NEW YORK – Hate groups around the world, including Islamic militants, often use Internet servers based in the United States to send propaganda and instructions to followers, according to a report released Thursday by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
In its eighth annual report on Internet hate speech, the Wiesenthal Center said it had logged some 6,000 Web sites in the past year used by racists and bigots to incite violence.
The pages, many of which the center archived on compact disc, range from rantings by American white supremacists to execution videos distributed by Islamic terror groups.
In one gruesome Internet post, labeled "Hidden Camera Jihad," anonymous producers combined home movies of American soldiers being killed with a laugh track and the kind of comical sound effects you hear on "America's Funniest Home Videos."
That clip proved difficult to trace, the report said, but thousands of others first appeared on U.S. computer servers, often maintained by companies that offer cheap disk space and don't usually monitor what clients do with their Web sites.
Much of the hateful material originated overseas, but when extremist anti-Americans go looking for a place to post their bile, they often find it easier and cheaper to use a site hosted in America.
The United States, after all, has free speech and little Internet censorship, explained Wiesenthal Center senior researcher Rick Eaton, who was involved in preparing the report.
"If you want to circumvent your own country's laws, you post it on an American server," Easton said.
An international Jewish human rights organization, the Wiesenthal Center routinely complains to Internet companies when it discovers violent, hateful speech on their networks and has succeeded in getting thousands of such pages removed, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center's Museum of Tolerance.
Recently, the center also has been intercepting an increased number of online tutorials and how-to manuals aimed not at the general public, but at sympathizers who might actually be recruited to carry out attacks.
Some of that material includes children's games urging kids to get involved in violent struggle against Israel and the west, including a puzzle showing a child throwing a rock at a tank.
The center passes most of that material on to law enforcement officials.
"We've now reached a point where the Internet is the cornerstone of terrorist groups," Cooper said.