Race Discrimination Unit, HREOC, October 2002
This paper examines the problem of racism on the Internet or "cyber-racism". It illustrates the types of Internet material that are of concern to racial equality and human rights groups in this country and the international community. The web addresses or names of the racist sites sampled are not included so as to avoid inadvertently publicising these groups. The term 'racial hatred' is used in this paper to describe communication that is unlawful under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.  The term 'racial vilification' is used to denote racially offensive communication and actions that are prohibited under state or federal law in Australia. By contrast, terms such as 'racism' and 'racist material' do not indicate any assessment of the lawfulness or otherwise of the conduct. The terms 'racism' or 'racist' are used to denote an attitude of racial superiority that may be considered offensive by many people, but which may nevertheless be lawful in Australia. 
The Internet is increasingly used by racist groups to disseminate racist ideology, as well as to communicate to, organise and mobilize members and raise finances through the sale of racist merchandise. According to several theorists, the nature of the Internet makes it a particularly valuable tool for racist groups because:
- Racist groups do not usually have access to the regular mass media;
- Racist groups are often internationally organised and the Internet is a global communication system;
- Internet technology is easily used and available at low cost; and
- Repression of racist activities on the Internet is not yet efficient 
There are various forms of racist activity on the Internet. These include websites, computer games, emails, chat-rooms, discussion groups and music merchandising. Recent analysis suggests that these different forms of activity play different roles in the propagation of racism. Websites are generally static mediums that advertise racist ideology and refer individuals to other racist resources such as discussion groups.  More interactive mediums, such as email, chat-rooms and discussion groups, create the 'sense of community' and interrelation  that is essential to ideological persuasion, membership recruitment, and incitement to racist violence. Music and computer game merchandising also plays an important role in propagating and reinforcing racist ideology and recruiting new members into racist groups, particularly for young people.  Websites are therefore important tools for the dissemination of racist ideas. Yet emails, chat-rooms, discussion groups and game and music merchandising, all of which have traditionally received less attention than websites, should also be of concern to those wishing to address racism on the Internet.
Examples from each of these different forms of racist activity are set out below and are taken, where possible, from Australian created content.
The first website of a racist group was created on the Internet in 1995.  While it is clear that there has been an increase in the number of racist sites on the Internet, it is difficult to estimate exact numbers. The rapidly changing nature of Internet content makes such estimates difficult, as does the changing configuration of racist groups  and the variation in the definitions used.  Estimates of the number of racist websites have ranged from 600 sites or fewer  to more than 2,000 sites. 
In many respects, the actual number of sites is less important than their impact. The material posted on such sites has the capacity to disseminate degrading notions of racial inferiority and cause offence, humiliation and social division. Websites can also facilitate recruitment into racist groups and assist in financing their activities. For these reasons, the emergence of cyber-racism has prompted concern by the United Nations and other racial equality agencies in recent years. 
Examples of text and images from websites created by individuals or groups within Australia
The following text and images are taken from sites created by Australians, so they illustrate the domestic relevance of the problem of cyber-racism.  In 2002 there were approximately 25 Australian-created racist websites on the Internet.  The examples below illustrate the content of 6 of these.
"…it is a world run by the Zionist Jewish Influence and Race Tainting Paedophiles that are only here to rape our heritage and destroy the qualities that make us White People great…"
"We are rarely informed that the Aborigines were a Cannibalistic peoples who were saved from extinction by Captain Cook, as he brought some variety to their diet…"
"If we do not stand now and perform our god given duty to keep OUR country clean of all the Blacks, Jews and Yellow scum from Asia, WE are just as bad as the enemy, if not worse. We are trading our race for that of an inferior form of trash.
STAND AND FIGHT OR SIT AND DIE
HAIL WODEN!! HEIL HITLER!! WHITE POWER!!"
