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Document 1835305
Partners Aganst Hate
Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention and the U.S. Department of Education, Safe and
Drug-Free Schools Program
INVESTIGATING HATE
CRIMES ON THE
INTERNET
T E C H N I C A L A S S I S TA N C E B R I E F
Partners Against Hate
c/o Anti-Defamation League
1100 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Suite 1020
Washington, DC 20036
www.partnersagainsthate.org
Office of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention
U.S. Department of Justice
810 Seventh Street, NW
Washington, DC 20531
www.ojp.usdoj.gov
Safe and Drug-Free Schools
Program
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202
www.ed.gov
Michael T.S. Wotorson
Project Director
This project was produced by Partners Against Hate under Cooperative Agreement #2000-JN-FX-K005, a grant jointly funded by the
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), and the U.S. Department of Education,
Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program. This document was prepared by the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence. Points of
view or opinions expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official positions or
policies of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention or the U.S. Department of
Education, Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program.
At the time of this publication’s printing, all Web site addresses were accurate and provided material that was, in the judgment of
Partners Against Hate staff, appropriate for all audiences. Partners Against Hate is not responsible for future changes to any Web
sites and does not endorse any Web sites identified other than its own.
Partners Against Hate is a collaboration of the Anti-Defamation League, the Leadership Conference on Civil
Rights Education Fund, and the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence.
INVESTIGATING HATE
CRIMES ON THE
INTERNET
SEPTEMBER 2003
Prepared by James E. Kaplan, J. D.
and Margaret P. Moss, J. D.
Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence
University of Southern Maine
Edited by Michael L. Lieberman, Anti-Defamation League
and Stephen Wessler, Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I.
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
II.
Addressing Bias-Motivated Crimes: A Law Enforcement Priority
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
Hate Crimes and Bias Incidents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
Reported Cases: Hate Crimes on the Internet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8
Reasons for Likely Increase in Internet Hate Crimes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
III. Investigating hate crimes on the Internet
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
Determining Whether a Message Constitutes a Threat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
Bias Motivation: The Importance of Bias Crime Indicators
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
Identifying the Sender . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
Collection and Preservation of Evidence
IV. Additional Issues
Hate Web Sites
Jurisdiction
V.
Conclusion
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
VI. Appendix: Bias Crime Indicators
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15
VII. Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
VIII. References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
iv
Partners Against Hate
I.
INTRODUCTION
All Americans have a stake in effective response to hate
crimes. These crimes demand priority attention because
of their special impact. Bias crimes are designed to
intimidate the victim and members of the victim’s
community, leaving them feeling isolated, vulnerable,
and unprotected by the law. Failure to address this
unique type of crime could cause an isolated incident to
explode into widespread community tension. The
damage done by hate crimes, therefore, cannot be
measured solely in terms of physical injury or dollars and
cents. By making members of targeted communities
fearful, angry, and suspicious of other groups -- and of
the power structure that is supposed to protect them -hate crimes can damage the fabric of our society and
fragment communities.
The Internet has rapidly transformed the way people
worldwide communicate messages and ideas, do
business, and live their lives. The ability to send
information instantaneously at any time for relatively
little or no cost is truly revolutionary. As the Internet’s
important and significant benefits expand, however, the
possibilities to use this medium for unlawful activity grow
as well. Unfortunately, the Internet has become a new
frontier in spreading hate.
The Internet is an especially inviting host for the virus of
hate. Whereas hate mongers once had to stand on street
corners and hand out their message of bigotry on
mimeographed leaflets, now these extremists have seized
new technologies to promote their causes at sites on the
World Wide Web and in chat rooms. The Internet has
allowed extremists expanded access to a potential
audience of millions – including impressionable youth. It
has also facilitated communication among like-minded
bigots across borders and oceans and enhances their
ability to promote and recruit for their causes
anonymously and cheaply. In a criminal context, e-mail
messages containing threats can be sent behind a cloak
of anonymity or false identity. Persons can be chosen to
receive messages without their consent or knowledge.
Although hate speech is offensive and hurtful, the First
Amendment usually protects such expression. Beyond
spreading hate, however, there is a growing, disturbing
trend to use the Internet to intimidate and harass
Investigating Hate Crimes on the Internet
individuals on the basis of their race, religion, sexual
orientation, or national origin. When speech contains a
direct, credible threat against an identifiable individual,
organization, or institution, it crosses the line to criminal
conduct. Hate speech containing criminal threats is
not protected by the First Amendment. Criminal cases
concerning hate speech on the Internet have, to date,
been few in number. The Internet is vast and
perpetrators of online hate crimes hide behind
anonymous screen names, electronically garbled
addresses, and Web sites that can be relocated and
abandoned overnight. Despite these special challenges,
law enforcement authorities can learn much from the
first few successful prosecutions outlined in this
Technical Assistance Brief.
