cyberhate is the use of the internet to spread bigoted or hateful messages or information about people based on their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or other similar characteristic.  Cyberhate has become a growing concern in our society, especially for young people because of their active engagement on social media.

Cyberhate is initiated by hate groups with the purpose of attracting new members, building and strengthening group identity, coordinating group action, distributing propagandistic messages and indoctrination, provoking counter reactions as part of propagandistic campaigns, and attacking societal groups and individuals with hateful messages. A large segment of research under the label “cyberhate” has focused on racist and xenophobic groups (especially white supremacist groups in the United States) and their use of email, websites, blogs, and social online networks. However, the general principles and functions of cyberhate can be identified in the online communication of other extremist groups as well, for instance religious extremists with comparable supremacy, separatist, or extermination ideologies. Typically these groups portray themselves as being oppressed or endangered by a far more powerful, misguided, or despicable enemy, as part of an attempt to justify unrestrained hate and extreme actions.

Sites like Facebook, Twitter and others are now misused to the greatest possible extent. According to a report of Simon Wiesenthal Center titled “Facebook, YouTube +: How Social Media Outlets Impact Digital Terrorism and Hate,” there is a significant surge on the growth of problematic social networking groups on the Internet. The report was based on “over 10,000 problematic websites, social networking groups, portals, blogs, chat rooms, videos and hate games on the Internet which promote racial violence, anti-semitism, homophobia, hate music and terrorism.” According to the report “Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have both seen a huge proliferation of extremist use with the greatest increase from overseas, particularly Europe and the Middle East”. The most often targeted groups in these social networking websites are Jews, Catholics, Hispanics Muslims, Hindus, Blacks, LGBT community, women and Immigrants.

A spokesperson for Facebook said that users are told they cannot post content that “makes threats of any kind or that intimidates, harasses, or bullies anyone, is derogatory, demeaning, malicious, defamatory, abusive, offensive or hateful”. Today the benefits of the internet are being reaped in both a positive as well as a negative manner. While the global community has become a tight knit space for communications through social media it has also provided an easy platform for online victimization.

There are several ways of fighting Cyberhate. One can ignore the hate communications, resist the temptation to respond or share, support friends (and social media friends) who are experiencing hateful communications, report incidents to law enforcement, employers and in some cases speak out using social media platforms.

Germany approves tough new cyberhate law; courtesy Euronews