"…look at the bizarre form of transvestitism that (non Muslim) Arab Women practice. No amount of 'big hair', tight skirts, pancake makeup and electrolysis can conceal the fact that they are not attractive Women. They end up looking like cheap drag queens, a parody of Woman. I personally prefer a Woman with less facial hair than myself! The Birka, or full Arab headdress has far less to do with Muslim female modesty than it has to do with the embarrassment of the Muslim Arab male at his wife's ugliness…. ."
"Arabs… have little or no knowledge of personal hygiene products such as deodorant or even soap… nothing has ever turned my stomach like the fetid stench of unwashed wogs!"
"Every second or third face is Asian and their slitted almond eyes bore straight through you. Through the genetic window of their black eyes you can see the brutal and pitiless Mongol hordes from another time and place lurking just below the surface. It is indeed a thin veneer of 'civilization' that holds this yellow monster within, but make no mistake, like the kraken of old it will awake when the time is right."
This same site contains the following anti-Semitic image:
Despite claiming not to advocate violence against other races, one site contains offensive images and cartoons that can be downloaded, including the following:
Several of these sites also have Guestbooks where visitors to the site can post comments. The following is an example of one vilificatory posting:
"GET THE F*** OUT OF OUR COUNTRY
NIGGERS,SPICS,KIKES,SANDNIGGERS,ANDCHINKS are ALL theS*** that makes our COUNTRY STINK…." (expletives edited)
Racial purity is also another principal concern of many sites. For example, the following image can be found on one site:
This same site promotes white supremacy and is strongly opposed to immigration, as illustrated by the following publication:
…EASY STEPS TO A BETTER NATION
1. PAULINE HANSON TO RUN THE COUNTRY.
2. REINTRODUCTION OF THE WHITE AUSTRALIA POLICY.
3. MASS DEPORTATION OF ALL PARASITES AND SUBHUMANS.
4. AUSTRALIAN NAVY TO PERMANENTLY REMOVE ANY INVADING BOAT PEOPLE FROM THE SEA.
5. ALL RETARDS, DOWNS AND TIMMEH'S TO BE STERILISED AND DETAINED IN CAMPS.
6. RACE TRAITORS TO BE PUBLICLY CASTRATED AS AN EXAMPLE TO WOULD BES.
7. IF YOU'RE NOT WHITE YOU'RE NOT WELCOME!
One page, entitled "Politically Incorrect Humour", contains the following:
"Dictionary: Coon (c-oo-n) n. Nigger (nig-er) n. Abo (a-bb-o) n. Boong (b-OO-ng) n.
An Australian anthropoid scrub ape of the primate family Austropongidae (superfamily cercopithecoidea). Escaping from Africa in prehistory, these wild creatures now roam freely, while destroying the economic and social infrastructures of Australia and various other nations. These flamboyant sub-humans love to consume large quantities of greasy fried chicken, inhale petroleum gasoline and listen to fellow apes "sing" rhymes over deaf beats. One can find these lazy sub-humans infesting areas of the world called urban slums."
"How do you get a coon out of a tree?
Cut the rope."
"How do you make a dead coon float?
Take your foot off its head and let it rise to the surface."
"What is the correct way to stare at a coon?
Down a gun barrel."
"What's the difference between a Jew and a pizza?
Pizzas don't scream when you put them in the oven."
It is important to emphasise that these sites have been created by people in Australia. The issue of whether these sites do, in fact, breach the Racial Discrimination Act is properly a matter of formal investigation and/or judicial determination.
There are, of course, many more racist sites on the Internet that are created by individuals or groups from countries other than Australia. In many cases the information on the sites created outside of Australia is even more extreme than that contained on sites created locally. This is particularly the case for sites created in America, where the First Amendment protects freedom of speech to the extent that racial vilification is lawful. Furthermore, text and images from sites created off-shore (and the racist ideology that attends them) is often 'copied' by many local site creators. Sites created off-shore are then a serious problem for Australia, not only with respect to the extremity of their racist content, but also because of their direct effect in disseminating racist ideology. Off-shore sites also present unique problems with respect to regulation which is a recurring issue for Internet regulators and industry.