United States v. Machado
In September 1996, a 21-year-old expelled college student
who lived in Southern California sent a threatening e-mail
message to 60 Asian students at the University of California
Irvine (“UC Irvine”). The message expressed a hatred for
Asians and stated that UC Irvine would be a much more
popular school without Asian students. The message
further blamed Asians for all crimes that occurred on
campus, and concluded with a clear threat to hunt down
and kill all Asians on campus if they did not leave the
university:
“I personally will make it my life career [sic] to
find and kill everyone one [sic] of you personally.
OK?????? That’s how determined I am….”
The message was signed “Asian Hater.”
The sender did not sign his name to the message, and the
message was sent from an e-mail account that hid his
identity. Ultimately, however, in voluntary interviews with
UC Irvine police, Richard Machado admitted that he sent
the threatening message. He was charged with violating
the Federal Civil Rights laws, which prohibits (among other
things) interference by force or threat of force based on
race or national origin with a person’s attendance at a
public university.
5
United States v. Machado (cont.)
Machado’s first trial ended in a hung jury. A second trial in
1998 resulted in Machado’s conviction, and he was
sentenced to one year in prison.
The urgent national need for both a tough law
enforcement response to hate crimes, and education and
programming, to confront violent bigotry has only
increased over the past year. In the aftermath of the
September 11, 2001, terrorism, the nation has witnessed
a disturbing increase in attacks against American citizens
and others who appear to be of Muslim, Middle Eastern,
and South Asian descent. Perhaps acting out of anger at
the terrorists involved in the September 11, 2001
attacks, the perpetrators of these crimes are irrationally
lashing out at innocent people because of their personal
characteristics — their race, religion, or ethnicity. Law
6
enforcement officials have investigated hundreds of
incidents reported from coast to coast — places of
worship, neighborhood centers, grocery stores, gas
stations, restaurants, and homes — including vandalism,
intimidation, assaults, and several murders.
This Brief provides essential information about the
growing problem of hate crimes on the Internet and tips
for investigation and prosecution of hate crimes on the
Internet. First, the Brief defines hate crimes,
summarizes the principal Federal and State hate crime
laws, and describes a number of reported cases. Second,
the Brief examines key legal elements involved in the
investigation of hate crimes on the Internet. Finally, the
Brief focuses on three issues that can arise in hate crime
investigations, including First Amendment protections for
hate Web sites, the jurisdictional aspects of prosecution
of threats on the Internet, and potential problems
encountered in the collection and preservation of
electronic evidence.
Partners Against Hate
II. ADDRESSING BIAS-MOTIVATED CRIMES: A LAW ENFORCEMENT
PRIORITY
Hate Crimes and Bias Incidents
The Federal government defines a hate crime as “a
crime in which the defendant selects a victim, or in the
case of a property crime, the property that is the object
of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race,
color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender,
disability, or sexual orientation of any person.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 994, as amended. Like hate crime penalty
enhancement statutes that now exist in 45 states and the
District of Columbia, this law increases sentences for
bias-motivated federal crimes. With respect to the
Internet, a hate crime is almost always a threat.
A bias incident is an act that is motivated by bias or
prejudice that does not involve criminal conduct. For
example, the distribution of hate literature is a bias
incident. The definition of what constitutes a hate crime
varies from state to state and under Federal law. Hate
crime offenders may be prosecuted under Federal or
state criminal and civil rights laws. Participants in bias
incidents cannot be prosecuted criminally, but state law
may provide a civil remedy.
Federal Laws – Federal Criminal Civil Rights
Statutes
State and local law enforcement authorities play the
primary role in the prosecution of bias-motivated
violence. Current Federal law contains significant gaps
and limitations, reaching only certain bias-motivated
violence, which is intended to interfere with the victim’s
federal rights or participation in a federally protected
activity. The Federal government does play a critical
role in supplementing state and local prosecutions in
appropriate circumstances.
42 U.S.C. Section 3631, the criminal portion of the Fair
Housing Act of 1968, prohibits housing-related violence
on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap,
familial status, or national origin. The violence usually
prosecuted under this section includes cross-burnings,
fire bombings, arsons, gunshots, rock throwing, and
vandalism. The statute reaches all persons involved in
any housing-related activity — sellers, buyers, landlords,
tenants, and real estate agents.
