ONTD Political

White Supremacist Site MartinLutherKing.org Marks 12th Anniversary

8:42 am - 01/18/2011

Recently, a diverse group of New York City high school students was assigned to write reports on Martin Luther King, Jr. Searching the Internet, several students learned that the renowned civil rights leader had in fact been a drunken philandering con man. Others concluded that the federal holiday marking King's birthday should be repealed.

Where in the www did these kids search?

Google, for starters.

If you enter "Martin Luther King, Jr." as a search term, the site netting the third-highest ranking is martinlutherking(dot)org, which purports to be "A valuable resource for teachers and students alike." Visit the site and you can read the "truth" about King -- communist, wife-beater, plagiarist, sexual deviant and all-around fraud. There are flyers to the same effect that children can download, print and bring to school.

As you have probably guessed, this site is not run by the King Center, the memorial established in 1968 by Coretta Scott King to the advance her husband's legacy (TheKingCenter.org ranks seventh on Google). Rather, MartinLutherKing(dot)org is a spinoff of Stormfront(dot)org, the "white nationalist" online community created in 1995 by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Don Black. Stormfront's Web forum now claims nearly 214,000 participants. Black registered martinlutherking(dot)org on January 14, 1999, later adding MLKing(dot)org and MLKing(dot)com.

A Google spokesman told me, "Our search results are generated objectively and are independent of the beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google. A site's ranking in Google's search results is automatically determined by computer algorithms using hundreds of factors to calculate a page's relevance to a given query. The only sites we omit from our search results are those we are legally compelled to remove or those maliciously attempting to manipulate our results."

MartinLutherKing(dot)org also ranks third on Yahoo and Bing.

According to sociologist Jessie Daniels of RacismReview, "The decision to register the domain name 'martinlutherking(dot)org' relatively early in the evolution of the web was a shrewd and opportune move for advocates of white supremacy."

While proponents of the King Center message would love to pull the plug, they face multiple obstacles, not least of which is the First Amendment. Unless the Web content contains libel, a credible threat or incitement to imminent lawless action, the law offers little recourse. In a 2008 Atlanta Journal-Constitution interview, King Center CEO Isaac Farris, Jr., cited the "thin line between opinion and slander," adding, "You never authorize a lawyer to do whatever it takes because that could be a black hole."

The law also insulates Internet Service Providers from liability to the same extent telephone companies aren't responsible for crimes committed over their wires. Per the Telecommunications Act of 1996, "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

Providers may prohibit racist or bigoted messages of their own volition, however--such prohibitions don't violate constitutional rights because a commercial provider isn't a government agency. MartinLutherKing(dot)org's ISP, Dallas-based SoftLayer, has a strict acceptable use policy. "We try to be as proactive as possible in eliminating any and all content from our network that breaches the terms of this policy," a SoftLayer spokesperson told me. "But this is not always an easy task. In aggregate we have nearly 80,000 servers under management, and we host millions of domains."

Daniels sees general awareness about the way propaganda works online as a more effective agent of change. "We have to get smarter about racism," she says.

Adds educational psychologist Brendesha Tynes, "We need media literacy programs that foster the development of a critical lens to help children recognize the difference between propaganda and legitimate sites."

Toward that end, the Anti-Defamation League offers a Combating CyberHate Toolkit that suggests steps to counter pernicious sites, including posting videos, counterpoints, or comments that oppose offensive content--for example, constructing counter-MartinLutherKing(dot)org programming on YouTube or Facebook.

And as Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem."

Editor's note: We have intentionally broken outgoing links from this post to two of the sites discussed in Mr. Thomson's post. To visit these sites, replace (dot)org with .org


Wow, charming.  A serious reminder that the First Amendment protects even those whose words make our blood boil.
onbluebayou 18th-Jan-2011 06:42 pm (UTC)
A lecturer at my uni actually used this as an example of why you should check the reliability of your sources properly when writing assignments yesterday.
ubiquitous_a 18th-Jan-2011 06:52 pm (UTC)
I once worked with someone who used Wikipedia as a citation in a white paper. I absolutely could not believe that.

More recently, I had another co-worker who used Wikipedia as a citation for a term paper she was writing for a class. I told her in no uncertain terms she should remove that and find a legitimate reference. When her teacher later discussed it in class, he mentioned how some others had used Wikipedia as a citation, and basically said what I had told her. She was glad she had listened.

/Cool story, bro!
onbluebayou 18th-Jan-2011 06:53 pm (UTC)
I can't believe people do that. x) It says where the information comes from at the bottom. Use that as a reference...
ubiquitous_a 18th-Jan-2011 06:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that was basically what I had recommended to the second co-worker.

It's kind of akin to using Google as your citation.....you know, for everything. ;p
hammersxstrings 18th-Jan-2011 06:55 pm (UTC)
i used wikipedia in college, and it legit saved me in a few classes, but i used it more as a reference to find a reference; i would NEVER cite it on an actual paper lol. most of the stuff they have written has a reference to a legit .edu site or whatever, it's just all compiled there. at least on the stuff i was using. *shrug*
ubiquitous_a 18th-Jan-2011 06:58 pm (UTC)
Well, and that's exactly how it *should* be used. I was literally embarrassed for the first co-worker, because the company I work for is a well-respected one in our field, and we have seriously high-level engineers.....many of whom have written lots of white papers and otherwise been published. I'm just glad I caught it before it went out to a customer. :/
celtic_thistle 18th-Jan-2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
I do the same. I use wiki but then I go to the actual sources they link to as a citation.
jiaren_shadow 18th-Jan-2011 07:02 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I use Wikipedia to get an idea of a topic or a book I'm reading (if it's a novel or film I'll also use TVTropes, which actually has helped a lot many times), but I'll always go to the more legit sources they cite to get a good citation.
snapesgirl34 18th-Jan-2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
Wikipedia is a great way to find articles and original sources since everything has to be cited (just scroll down to the then references), but Wikipedia itself shouldn't be used as a source anymore than Encyclopedia Britannica should be used as a source for a term paper. I don't get why so many students don't understand this.
sperose 18th-Jan-2011 08:15 pm (UTC)
I saw a Wikipedia source on a poster that had been given at some conference IN A DOCTOR'S OFFICE.
koalafrog 19th-Jan-2011 02:30 am (UTC)
I tell my students almost every single day we meet not to use Wikipedia as a source in their assignments, and I even tell them how to use it as a jumping off point if they really have no clue how to research (which... wtf how did they get into college if they don't, but that's a whooooooooooole 'nother issue).

And yet I still receive about 5-10% of students' assignments with Wikipedia copy/pasting and sourcing.

I think there are 2 kinds of students who do this:
- the ones that just don't fucking listen or read a single word I ever say or write to them, of which there are a TON
-the ones who think that I won't actually read their papers or assignments and get a lovely little surprise when they find out that I do, indeed, read every little word
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