Recent analysis suggests that websites act like 'brochures' for racist ideology, and as 'portals' providing links to an array of merchandise or more interactive forums such as discussion groups.  As a static, non-interactive medium, websites cannot offer the type of interaction and interrelation that is necessary to social movement commitment and mobilization. Consequently, it seems that websites are less directly important than originally thought in the recruitment of uninitiated people into extremist groups.  Nevertheless, the referral role of websites plays a particularly important indirect role in sustaining and propagating racist ideology and, ultimately, in incitements to racial violence. Furthermore, it does not diminish the offensiveness nor, potentially, the unlawful nature, of the ideas published on them.
Computer games are another form of racial vilification that is emerging through the Internet. These include racist computer games with titles such as Ethnic Cleansing, Concentration Camp, Nigger Hunt and Shoot the Blacks. These games are marketed and sold via the Internet, and segments of them can be downloaded and sampled by Internet users. Currently, there are approximately 20 racist computer games advertised or distributed via the Internet, most of which are marketed by American racist sites.
One of the more sophisticated CD-ROM computer games currently available on-line is the game called Ethnic Cleansing. The game, principally advertised by an on-line white power music distributor, was released in 2002 on Martin Luther King Day.  The object of the game is to kill "sub-humans", namely Negros and Latinos, and their Jewish "masters". It has been observed that games such as these turn racially motivated violence into "entertainment". 
The promotional material for the computer game Ethnic Cleansing states:
Run through the ghetto blasting away various blacks and spics in an attempt to gain entrance to the subway system...where the jews have hidden to avoid the carnage. Then if your lucky you can blow away jews as they scream "Oy Vey!", on your way to their command center.
The player can choose to have their character dress in KKK robes or as a Skinhead during the game. Various white-power symbols can be seen throughout the game and it is played to a white power music soundtrack.
The site contains the following promotional picture of a black person who has been shot:
The same group that produced Ethnic Cleansing has stated it will release a new game based upon The Turner Diaries by William Pierce.  The Turner Diaries is widely cited by racist groups and it portrays a world wide race war involving the destruction of all non-Whites and Jews by white Aryans through the use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
This form of racial vilification has important implications not only for human rights agencies. The issue is also relevant to Internet content regulators in establishing acceptable standards for computer game content and then classifying Internet content accordingly. The advertisement of these games may also constitute the marketing and sale of unlawful material in Australia.
Racist ideologies and ideas are also disseminated through music and particularly the lyrics of neo-Nazis bands which produce music variously called Hatecore, Oi!, Volk Music, White Power Rock, and the like.  The dominant themes of this genre of music are white supremacy, vilification of Jews, race war, violence and (since the 1990s) "Odinist" religious themes.  Internet marketing of racist music has provided a means by which potentially unlawful material is sold and distributed in Australia.
Racist music is principally derived from the far-right skinhead movement and, through the Internet, this music has become "perhaps the most important tool of the international neo-Nazi movement to gain revenue and new recruits."  The distribution of rock hate music via the Internet has come to prominence since the establishment in 1999 of a highly successful US on-line music distribution company. This company is owned by an American neo-Nazi group. It is thought to have a turn-over of more than US$1 million per annum and markets more than 250 CD titles. 
Examples of racist music include the album Racially Motivated Violence which contains songs entitled "Still Just a Nigger", "Race Mixing is Treason", "Mud Man" and "Islam (Religion of Whores)". Another of the band's albums is titled "Too White For You" and the lyrics from the song "Racially Debased" on this album include the following:
The mud brown child that's been given birth
The beating of your life is what it is worth…
My hands are around your neck
Your error is mine to correct
The air slowly dwindles away
Your defiled body, on the ground it lays.
These and other racist lyrics are accessible on the Internet in written form or through audio samples.