Investigating Hate Crimes on the Internet
18 U.S.C. Section 245 is the primary criminal civil rights
statute for racial violence cases that do not involve
housing. As enacted in 1968, Section 245 prohibits the
use of force or threats of force against individuals
because of their race, color, religion, or national origin,
and because those individuals are engaged in certain
specified activities. Section 245 protects against racebased interference in the right to enroll in a public
school or college; the right to participate in and enjoy
any benefit, service, or program administered by a state;
employment by any private employer or state or local
agency; travel in or use of a facility of interstate
commerce; and enjoyment of goods or services of any
place of public accommodation.
18 U.S.C. Section 247 criminalizes attacks on religious
property and obstructions of persons who are enjoying
the free exercise of their religious beliefs. This statute,
originally enacted in 1988 and amended by the Church
Arson Prevention Act of 1996, covers racially-motivated
church burnings and bombings, as well as acts of
desecration motivated by religious animus when the
defendant has traveled in interstate commerce or has
used a facility or instrumentality of interstate commerce.
18 U.S.C. Section 241 broadly prohibits a conspiracy to
injure or threaten “any person” in the free exercise or
enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the
Constitution or laws of the United States.
28 U.S.C. § 994, the Hate Crimes Sentencing Act,
enhances the penalties only for bias-motivated federal
crimes that occur in National Parks and on other
federally owned property. Under the Act, a hate crime is
“a crime in which the defendant selects a victim, or in
the case of a property crime, the property that is the
object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived
race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender,
disability, or sexual orientation of any person.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 994, as amended (2000).
In addition, the 1990 Hate Crime Statistics Act requires
the U.S. Department of Justice to collect data on crimes
motivated by bias or prejudice based on race, religion,
sexual orientation, ethnicity, or disability from law
enforcement agencies across the country, and to publish
an annual report of these statistics. 28 U.S.C. § 534, as
7
amended. These annual reports can increase the
effectiveness of law enforcement agencies by providing
information necessary to determine patterns of hate
crimes, to anticipate changes in the incidence of hate
crimes, and to foster better police-community relations
on a local level (Rosenberg and Lieberman, 1998).
State Laws
Almost every state has a law that punishes some biasmotivated crimes. Forty-five states and the District of
Columbia have hate crime penalty enhancement laws
that more severely punish crimes intentionally directed
at individuals or institutions because of their personal
characteristics, such as race, religion, national origin,
sexual orientation, gender, or disability. All the states
include race, religion, and ethnicity or national origin as
protected characteristics; about half the states include
gender, sexual orientation, or disability. A few states
have hate crime laws that cover political or age bias.
Hate crime laws typically fall into three categories.
First, a small number of states have laws in which the
hate violence stands alone as a separate crime. Second,
as previously mentioned, 45 states and the District of
Columbia provide stiffer sentences for an offender whose
criminal activity is intentionally directed at an individual
or institution because of the victim’s personal
characteristics. Finally, approximately 20 states have
civil hate crime laws that authorize the State Attorney
General to obtain injunctions against perpetrators to
prohibit repeat behavior and to seek the imposition of
civil fines. The civil rather than criminal approach is
adopted for a variety of reasons, including quicker
enforcement, a lower burden of proof (preponderance of
the evidence versus beyond a reasonable doubt), and
avoidance of overcrowded state court criminal dockets.
Many of the state hate crime laws and national hate
crime statistics can be found at the Anti-Defamation
League’s Web site, www.adl.org, and the Partners Against
Hate Web site at
www.partnersagainsthate.org/hate_response_database/.
Reported Cases: Hate Crimes on the
Internet
As previously mentioned, the small number of reported
Internet hate crime cases is instructive. Like the
Machado case described at the outset, the majority of
8
these cases result from e-mail messages containing
threats. Some of these reported Internet hate crime
cases are listed below.
State v. Belanger. In 1997, Casey Belanger was a 19year-old freshmen student at the University of Maine at
Orono. He posted his resume, which included a
statement that he “dislike[d] fags,” on the university’s
computer network. In response, another student posted
a message attacking Belanger’s resume and asking whom
Belanger thought he was. This subsequent message was
sent to student groups organized on the university’s
Internet system for Religion, Gay/Lesbian/ Bisexual,
Politics, and Debate.
Later that same day, Belanger posted a message to all of
these same groups, which stated [expletives deleted]:
I hope that you die screaming in hell...
you’d [sic] better watch your...back you little...
