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ADL plans Silicon Valley center to fight cyberhate

Audience members use their mobile phones to take photographs of former Vice President Joe Biden on March 12, 2017, at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Film Interactive Festival 2017 in Austin, Texas. Photo by Brian Snyder/REUTERS

AUSTIN, Texas (USA Today) The Anti-Defamation League is opening a Silicon Valley center to combat the rapid growth in online hate speech.

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt planned to make the announcement during a panel on “The State of Hate” at the SXSW tech confab tonight.

The center on cyberhate, technology and society will leverage technology and experts to “monitor, analyze and mitigate hate speech and harassment” across the Internet. The facility, which should open somewhere south of San Francisco in the next three to six months, received seed funding through eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s philanthropic investment firm, Omidyar Network. The ADL would not disclose the amount, but Greenblatt said it was in “six figures.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Photo courtesy of ADL/Michael Kovac

“Since the (presidential) election, we’ve seen a surge online” in anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and other hate speech, Greenblatt told USA Today. “It’s like nothing we’ve seen before. Millions and millions of anti-Semitic tweets.”

Greenblatt called the center the “first of its kind” in the civil rights era. Brittan Heller, a former Justice Department official who leads ADL’s anti-cyberhate efforts, will be founding director of the new center.

The center marks the latest chapter in the ADL’s decades-long fight against cyberhate. Last year, it hired Heller to establish a presence in the valley.

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