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Free Software Blocks Hate Sites

In an effort to combat dissemination of hate speech over the Internet, the Anti-Defamation League is giving away a new software product, HateFilter, to block access to inflammatory sites.

The software was unveiled during ADL's 85th annual National Commission meeting in Boston. The program blocks Internet sites which the ADL says "promote hate and violence against Jews, blacks, gays and other groups."

When a user encounters a blocked site, the software offers a link directly to a portion of the ADL Web site to learn more about bigotry and its effects. ADL's Web pages typically provide information about racist, anti-Semitic, and extremist individuals and groups who espouse their views on the Internet.

"Parents should be able to protect their children from hate by keeping bigotry and prejudice out of their homes," said Howard Berkowitz, ADL National Chairman. "Bigots are seducing children with online messages presented in full color with music and video, all designed to mask the hideousness of hate and attract and influence young people."

The ADL programs HateFilter, choosing sites to be blocked. Parents can switch off the filter with a password.

"We are engaged in a full-blown battle against high-tech hate," Berkowitz said. "For today's youth, the computer is what the television was for baby boomers. Yet, due to the nature of the Internet, it has the potential to be that much more insidious."

Hateful speech may be protected by the Constitution. "But it's also the right of parents and families to be able to block out things from their home that they don't want brought into their home," said Ari Schwartz, policy analyst for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Democracy and Technology, which believes the more kinds of filters available, the better.

But some fear that filters can weed out too much information, and set dangerous precedents for defining objectionable material.

"This is necessarily subjective," said David L. Sobel, general counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an Internet civil liberties group in Washington. "The problem becomes the question of who makes these decisions and does a parent really want to delegate that decision-making process to some third party?"

The software was designed in conjunction with Cyber Patrol, a software filter that claims to sift out sex, drugs, violence and hate speech from the Web.

The software can be downloaded from the ADL Web site at http://www.adl.org.

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