Internet marketing of racist music is important as this music is generally not available in record stores in Australia.  Therefore, the Internet provides a distribution avenue not previously available to Australian citizens. Moreover, some of the lyrics of hatecore music may breach the provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act. Consequently, the Internet has become a means by which potentially unlawful material is sold and distributed in Australia.
Profits from the sale of music CDs are one means by which racist groups are able to finance their operations and publications.
Racist music is also thought to be important in the recruitment of new members into racist groups. Several extremist groups have articulated the potential of music as a recruitment and ideological propagation tool. David Goldman, who established the well-known hate monitoring website "HateWatch",  has explained this potential in the following way:
Once you start listening, buying CDs, maybe it's time to take that next step and go to one of the concerts. That's where the next step, actual recruitment, takes place. 
Accordingly, hatecore music on the Internet raises important issues regarding the dissemination of racially offensive material, the distribution of potentially unlawful material in Australia, the financing of racist groups and the recruitment of new members into these groups.
Internet radio stations that specialise in racist issues are also an emerging problem, as are audio downloads from the Internet that contain racist ideology. 
Open publishing sites have also been reported to contain racist material that may be unlawful. Open publishing is a concept strongly grounded in the ideology of free speech, in that through the open publishing media site, the public is able to contribute news stories and see these instantly appear on the web. These stories "are filtered as little as possible to help the readers find the stories they want…" 
Some open publishing sites are alleged to have published racially vilificatory material which was contributed by members of the public, including comments such as "the Jewish culture is about thievery and back-stabbing evilness". 
The adoption of racist ideology by an individual involves attitudinal, and even behavioural change, and such adjustments are most effectively fostered by a 'sense of community' and interaction. As has been noted "whilst a sense of community is very difficult to engender on static Web sites, it is natural to the lively exchanges that typify Net discussion groups."  This makes the more interactive mediums on the Internet an important means of propagating racist ideology and behaviour. These interactive mediums can, however, be more difficult to monitor and evaluate and may also raise issues as to the reach of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
Email is a particularly powerful organisational tool for racist groups because it allows direct communication. The 'listserves' and 'newsgroups' operated by many of these groups dramatically enhance the distribution of racist ideology through email. Its capacity to influence individuals exploring racist ideology is considerable, "particularly when somebody of the stature of a Don Black [who launched the first racist website in 1995] sends you a personalized e-mail message." 
The Racial Discrimination Act will not always apply to emails however. An email would probably be considered private (and beyond the reach of the Act) unless it was forwarded by one of the correspondants to others. Emails between friends, for example, are private and therefore not affected by the Racial Discrimination Act. It is important to clarify, however, that it is an offence in Australia to harass another person, including by email, so vilificatory material privately posted to another is not always legal. Furthermore, emails distributed more broadly than between people with a personal relationship would immediately raise doubts as to the privacy of the communication.
In October 2002 a racist email was reported to have been distributed randomly through a computer virus in the Northern Territory.  There have also been reports of other types of racist mass emails targeting particular racial groups in Australia, and this type of circulation has similarities to the problem of unsolicited bulk email or 'SPAM'.
Chat-rooms are also mediums where racist communications take place and these forums can often be classified as public and therefore within the reach of the legislation. Many racist sites also have links to specialised discussion groups. Yahoo! in the United States currently facilitates approximately 143 e-groups concerned with racism and hate, whilst MSN (US) facilitates approximately 17 such groups.  The figures for Australian e-groups are yet to be researched.
The extent to which a password or other protective device takes a chat-room discussion communication into the private realm (and beyond the reach of the Act) would need to be evaluated on a case by case basis. In most cases, it does seem that the ease and openness of access to most on-line chat-rooms and discussion groups would disqualify them from claiming to be 'private'.