I’m [sic] gonna shoot you in the back of
the...head...
die screaming [name of student], burn in
eternal...hell
I hate gay/lesbian/bisexuals, so...what….
The State Attorney General brought an action against
Belanger under the Maine Civil Hate Crime Act seeking an
injunction to require Belanger to cease from threatening
any person because of the person’s sexual orientation,
race, color, religion, ancestry, sex, national origin, or
physical or mental disability. The Court issued a
permanent injunction against Belanger.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. ALPHA HQ. In 1998,
a white supremacist in Pennsylvania named Ryan Wilson
was charged by the Commonwealth’s Attorney General
with threats, harassment, and ethnic intimidation in
connection with a Web site that Wilson owned and
operated for his racist organization, ALPHA. Among
other images, the Web site depicted a bomb destroying
the office of Bonnie Jouhari, a fair housing specialist who
regularly organized anti-hate activities. Next to her
picture, the ALPHA Web site stated, “Traitors like this
should beware, for in our day, they will be hung from the
neck from the nearest tree or lamp post.” Wilson did not
contest the State’s action under Pennsylvania’s Civil Hate
Crimes Act; the site was removed from the Internet, and
the Court issued an injunction against Wilson and his
Partners Against Hate
organizations barring them from displaying certain
messages on the Internet.
United States v. Kingman Quon. A college student,
Kingman Quon, sent e-mail messages to 42 Hispanic
faculty members at California State University at Los
Angeles, 25 Hispanic students at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, and numerous other Hispanic
persons employed at various institutions and businesses
across the nation. Quon’s racially derogatory messages
discussed his hatred of Latinos, accused them of being
“too stupid” to have been accepted at the university or
have obtained employment without the help of
affirmative action programs, and concluded that he
intended to “come down and kill” them.
In 1999, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Quon
with interfering with the students’ Federal rights in
violation of Federal Civil Rights laws. Quon plead guilty
and received a two-year prison sentence.
Reasons for Likely Increase in Internet
Hate Crimes
Although there are relatively few reported cases, local
Investigating Hate Crimes on the Internet
police and high school and college administrators
indicate that the use of the Internet to send biasmotivated messages and threats is increasing. Internet
use has increased exponentially in recent years.
Approximately 533 million people now use the Internet to
search for information, create material to share with
large audiences, and to communicate with others
throughout the world for little or no cost. Users in the
United States are estimated at approximately 149 million
(Information Please, 2001). Web sites, chat rooms, and
e-mail messages have become a reliable method of
communication for much of the population. These moves
of communications, however, typically permit a user to
remain anonymous or adopt a false identity, providing an
opportunity for that person to express freely his or her
most bigoted views.
Widespread Internet use combines nearly limitless reach
of communication with apparent lack of accountability.
For the bias-motivated user, this combination is
tantalizing, as the user can both send a threatening
message and, theoretically, remain unknown to the
recipient. As revealed in recent litigation concerning
illicit use of the Internet, however, some users have
wrongly assumed that their apparent anonymity would
shield them from prosecution.
9
III. INVESTIGATING HATE CRIMES ON THE INTERNET
Investigating hate crimes on the Internet can appear to
be unusually complicated because of the involvement of
electronically sent messages. While the investigation of
Internet hate crimes occasionally involves complicated
legal and investigatory issues such as those described in
the Additional Issues section later in this Brief, the far
greater number of investigations are the same or similar
to routine investigations of threats by telephone or mail.
The fact that messages were sent through the Internet
does not affect the basic legal analysis of whether the
message itself constitutes a threat and whether the
threat was motivated by bias or prejudice. Additionally,
the determination of who sent the threat must be guided
by the same investigative strategies that law
enforcement officers use in cases of telephone or mail
threats.
Determining Whether a Message
Constitutes a Threat
The definition of criminal threat will vary from state to
state. Under most State laws, the crime of threatening
requires proof that an individual has sent a message that
causes another to have a reasonable fear of imminent
bodily injury. This definition does not vary whether the
threat was made in person or by telephone, mail,
facsimile or e-mail. In some states, prosecutors must
also prove that the perpetrator must have the ability to
carry out the threat.
The definition of harassment also varies from state to
state. In general, for speech to be harassing it must be
targeted at specific individuals and it must be persistent,
pernicious, and inflict great emotional or physical harm.
The starting point for analysis in Internet hate crimes
investigations is the message itself. Law enforcement
officers must determine whether the message — on its
face — threatens imminent bodily injury to the target of
the threat. This determination becomes more difficult if
the language of the message is vague with respect to the
threat or with regard to the intended recipient.
