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.”