There are several reasons why discussion groups are of concern to racial equality groups.  One is that discussion groups increasingly require individuals to obtain passwords and, sometimes, the consent of the larger group in order to participate. Within such closed venues racist ideology is 'uncontested' by broader public views, which for some can amplify the persuasiveness of the ideology being expressed. Furthermore, the type of interaction available in a discussion group is important to ideological persuasion. David Goldman poses the question "Think about how you convince somebody of a proposition, any proposition."  The answer, he says, is by relating to the person's concerns and issues, establishing these as shared, and then proposing the reason for these problems - in this case, blaming minority and ethnic groups. This sort of interaction is particularly important for alienated people who may be vulnerable to recruitment into extremist groups. It allows such people to find a sense of identity within the group and to be persuaded that the blame for their circumstances or concerns is grounded in race.
It is important to add that such membership groups are not necessarily 'private' for the purposes of the Racial Discrimination Act as acquiring membership may still be a reasonably easy matter. Again, a case by case analysis would be necessary.
In addition, the anonymity of discussion groups is important. For potential members there is a perceived risk in becoming directly involved in an extremist group, particularly for the first time. As Todd Schroer has noted, "If you have to go to a Klan rally or actually write to [groups] to get involved in hate, that's a big barrier to overcome."  Many people, particularly young people, would feel more secure attending a "virtual cross burning"  than a real one, and this anonymity permits "a safe exploration of extremist ideology" for potential recruits. 
Finally, discussion groups, and also the more interactive mediums generally such as emails, etc, reinforce racism. It is not safe, or widely acceptable, for a person to publicly advertise their racist views or behaviour. Discussion groups create an environment where "racists can congratulate one another and urge each other on to violence." 
Due to the success of interactive Internet mediums in propagating racist ideology and recruiting members to racist groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center concludes that racist groups and individual propagandists will increasingly utilise the more private Net venues. Given the fact that some of these interactive mediums at least purport to be private, this trend potentially has important implications in the application of the Racial Discrimination Act.
This paper has provided an overview of the different types of racist activity on the Internet together with illustrations of these. It demonstrates that the issue of racism on the Internet is serious and takes many different forms. The fact that these sites were accessed as part of HREOC's Australian-based research evidences that the regulatory regime in Australia is not yet effective in preventing racist material. The focus upon Australian-created content also illustrates that this is not simply a problem generated by other countries, even though the dimensions of the problem are significantly expanded by overseas postings on the Internet.
1. The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 was amended by the Racial Hatred Act 1995. The term 'racial hatred' is taken from the title of this federal amending legislation, even though the term is not used in its text.
2. I consider this in the particular context of the exemptions in the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 which permit a range of offensive material to be communicated, provided it is done reasonably and in good faith (that is, without malice).
3. Monitor Racisme en extreme rechts, vierde rapportage, p. 45 (http://www.meldpunt.nl/content/2001monitor.pdf) as cited by Professor Henrik Kaspersen, Director of the Computer Law Institute, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands in his keynote presentation at HREOC's Cyber-racism Symposium held in Sydney on 22 October 2002. See link: Cyber-Racism and the Council of Europe's reply.
4. Southern Poverty Law Centre, "Reevaluating the Net", Intelligence Report Spring 2001, www.splcenter.org, p.2, accessed 22/08/2002.
5. ibid; also "Cyberhate Revisited", Intelligence Report Spring 2001, www.splcenter.org, p.2, accessed 22/08/2002.
6. Southern Poverty Law Centre, "Cyberhate Revisited", op.cit, p.3, accessed 22/08/2002.
7. The much-publicized "Stormfront" site created by Don Black.
8. For example, "large groups are getting larger as many small ones disappear": Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report Winter 2000, op.cit, p.2, accessed on 25/08/2002.
9. Some define racial hatred according to "incitement to violence" parameters (a US emphasis) while others use the term to delineate a meaning concerned with 'generating hatred towards racial groups'. See, for example, Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report Winter 2000, www.splcenter.org, p.2, accessed on 25/08/2002.
10. Les Back, "Aryans reading Adorno: cyber-culture and twenty-first century racism", Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol.25, No.4, July 2002, p.629, specifically referring to English language sites.