A second critical step in determining whether a message
constitutes a threat is the interview with the target of
the threat. It is difficult both legally and practically to
10
bring a criminal charge of threatening to a message that,
while it may appear to a law enforcement officer to
threaten imminent bodily injury, is perceived by the
recipient or target as being innocuous. In short, if the
target of a possibly threatening message does not believe
that he or she is being placed in imminent danger of
bodily injury and is not “scared” by the message, then
prosecution will be extraordinarily difficult.
Most police officers have had experience investigating
threats. The investigative strategies and tactics for
determining whether an Internet communication is a
threat does not vary in any significant respect from
investigations into either mail or telephone threats.
Bias Motivation: The Importance of Bias
Crime Indicators
Establishing that a threatening message also constitutes a
hate crime requires the investigator to determine that
the message was intentionally directed at an individual
or institution because of the victim’s personal
characteristics. Since bias or prejudice can explain the
reason for this criminal conduct, determining whether
the message itself was motivated by bias is at the heart
of investigating potential hate crimes. Investigators will
need to closely examine the applicable hate crime
statute to determine which bias motivations are included
in the statute. See Addressing Bias-Motivated Crimes: A
Law Enforcement Priority, Hate Crimes and Bias
Incidents section.
Identifying bias crime indicators and confirming bias
motivation are essential building blocks for investigating
and, ultimately, successfully prosecuting Internet hate
crimes. Bias indicators are objective facts;
circumstances or patterns attending a criminal act that,
standing alone or in conjunction with other facts or
circumstances, suggest that the offender’s actions were
motivated in whole or in part by bias. The factors and
sub-factors listed in the Appendix are the most
significant bias indicators, but it is critical to recognize
that the existence of one or more bias crime indicators
does not in and of itself establish that the act
investigated was in fact motivated by bias. Rather, law
Partners Against Hate
enforcement officers must assess all relevant bias
indicators and then make a reasoned judgment based
upon experience as to whether the conduct in question
was motivated by bias or prejudice.
Examining the Message Itself
In Internet threat cases (as in any investigation of a
potential bias-motivated threat), the most important
evidence usually is the message itself. Most hate crime
investigations of threats originate because the content of
the message clearly indicates a bias motivation. This
fact was true of the e-mail messages in the Machado and
Belanger cases and of the Web site at issue in
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. ALPHA HQ.
Interviewing the Recipient of the Message
Even if the message appears to be bias-motivated,
investigators must interview the recipient to determine
whether there were any other motivations for sending
the message other than the bias apparent in the context
of the message itself. It is, obviously, important to
interview friends, family members, roommates, and coworkers to obtain information. A further inquiry into the
recipient’s background may be necessary.
Identifying the Sender
Frequently, the most difficult investigative issue in an
Internet threat or harassment case is the identification of
the sender. Most e-mail threats are anonymous. While
there may be complexities involved in trying to identify
who sent an e-mail message, many of the same
investigative tools that police officers use to determine
who sent an anonymous letter or placed an anonymous
telephone call are equally applicable to anonymous
messages over the Internet. Most (but certainly not all)
threats are sent by people who know each other, and the
recipient of the threat often has some idea (perhaps a
very clear one, perhaps an educated guess) as to who is
responsible. Again, interviews with the victim and with
friends, roommates, family members, neighbors, and coworkers is a critical first step to obtain information
necessary to identify the sender of the message.
Collection and Preservation of Evidence
Because communications sent over the Internet can be
easily destroyed, deleted, or modified, law enforcement
officials must know how best to gather, preserve, and
authenticate electronic evidence. While several of the
issues that can arise for law enforcement agencies in the
collection and preservation of evidence for the successful
prosecution of an Internet hate crime are common to any
criminal investigation, a few have different application
and considerations.
For instance, the need for probable cause to conduct a
search exists in any investigation, but an investigator of
an Internet hate crime must consider whether probable
cause exists separately to seize from a computer the
hardware, software, and other stored data. Assuming
probable cause exists to obtain a warrant, investigators
must be careful to ensure that the material searched is
within the scope of the warrant, a somewhat more
difficult task when searching evidence on a computer
than when searching most crime scenes.1 While use of
the Internet introduces some novel investigative and
prosecutorial concerns, investigators and prosecutors for
the most part already are armed with the skills needed
to pursue these cases and should not be deterred by the
Internet connection. Indeed, it is essential that Internet
hate crimes cases be rigorously investigated and
prosecuted, so that the apparent anonymity that spurs
the hate-motivated actor is not coupled with a lack of
accountability.
