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Hate Online: A Content Analysis of Extremist Internet Sites


*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Phyllis B. Gerstenfeld, Dept. of Sociology and Criminal Justice, California State University, Stanislaus, 801 Monte Vista Ave., Turlock, CA 95382 [e-mail:].


Extremists, such as hate groups espousing racial supremacy or separation, have established an online presence. A content analysis of 157 extremist web sites selected through purposive sampling was conducted using two raters per site. The sample represented a variety of extremist groups and included both organized groups and sites maintained by apparently unaffiliated individuals. Among the findings were that the majority of sites contained external links to other extremist sites (including international sites), that roughly half the sites included multimedia content, and that half contained racist symbols. A third of the sites disavowed racism or hatred, yet one third contained material from supremacist literature. A small percentage of sites specifically urged violence. These and other findings suggest that the Internet may be an especially powerful tool for extremists as a means of reaching an international audience, recruiting members, linking diverse extremist groups, and allowing maximum image control.

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