American Morning

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April 22nd, 2009
10:11 AM ET

Online hate speech

CNN's Carol Costello reports on the growing problem of sexist, hateful speech on the Internet.
CNN's Carol Costello reports on the growing problem of sexist, hateful speech on the Internet.

It would be easy to dismiss the war of words between Miss California Carrie Prejean and Perez Hilton as pop culture fluff, but some experts say that’s a mistake. Robert Siciliano, a cyber crime expert, says Hilton’s sexist rant is feeding into a growing problem online—hateful, sexist, racist rants.

“When someone like Perez Hilton, who is hired by Donald Trump, then goes out and spews vile content about a Miss USA you know that the problem is a lot bigger than it seems,” said Siciliano.

Hilton, a judge for Miss USA, lashed out on his website, calling Prejean the “B” word after she told him during the Miss USA pageant she believed marriage should be between a man and a woman. Since then, he’s taken the name calling to another level, saying in a TV interview, he really wanted to call Prejean the “C” word.

Siciliano says Hilton, who writes a popular gossip website, should condemn this kind of online talk—not join in. Hilton, he says, “is giving millions and millions of other people the blessing to go ahead and do the exact same thing.”

And, he says, there is no shortage of that–people are viciously criticizing everything online from newspaper columns to friends on Facebook and YouTube.

Last month, a man in Michigan, Anthony Powell, used YouTube to call African-American women the "B" word. He posted dozens of videos online attacking one woman in particular, Aisa McGowen.

McGowen tried to fight back with online videos of her own telling Powell, “when you hate…you bring the other person up and you bring yourself down.” It didn’t work.

YouTube did remove some of Powell’s videos, but he eventually turned his online rage outward; stalking and killing McGowan and then killing himself.

It’s an extreme example, but Siciliano says it's a warning people like Hilton should heed before they use hateful words online. “At some point in time,” he said. “This stalker believed or was made to believe that it was perfectly okay to talk like that and distribute this via mass media. We as a society have made it acceptable for those rants to go on air.”

Filed under: Controversy
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Greg & Matt in Houston

    Obviously Carol you are biased against Gay people as well. There was nothing balanced about your story. As a young, affluent, professional Gay couple with children we thing the "C" word is applicable to you as well. How long do you think we have had to endure hate-speech directed at us. The minute the tables are turned, oh no, those Gay people are evil for dare speaking their mind back. After reading your article we've decided the "H" word should be applied to you.....HYPOCRITE.

    April 23, 2009 at 9:19 am |
  2. Bob Bechtel

    Bernice you are right straight people are losing all our rights soon we straight people will have to hide the fact that we are straight . MR. trump should shamed of himself for hiring him what was he thinking

    April 23, 2009 at 7:56 am |
  3. Bernice

    Can you see it coming people?? We will soon be in the US courts, fighting for OUR rights to be STRAIGHT! What has this country become! It is no wonder that the rest of the world sees us in such a bad light when there is way to much darkness in our country. In other lands, people get executed for such behavior! We accept it here because of the freedoms that we have. We, as a people, need to look at the behavior that we are accepting as normal. This is anything BUT normal! One day, God will put an end to this abomination no matter what it is that the people believe. Then, it will be over!

    April 23, 2009 at 6:59 am |
  4. Sarah

    The law is currently applied to everyone fairly. Each person above a certain age is allowed to marry another person above a certain age of the opposite gender.

    April 22, 2009 at 9:28 pm |
  5. Ralph

    I applaud Miss California's honesty. She was asked for her opinion and she gave it. What's the problem? People like Perez Hilton feed on controversy. The most effective way of dealing with people like him (and I'm not referring to sexual orientation but rather the "Look at me! Look at me!" type) is to ignore him. Criticizing him or reacting viciously to his childish behavior is playing right into his hands. Ignore him and he will go away.

    April 22, 2009 at 6:37 pm |
  6. Matthew

    Perez Hilton should focus his energy on being a positive media outlet instead of a negative one filled with hate and name calling. His hateful comments towards Miss USA only shows what a small, insecure, and bitter man he really is.

    April 22, 2009 at 3:43 pm |
  7. Sarah

    To You Twit:
    We all respect freedom of speech. What you fail to understand is that sexual harrassment (such as the degradation Perez is engaging in) and anything that could incite violence against someone is NOT COVERED IN FREEDOM OF SPEECH. We have laws against it.

    April 22, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  8. Sarah

    Perez Hilton should not be hired again for a public position. He degrades women and did with Miss USA. By degrading her and spreading it to the masses, he could incite violence against her. It's easier to attack or kill a B or a C, than it is to do it to it a woman named Carrie Prejean. PEREZ HILTON IS NOW UNPROFESSIONAL! NO ONE SHOULD HIRE HIM AGAIN. I WILL BOYCOTT HIS PROGRAMS NOW BECAUSE HE IS TRYING TO DEMONIZE SOMEONE WITH AN OPPOSING VIEW.

    April 22, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  9. cyndi

    Perez should not have asked that question if he did not want the answer. She did say she believed that people should marry who they want, but her religious belief is that it should be a man and woman. which would be freedom of religion. so he should not get all upset about it. if he didn't want her opinion he should not have asked that question. Also since when was that a question for Miss USA? i know it is a big issuse right now, but if it was such a big part why didn't he ask everyone else?

    April 22, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  10. Adam

    From my understanding, she did not really provoke him. He asked a question, she answered honestly, and he couldn't handle her answer. She didn't call him or anyone names. Simply answered the question. Although I don't agree with her, she has every right to express her opinion, especially since that's what he wanted. He couldn't handle the truth, so went on an immature rant.

    April 22, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  11. You Twit

    Hold it a minute Carol. Perez Hilton has the right to rant all he wants at the miss america runner up. Its called freedom of speech. And she insulted him personally with her comments about gay marriage. He has every right to say what he wants regarding her ignorant attitudes. \

    The way you are portraying this war of words is blatantly slanted against Perez Hilton when he was the one originally provoked. Your journalistic integrity is non existent in my book.

    April 22, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  12. Jonita

    She could have possibly been saved if Detroit Police had listen to the man who sent them the video's before Asia was killed.

    April 22, 2009 at 10:32 am |