An extremely useful source for the practical aspects of searches and seizers in this area is Best Practices for Seizing Electronic Evidence
(a joint project of the International Association of Chief’s of Police and the U.S. Secret Service).
1
Investigating Hate Crimes on the Internet
11
IV. ADDITIONAL ISSUES
Hate Web Sites
For relatively modest fees or free of charge, most
Internet Service Providers willingly “host” any and all
Web pages regardless of content and provide nearly
unlimited use of the hardware and communications lines
for creation of a Web site. As would be expected, Web
sites that contain bias or prejudice based on race,
religion, ethnicity, gender, disability, and sexual
orientation have taken full advantage of the low-cost
opportunity to spread their messages 24 hours a day to
millions of people at an instant (Kessler, 1999).
As previously mentioned, generally even the most
reprehensible and bigoted Web sites receive First
Amendment free speech protection, so long as the sites
cannot be interpreted to satisfy the narrow exceptions
for threats or harassing speech directed at specific
individuals or identifiable groups. One Federal case that
sought to establish a line over which hate Web sites
could not step is Planned Parenthood of the Colombia/
Willamette, Inc. v. American Coalition of Life Activists,
23 F. Supp. 2d 1182 (D. Or. 1999), inj. granted, 41 F.
Supp. 2d 1130 (D. Or. 1999), vacated and remanded, 244
F.3d 1007 (9th Cir. 2001), reh’g en banc granted, 268 F.3d
908 (9th Cir. 2001), aff’d in part, vacated in part and
remanded, 290 F. 3d. 1058 (9th Cir. 2002), cert. den, 123
S. Ct. 2637 (2003). In this case, anti-abortion group
created a Web site included the names, photographs,
home addresses, license plate numbers, and the names
of spouses and children of doctors who allegedly
performed abortions. Headlined “Visualize Abortionists
on Trial” and depicting blood dripping from aborted fetus
parts, the site called for these doctors to be brought to
justice for crimes against humanity. The names of
doctors who had been wounded by anti-abortion
protesters were listed in gray. Doctors who had been
killed by anti-abortionists were shown with a line through
their names. The anti-abortion group also printed
posters with the word “Guilty” at the top, a comparison
of abortions to Nazi war crimes and a list of names of
physicians who provide abortion services. Three
physicians named on the poster and the Web site were
subsequently murdered.
Several doctors and abortion clinics sued the anti-
12
abortion groups alleging that they had been the specific
targets of threats to kill, assault or cause bodily harm.
The jury agreed, finding that the Web site constituted a
threat to the plaintiff physicians. Rejecting defendants’
free speech claims, the jury ordered the Web site owners
and operators to pay plaintiffs more than $100 million in
damages. Consistent with the jury’s verdict, the judge
subsequently determined that the plaintiffs reasonably
felt threatened by the materials, and issued a permanent
injunction to prevent the defendants from providing
additional information to the Web site.
This verdict and injunction were reversed on appeal in
March 2001 by a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Contrary to the
lower court rulings, the Court of Appeals held that
defendants’ Web site was a lawful expression of views
protected by the First Amendment. The Court of Appeals
concluded that “[u]nless [defendants] threatened that its
members would themselves assault the doctors, the First
Amendment protects its speech.” 244 F.3d 1007, 1015
(9th Cir. 2001). In October 2001, the Court of Appeals
decided to rehear the case before all members of the
Court, and it held that the Web site constituted a true
“threat of force” and was not protected by the First
Amendment. 290 F.3d 1058, 1063 (9th Cir. 2002). The
9th Circuit’s decision is an important development
because it establishes that Web sites do not always have
First Amendment protection.
However, as a general matter, the First Amendment
protection for hate Web sites remains an extremely high
bar to hurdle. At least for now, law enforcement
agencies should seek careful direction from the U.S.
Attorneys in their districts, State Attorneys General, or
local District Attorneys before pursuing investigations of
complaints against offensive or hate Web sites.
Jurisdiction
Perpetrators of Internet hate crimes are not hampered by
the existence of national or international boundaries,
because information can be easily transmitted worldwide
through communications and data networks. Even
though connections may be of short duration, most
Partners Against Hate
computers are physically located in identifiable places.
Of course, computers can be accessed remotely,
regardless of the location of the persons who post, send,
view, or receive information online.
