Greater internet access ups racial hate crimes: Study

New York, Sep 29 (IANS) Broadband availability increased the incidence of racial hate crimes committed by lone-wolf perpetrators in the US during the period 2001-2008, say researchers, including one of Indian origin.

The addition of a single broadband provider led to as much as a 20 percent rise in racial hate crimes in areas where racial tensions were especially high.

“Technologically-driven solutions fall short in addressing an issue that is inherently social in nature,” said one of the researchers Anindya Ghose from New York University Stern School of Business in the US.

“Instead of engaging in a technological rat race with extremists, we should consider incorporating critical literacies — including digital media, anti-racism and social justice — into school curricula as an alternative strategy,” Ghose noted.

Researchers sourced data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Federal Communications Commission, the US Census Bureau and the US Bureau of Labour Statistics.

According to FBI data, almost two-thirds of reported hate crimes arose from racial bias, making it by far the most typical form of bias-motivated crime in the US.

Using a large-scale data set from 2001-2008, the researchers calculated that addition of one broadband provider in every county in the US would have caused 865 additional incidences of racially driven crimes on an annual basis.

Yet the internet’s impact on hate crime was not uniform and was predominantly present in areas with higher levels of racism, identified by the amount of racial segregation present and the proportion of racially charged search terms used.

“The positive relationship between broadband providers and the number of hate crimes is mainly found in places that have high levels of racism,” said Jason Chan, professor at Carlson School of Management in Minneapolis, US.

“The likely reason behind this is the internet facilitates this specialisation of interest. That is to say users will search out content online that is congruent to their beliefs or preferences and are not as likely to look up content that is counter to what they believe in,” Chan observed.

The study is forthcoming in the journal MIS Quarterly.

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