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Hate And Violence Sites Flourish On The Web

Content security vendor SurfControl says the number of Web sites promoting hate and violence has almost quadrupled in four years.

Web sites promoting hate and violence have grown 26% since January, according to a recent report by content security vendor SurfControl plc. According to the company's statistics, the number of hate and violence sites has almost quadrupled in four years.

Susan Larson, SurfControl's VP for global content, suggests there's been a convergence of sites advocating hate and those espousing violence.

Mark Weitzman, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Task Force Against Hate, confirms that the number of hate sites is on the rise, noting that in 1995, there was only one such site. Today, he says, there are more than 4,000. "In the last two to three years, there's been an explosion of extremist sites," he says. SurfControl, with a more expansive definition of what's objectionable, puts the number at more than 10,000.

For corporate IT managers, this trend threatens not those individuals targeted for discrimination and violence, but companies as well. When individuals access objectionable content in the workplace, the employer may be held liable. "It's an incredibly serious issue," says Richard Shaw, a partner at international law firm Jones Day. "It's serious because it has a lot of different aspects to it that impact the workplace." For example, evidence that the viewing of inappropriate content went unpunished at a company could prove damaging during litigation.

Shaw stresses the importance of having a written policy that eliminates ambiguity, has clear rules associated with it, and sets up clear expectations of employees.

Robby VanderKaay, director of IT operations and infrastructure at Hines, an international real estate developer, says that in a company of more than 2,000 users, there are going to be people accessing inappropriate content. "The biggest deterrent is probably the software we have in place to prevent it," he says, noting that the written policy doesn't so much prevent abuses as give the company a leg to stand on for disciplinary purposes.

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