As a result, it is at least possible that a perpetrator of a
threat or harassing speech need not be at the actual
scene of the crime (or within 5,000 miles, for that
matter) to prey on his or her victims. Just as telephones
have been used to create distance between offenders
and victims, a computer server from which a threat or
harassing speech is sent can be located in California and
the recipients scattered throughout New England.
Likewise, evidence of an Internet hate crime can be
stored at a remote location, either for the purpose of
concealing the crime from law enforcement or simply
because of the design of the network used.
To be sure, the Internet increases the ability of law
enforcement officials and others to detect and gather
evidence from a distance. Long-distance detection and
collection of evidence, however, can require that the
investigation and prosecution of the crime extend beyond
the borders of any single jurisdiction. The traditional
investigative tools available — interviews, physical or
electronic surveillance, and subpoenas for the production
of documents or for testimony — may not always be
adequate to compel information from a wrongdoer who is
located in a place far away from the victim. The
challenge to law enforcement, then, is to identify that
location, and to determine which laws apply to the
investigation and incidents at issue.
communicated to a resident of State A by an offender in
State B, and State A issues a subpoena for investigators
to search records of the State B offender, no formal
procedural mechanism currently exists for the service
and enforcement of that subpoena. Although the
prosecutors in State A might obtain assistance from the
State B authorities, this assistance is a matter of
professional courtesy rather than legal process. There is
no guarantee that prosecutors in one state have the
authority to issue a subpoena in another state, or that
the subpoena will be properly served or adequately
enforced, which could mean the end of the State
investigation (National Cybercrime Training Partnership,
2000).
Virtually identical problems are presented with the
interstate enforcement and execution of search warrants
and judicial electronic surveillance orders. And beyond
these and other problems law enforcement agencies
encounter with interstate investigations, international
investigations of Internet hate crimes pose even greater
challenges (National Cybercrime Training Partnership,
2000). Because of these complex issues, some
prosecutors believe that Federal authorities may be
better suited to conduct investigations involving Internet
messages that cross state or national lines.
These problematic issues, however, are unlikely to arise
in many Internet hate crimes cases in which messages are
sent from within the same community in which the victim
lives. Traditional investigative techniques typically will
prove adequate in investigation of localized hate crimes
on the Internet.
For example, if a threat or harassing speech is
Investigating Hate Crimes on the Internet
13
V.
CONCLUSION
Hate crimes perpetrated over the World Wide Web pose
special challenges for investigators and prosecutors.
Those who send threatening e-mail communications
through the Internet may convey these messages
anonymously across state lines to victims in another part
of the country. Prosecutors face the daunting task of
14
identifying the perpetrator, collecting and preserving
evidence, and establishing jurisdiction over the criminal
act. It is essential that law enforcement authorities be
equipped to address these challenges in order to hold
perpetrators of these crimes fully accountable.
Partners Against Hate
VI. APPENDIX: BIAS CRIME INDICATORS
Identifying bias crime indicators and confirming bias
motivation are the essential building blocks for
responding to the needs of victims and the community
and successfully prosecuting hate crimes. Bias crime
indicators are objective facts, circumstances, or patterns
attending a criminal act that, standing alone or in
conjunction with other facts or circumstances, suggest
that the offender’s actions were motivated, in whole or
in part, by bias.
graffiti were left at the scene of the incident.
4.
Involvement of Organized Hate Group or its
Members
a. Objects or items that represent the work of an
organized hate group were left at the crime
scene.
b.
The following factors may indicate bias motivation:
1.
Racial, Ethnic, Gender, and Cultural Differences
Between Perpetrator and Victim
3.
Previous Existence of Bias Crimes/Incidents.
a.
Racial identity, religion, ethnicity/national
origin, disability, or sexual orientation of the
victim differs from that of the offender.
a.
Victim was visiting a location where bias crimes
had been committed against members of the
victim’s group.
b.
Victim is a member of a group overwhelmingly
outnumbered by members of another group in
the area where the incident occurred.
b.
Several incidents occurred in the same area, and
victims were members of the same group.
c.
Victim was engaged in activities promoting his or
her group.
c.
d.
Incident coincided with a holiday or date of
particular significance to the victim’s group.
Victim had received harassing mail or phone
calls previously or had been subjected to verbal
abuse based on his or her affiliation with a
targeted group.
e.
Victim, although not a member of the targeted
group, is a member of an advocacy group that
supports the targeted group or was in the
company of a member of the targeted group.
f.
2.
5.
There were indications that a hate group was
involved. For example, a hate group claimed
responsibility for the crime or was active in the
neighborhood at the time of the crime.
