The hatemongers hitting the Bronx blogospheres are hurting the community, says Joe Bombace, who wants to put a stop to it.
“These are cowards hiding behind the keyboard with malicious gossip,” said Bombace, blasting nameless firebrands at the Nov. 13 Morris Park Community Association gathering.
“If anybody has a problem with me, say it to my face!” he warned.
For the past few years, hate-filled blogs have circulated around cyberspace, spewing offensive and racist rhetoric towards well-respected community leaders in the east Bronx.
The growing popularity of social media sites and easy-to-use blogging platforms have made dissemination simple, often allowing troublemakers to unleash tirades under false names, blurring a line between to what’s considered hate speech and what’s protected by the First Amendment.
But as Community Board 11 District Manager Jeremy Warneke sees it, “the Internet is full of cowards.”
“This is the problem with the Internet in general,” Warneke continued. “It’s like bullying. They can hide behind a website.”
CB11 has it’s own Facebook page that’s listed on nyc.gov, the city’s official website. Policies are in place to remove belittling haters from Facebook should any negative spats develop.
“We’ve booted five people from our Facebook group,” noted Warneke, who won’t hestitate to do it again.
In one incident early this year, several CB11 members were outraged over a blogger’s personal attacks on fellow members, compelling the executive board to inquire with the city Law Department over any legal action. So far, no outcome has been determined.
It could be since it’s extremely difficult for members to sue, said Guylaine Harrison, professor at Monroe College’s School of Criminal Justice.
“Even though they’re volunteer members, they’re really acting in a capacity of a public official,” noted Harrison.
There is a caveat — members can sue so long as actual malice, the intent to harm with complete disregard for the truth, is established. So should a lie be disseminated and proven wrong, there is grounds to sue, though the chances of an attorney taking on the case is slim, said Harrison.
And while hate speech holds broad protections across the nation thanks to the First Amendment, major Internet firms such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook have guidelines that limit hate speech, including a clause that bans libelous comments, especially if they’re geared towards someone’s relgion, ethnicity, or gender.
It’s unclear whether those protocols are enforced.
As in the past, Warneke extended an olive branch in resolving cyber-feuds.
“Try working with us,” said Warneke. “Become a solution to the problems we face.”