Study: Internet ups hate crimes

The number of hate crimes increased with broadband Internet access.

Nick Wicker

Internet access could have led to a rise in racial hate crimes across the United States. 
 
A study by a University of Minnesota researcher and other collaborators showed that racial hate crimes increased as the number of broadband internet providers increased between 2001 and 2008. 
 
Carlson School of Management Information and Decision Sciences assistant professor Jason Chan said he was a Ph.D. candidate at New York University when his team began researching the topic in early 2013. 
 
Chan and his team used Federal Bureau of Investigation and Federal Communications Commission data to research the correlation, he said. The team found a 66.8 percent increase in hate crimes from the addition of one internet provider in 2006.
 
“The Internet provides an accessible, affordable, unscreened, and anonymous channel for posting and sharing hate ideologies,” the report said. 
 
Chan said some sites even provide instructions for those who are looking to commit racial hate crimes.
 
According to the report, most of the violent acts documented were performed by individuals who acted in a “lone wolf” manner. 
 
In many cases, Chan said, people with established views on race seek out websites that reinforce their opinions, often making them more convinced. 
 
“This is not an instantaneous thing,” he said. “It takes time; it’s sort of like a grooming process.”
 
The report accounted for additional crime-causing factors, like previously established hate groups in the studied counties. 
 
The report also makes policy recommendations, including educating students about anti-racism and social justice, but Chan said it is more important to train people to think critically about their sources of online information. 
 
The study will be published in a forthcoming issue of Management Information Systems Quarterly.

A video show Chan explaining his finding.