Long-established animosity exists between the
victim’s group and the offender’s group.
6.
Victim/Witness Perception
a.
7.
Victims or witnesses perceive that the incident
was motivated by bias.
Motive(s) of Suspect
a.
Offender was involved in a similar incident or is
a member of, or associates with members of an
organized hate group.
Comments, Written Statements, and Gestures
a.
Bias-related comments, written statements, or
gestures were made by the offender.
b.
Victim was in the company of, or married to, a
member of a targeted group.
b.
Bias-related e-mails or Web sites were made by
the offender.
c.
Offender has a history of committing crimes
with a similar modus operandi, and there have
been multiple victims with the same racial
identity, religion, ethnic/national origin,
disability, sexual orientation, or gender.
Drawings, Markings, Symbols, and Graffiti
a.
Bias-related drawings, markings, symbols, or
Investigating Hate Crimes on the Internet
15
8.
Location of Incident
a.
b.
16
Victim was in or near an area or place commonly
associated with or frequented by individuals of a
particular racial identity, religion,
ethnic/national origin, disability, sexual
orientation, or gender.
The incident occurred at or near a place of
worship, a religious cemetery, the home of a
minority family living in a predominantly white
neighborhood, or a gay bar.
9.
Lack of Other Motives
a.
No clear economic or other motive for the
incident exists.
Partners Against Hate
VII. RESOURCES
Becker, P., Byers, B., Jipson, A., and Katz, R. n.d. White
racialism and hate crime: on line research and
teaching resource page. Retrieved December 17,
2002, from the Web: http://people.moreheadst.edu/fs/p.becker/rhcguide.html.
Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs.
1997. A Policymaker’s Guide to Hate Crimes.
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
Cause for Concern: Hate Crimes in America. 1997.
Washington, D.C. Leadership Conference on Civil
Rights.
Combating Extremism in Cyberspace: The Legal Issues
Affecting Internet Hate Speech. 2000. New York,
NY: Anti-Defamation League.
International Association of Chiefs of Police and U.S.
Secret Service. 2000. Best practices for seizing
electronic evidence. Retrieved December 17, 2002,
from the Web: www.secretservice.gov/electronic_
evidence.shtml, www.theiacp.org/documents/index.
cfm?fuseaction=document&document_id=97.
1998 Hate Crimes Resource Manual for Law Enforcement
and Victim Assistance Professionals. Massachusetts
Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes.
McLaughlin, K.A., Brilliant, K., and Lang, C. 1995.
National Bias Crimes Training for Law Enforcement
and Victim Assistance Professionals: A Guide for
Training Instructors. Rockville, MD: National
Criminal Justice Reference Service.
Investigating Hate Crimes on the Internet
Responding to Extremist Speech Online: 10 Frequently
Asked Questions. 1999. New York, NY: AntiDefamation League.
Responding to Hate Crimes: A Police Officer’s Guide to
Investigation and Prevention. 2000. Alexandria, VA:
International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Rockland County (N.Y.) Sheriff Department, 2000, Hate
Crimes: A Seminar Presented by the Computer Crime
Unit.
Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Hate Crime Statistics,
1991-2001. Washington, D.C.: Federal Bureau of
Investigation.
Web Sites
In the Spotlight — Hate Crime
www.ncjrs.org
Intelligence Report
www.splcenter.org/intelligenceproject/ip-index.html
NW3C Internet Resources
www.cybercrime.org/Bookmarks.html
Stop the Hate
www.stopthehate.org
17
VIII. REFERENCES
Kessler, J. 1999. Poisoning the Web: Hatred Online, An
ADL Report on Internet Bigotry, Extremism and
Violence. New York, NY: Anti-Defamation League.
National Cybercrime Training Partnership. 2000. The
Electronic Frontier: The Challenge of Unlawful
Conduct Involving the Use of the Internet. A Report
of the President’s Working Group on Unlawful
Conduct on the Internet. Retrieved December 17,
2002, from the Web: www.cybercrime.gov/unlawful.
18
pdf.
Rosenberg, D. and Lieberman, M. 1998. 1999 Hate
Crimes Laws. New York, NY: Anti-Defamation
League.
Information Please. 2001. Internet and wireless internet
users worldwide. Boston, MA: Family Education
Network, Inc. Retrieved December 17, 2002, from
the Web: www.infoplease.com/ipa/ A0902420.html.
Partners Against Hate
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Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF), and the Center for the
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education, and training to address youth-initiated hate violence. Funded by the U.S.
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