11. Estimate by the European Union's racism monitoring unit in November 2000. See 'Netnews', on The Guardian Unlimited, www.guardian.co.uk, accessed on 22/8/02.
12. Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "Review of Reports, Studies and Other Documentation for the Preparatory Committee and the World Conference", World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, UN Doc. A/CONF.189/PC.2/12, 27th April 2001; General Assembly, Fifty-seventh session, Measures to combat contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, 11 July 2002, http://www.unhchr.ch/huridocda/huridoca.nsf/(Symbol)/A.CONF.189.PC.2.12.En?Opendocument.
13. HREOC has decided not to publish the web addresses or names of the racial hatred sites examined in this paper in order to avoid inadvertently promoting these sites through media or other interest.
14. This does not include music and discussion sites, which will be addressed separately below.
15. Southern Poverty Law Center, "Reevaluating the Net", op.cit, p.2, accessed 22/08/2002.
16. Southern Poverty Law Center, "Cyberhate Revisited", op.cit, p.2, accessed 22/08/2002.
17. Anti-Defamation League, "Racist Groups Using Computer Gaming to Promote Violence Against Blacks, Latinos and Jews", 19 February 2002, http://www.adl.org/videogames/default.asp, accessed 1/10/02.
20. Tzvi Fleishcher, "Sounds of Hate. The Neo-Nazi music scene in Australia and beyond", The Review, Australian/Israel Jewish Affairs Council, Vol.25, No.8, August 2000, at http://www.aijac.org.au/review/2000/258/sounds.html. p.1
21. Michael Shannon, "Sounds of Violence". The Australian Nazi Music Scene", The Australian/Israel Review, 11-24 April, 1997, p.2. The old German and Scandinavian pantheon of gods, such as Odin, Thor, Loki, Frey, etc.
22. Tzvi Fleishcher, op.cit. p.1
23. ibid, p.4
24. ibid, p.5; Michael Shannon, "Sounds of Violence". The Australian Nazi Music Scene", The Australian/Israel Review, 11-24 April, 1997, p.2.
25. Goldman shut the site in 2001.
26. Southern Poverty Law Center, "Cyberhate Revisited", op.cit, accessed 2/10/2002, p.3
27. For example, one Australian site has 'lectures' from the leader of a hate group that can be downloaded by users.
28. Matthew Arnison, Indymedia, "Open publishing is the same as free software", March 2001, accessed 23/09/02, p.1
29. Quoted in Jeremy Jones, "Alternative's reality", The Review, Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), September 2002 http://www.aijac.org.au/main-pages/review_frontp.html, accessed 20/9/02.
30. Southern Poverty Law Center, "Reevaluating the Net", op.cit, p.1, accessed 22/08/2002.
31. Southern Poverty Law Center, "Cyberhate Revisited", op.cit, p.2, accessed 22/08/2002.
32. "Racist e-mail", Northern Territory News, 5/10/02, p.5.
33. Raymond Franklin, The Hate Directory, Release 6.2, 1 October 2002, accessed 7/10/02.
34. These are overviewed Southern Poverty Law Center, "Reevaluating the Net", op.cit, p.2, accessed 22/08/2002.
35. Southern Poverty Law Center, "Reevaluating the Net", op.cit, p.2, accessed 22/08/2002.
36. Todd Schroer as cited in Southern Poverty Law Center, "Reevaluating the Net", op.cit, p.2, accessed 22/08/2002.
37. Southern Poverty Law Center, "Cyberhate Revisited", op.cit, p.2, accessed 22/08/2002; described as a "kind of hatefest in which participants reinforce one another's racist views": Southern Poverty Law Center, "Reevaluating the Net", op.cit, p.2, accessed 22/08/2002.
38. Southern Poverty Law Center, "Reevaluating the Net", op.cit, pp.1-2, accessed 22/08/2002.
39. ibid, p.3.