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Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Cardin Discusses Public-Private Partnership of Fighting Hate Speech on the Internet

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), made the following statement at a press conference hosted by the International Network Against Cyber-Hate (INACH) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) entitled, “ Fighting Online Hate: A Public-Private Partnership.” The event is part of a two-day Global Summit on Internet Hate Speech, where experts on hate on the Internet have gathered in Washington.

“History has shown that when unchecked, prejudice and hatred can foster an atmosphere in which human rights abuses flourish, insecurity spreads, and we are all placed at risk.

“As Co-Chairman of the United States Helsinki Commission, I have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of this issue and combating all forms of discrimination, be it anti-Semitism, racism or anti-Muslim activities. This includes action plans within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to combat intolerance. Moving forward this will remain a top priority of the Helsinki Commission as we look to the 111th Congress.

“While I believe that we are making headway, we still face an uphill battle. One needs to look no further than the U.S. Presidential elections, where assertions were made about President-elect Obama’s religion in a negative way, despite the fact that our country was founded on the principle of religious freedom.

“The Internet has increasingly become a platform for the purveyors of hate to increase their ranks and plan their assaults on innocent victims. It has increasingly played a role in disseminating the negative views that often serve as the precursor for violence, prejudice, and discriminatory behavior; more also needs to be done in this arena.

“As I have in the past, I will continue to support passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The United States Constitution protects the freedom of thought and expression that we agree with, as well as the freedom to express thought that we deplore. Increasing our efforts to respond to hate and bigotry on the Internet with messages of respect and tolerance is imperative to fight hate speech on the Internet.

“If the diversity of the Internet’s content and its accessibility is one of its greatest strengths, then hate propaganda may be one of its greatest weaknesses. I applaud all efforts to explore what more we can be doing in this country and abroad to address that weakness and stem the spread of hate and develop action plans against all forms of discrimination.”

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