The report explores the ways in which hate and harassment—both on and offline—undermine people’s freedom to believe as they choose, free from discrimination.
The report attempts to connect the dots between religious freedom, people’s online lives, and the big tech business practices that allow hate to spread rapidly.
During a webinar, experts gathered to speak about the report and take questions.
“At the end of the day, we want individuals to be able to operate safely and freely online,” said Lauren Krapf, counsel for Technology Policy & Advocacy for the Anti-Defamation League.
Krapf referred to a survey conducted by her organization. “Forty-four percent of all respondents who were harassed due to their religion were worried about future harassments,” she said.
Paul M. Barrett, deputy director of the Center for Business and Human Rights at the Stern School of Business, addressed the complexity of the problem.
“It is a hugely complex problem we face—which is to say the unintended side effects of this technology that is now so influential for the vast majority of our society,” said Barrett. “The economics of Silicon Valley have changed rapidly over the last 8, 10, 12 months. Why is this relevant to religion, hate, and so forth?”
The report delves into that relevancy, and also answers questions such as one posed about online hate speech by Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, president of the Interfaith Alliance. “What tools do we have at this point in order to begin to stem this tide or reverse it?”
Zaki Barzinji, program director of Aspen Digital, said that artificial intelligence is at play for both the problem of hate speech and potential solutions. “For me, just at a macro level, the overarching issue is that we are experiencing a period of explosive innovation and advancement, especially when it comes to AI technology.”
If technology can help trace those harassing others online, that can begin to address the problem. “There is also a lot of intersectionality among people who are doing the hate themselves,” Barzinji said.