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Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes, Report to Congress

NCJ Number
157948
Author(s)
J L Gattuso; B Harris; C E Mattey; C A Nila; T Sloan
Date Published
1993
Annotation
This report focuses on the use of electronic communications media to advocate or encourage the commission of hate crimes; the report also examines the value of the media as a tool to counter the effects of intolerance.
Abstract
In 1992, Congress directed the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to examine the role of telecommunications, including broadcast radio and television, cable television, public access television, and computer bulletin boards, in advocating or encouraging violent acts and the commission of hate crimes against designated persons and groups. The NTIA study investigated speech that fostered a climate of hatred and prejudice in which hate crimes may occur. Study findings revealed only a few instances during the past decade in which broadcast facilities were used to spread messages of hate and bigotry. In two such instances, radio broadcasts arguably urged an audience to commit hate-motivated crimes. In other instances, radio broadcast licensees aired programming that evidenced prejudice. A few highly publicized cable television programs promoted messages of hate and bigotry. In some cases, cable programming stirred community reaction and was followed by counterprogramming. During the 1980's, computer bulletin boards were established by various white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups, but many fell into disuse later in the decade. The study also found that hate "hotlines" are used to deliver recorded messages of bigotry and prejudice and that telephones can be used to intimidate, threaten, and harass individuals and organizations. NTIA's research suggests that hate messages represent a very small percentage of electronic communications media and that the best response is public education rather than government censorship and regulation. Legal remedies involving the use of telecommunications to commit or encourage hate crimes are discussed, as well as technologies that can protect or empower targets of hate speech. A list of commenters is appended. 285 footnotes