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To gauge the wealth of bigotry in cyberspace, attorney Christopher Wolf suggests googling the word “Jew.” At No. 2 on Google’s catalog of referenced sites is “Jew Watch,” which provides a numbing list of alleged crimes and conspiracies, including one of the oldest chestnuts of anti-Semitic propaganda, “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.” It falls to Wolf, elected chairman of the International Network Against Cyber-Hate during the organization’s fourth annual conference last month in New York, to fight against a high-tech version of old-fashioned odium. Law enforcement officials, including city, state and federal authorities who attended the conference, see the Internet as a modern-day communications tool for terrorism. Even a casual surfer can call up instructions on how to convert a cell phone into a remote detonator, for instance, or how to construct a briefcase bomb. “But still, the Internet has done far more good than bad,” said Wolf, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Proskauer Rose and, perhaps ironically, a pioneer in Internet law. “But now the people who used to meet in dark alleys and send materials to each other in plain brown wrappers have found out how powerful it is.” He warned, “They use the Internet to proselytize, to spread their hate and to foster real-world brick-and-mortar crimes.” So what can lawyers do about vile words in a country where freedom of speech is the first order of business according to the Bill of Rights? “A legal solution is not the best one,” Wolf said in an interview. “The First Amendment is an invaluable part of our Constitution that will not change and should not change. It allows incredibly repugnant speech. But our forefathers and our leaders ever since are convinced that that’s a compromise we ought to make.” Education, he said, is the key. “We can educate our kids on how to view this stuff, how to analyze it, how to put it into context,” he said, explaining a good measure of his organization’s work. “You wouldn’t allow your kids to wander around the city without a map, would you?” In addition, pressure may be brought to bear on Google, for instance, which publishes the following advisory at the top of the results to a search for “Jew”: If you recently used Google to search for the word ‘Jew,’ you may have seen results that were very disturbing. … A site’s ranking in Google’s search results is automatically determined by computer algorithms using thousands of factors to calculate a page’s relevance to a given query. … We apologize for the upsetting nature of the experience you had using Google. Brian Marcus, director of Internet monitoring for the civil rights division of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which sponsors Wolf’s organization, notes that freedom of speech is hardly absolute. “People have this idea that you can say anything you want on the Internet, but when you’re on the ‘net you’ve entered into contractual agreement with an access provider,” said Marcus. “You have to accept general policies and rules, one of them being that you can’t use a private Internet service to spread certain messages. The First Amendment is a constraint on the government, not on private business.” He added, “We’ve had [access providers] that carry unbelievably horrific materials and these companies might say, ‘Well, we don’t think it’s so bad.’ That’s their right, but most companies, when you point out something that’s anti-Semitic or overtly racist — they act like good corporate citizens.” There is no legal obligation to take down these sites, said Marcus. “But the morality of the question is laid on the companies.” Wolf worries about the more insidious matter of sites that appear to be academic. Internet researchers are often linked to sites with reassuringly stuffy names such as “The Occidental Quarterly” or the “Institute for Historical Review,” both of which contain a mix of mainstream press reports, essays that appear initially to be legitimate works of scholarship and the noxious notions of neo-Nazis. “There’s even one site that appears to be a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. But when you drill down far enough, you discover it’s a hate site,” said Wolf. Yet another site referenced to the late civil rights leader yields an array of pornographic images. Wolf’s organization, and the ADL generally, report sites of concern to law enforcement agencies throughout the world. In some countries where hate speech is circumscribed — Germany, France and Canada, where Holocaust denial is a crime — site operators use U.S. access providers to skirt the law. Likewise, certain Islamic jihadists operate sites in U.S. jurisdictions. Such efforts are conversely resisted by hate groups, which sometimes employ domain names evidently meant to besmirch the object of their prejudice. In an action brought by Wolf before the World Intellectual Property Organization’s online arbitration and mediation center, a virulently anti-Semitic site calling itself ADLUSA.com was accused of infringing the trademark of his client, the Anti-Defamation League. Wolf prevailed against defendant Boris Pribich of Simi Valley, Calif. According to the ruling, Pribich has until early next month to either take down his site or appeal the adverse decision. Meanwhile, Pribich has posted a photo of Wolf on his site, which declares, among other things, “The Jewish ADL will soon have to answer for treason against United States.”

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