Recognizing Warning Signs

The Jewish Anti-Defamation League urges that warning signs on the Internet, including threatening, hateful and violent material, be reported to responsible authorities. They also stress that the computer industry, educators, parents, civil rights groups, and government agencies “work together to develop new and creative approaches to the unprecedented challenges posed by online extremism.”

Circumstances have led some to look for legal solutions and the application of such case law as the Minnesota Supreme Court decision (in R.A.V. v City of St. Paul) which criminalized so-called “fighting words” which “one knows or has reasonable grounds to know arouse anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender.” Fighting words are those which will provoke violence from the person at whom they are directed. More than 50 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Chaplinsky v New Hampshire that such words were not protected by the First Amendment.

Still, solutions in the civil courts are uncertain, due in part to narrow interpretion of such case law and the prevailing necessity to protect freedom of expression.

Thus authorities also recommend that attention be given to disrelated or incidental criminal activity of hate perpetrators. Since disrespect for others’ rights goes hand in hand with disrespect for the law, it follows almost inevitably that other unlawful activity exists. Reporting and seeking prosecution or judicial curbs on such individuals for any law violations can deter crimes and possibly even save lives.