Cyberhate: Class Activity

Topic area Freedom of Speech, Personal Relationships, Cyberhate
Target audience Students in a Computer Science class who have some understanding of the power of the computer, the Internet and the World Wide Web.
Activity type Class discussion
Time required 50 minutes
Attachments A pair of question sets and worksheets are reproduced as part of this document.
Additional materials Participants should read George Orwell's book "1984" and pay attention to the concepts of mind control and thought police.
Background needed to complete the assignment An open mind.
References The class on Freedom of Speech and the accompanying bibliography.
The US Constitution
The Hate Directory
Check out a copy of "1984" by George Orwell, and read his predictions regarding thought control.
Last modified 2001/04/16

This discussion is part of a larger discussion related to the Freedom of Speech, and deals specifically with two aspects:
  1. Cyberhate,
  2. The limits of freedom (specifically of speech), and
  3. (At the discretion of the instructor) cultural differences and their impact on Freedom of Speech.

Goals for the activity:
To open up the dialog regarding the differences between acceptance of a concept and tolerance of an idea, in the environment of a spectrum of activities ranging from the inner thought process to physical action.

Knowledge/skills/attitudes to be developed (behavioral objectives):
Appreciation for the rights of others to have attitudes that are different while recognizing that within our culture there is a "line in the sand" that divides acceptable, tolerated attitudes (even when expressed openly) from acting on those attitudes.


Have the students in the class undertake pre-class activities to read Orwell's 1984 and the US Constitution, examine the "Hate Directory", and review the dictionary descriptions of love, hate, attitude, and action.

Prepare the handout below so that the questions appear front and back on the sheet. This probably means that the sheets can be prepared "three-up" and then cut.

Side 1:

Define the following nouns in terms of personal relationships:


Cut here ---------------------------------------------------------

Side 2:

In the context of LOVE and HATE, describe the following terms:


Stage 1:

Ask the participants in the class to spend a minute LOVE and HATE. Then review their answers looking for key words such as self-sacrificing, affection, disaffection, hostility, anger, commitment, liking, attachment, attraction, devotion, fondness, passion, tenderness, affection, detestation, abomination, abhorrence, aversion, disgust, aversion, antipathy, malevolence, revenge, loathing, abhor, despise, detest, dislike, etc. Create a listing of keywords for each on the board. Show the definitions of LOVE and HATE from the links in the table above. Then use the following worksheet:

  1. Use two words that differentiate between love and hate.

  2. Can one (love or hate) lead to the other?

  3. Distinguish between brotherly love and sexual attractiveness.

  4. Does hate have any such distinctions? If so, how?

  5. How are love and/or hate expressed?

  6. What differences exist in the means for expressing love or hate?

  7. Are love and hate antonyms?

Stage 2:

Ask the participants in the class to spend a minute ATTITUDE and ACTION in the context of LOVE and HATE. Then review their answers looking for key words such as thoughts, feelings, behavior, disposition, manner, feeling, temperament, spirit, sensibility, perspective, viewpoint, point of view, response, deed, act, conflict , encounter, etc. Create a listing of keywords for each on the board.

  1. Is love an attitude or an action?

  2. Is hate an attitude or an action?

  3. When does feeling of love lead to action? What causes this change?

  4. When does feeling of hate lead to action? What causes this change?

  5. Does attitude eventually develop into action?

  6. What brings about an "implementation" of attitude (i.e. action)?

  7. Can attitude be acceptable and action not?

  8. Is there a boundary between acceptable attitude and unacceptable action?

  9. Is the statement of hate without action acceptable?

  10. What is the difference between toleration and acceptance?

  11. Is the statement of hate an action?

  12. How do "community standards" control hate?

  13. Should "community standards" control hate?

  14. How does this apply to Freedom of Speech?

  15. How does this apply to the Internet?

  16. Is posting hate material on the WWW an expression of attitude or an action?

  17. Consider the following statement:

    Ideas have consequences (Tommy McDearis, November 1998).

    Should then government control thought as in George Orwell's book "1984"? When can control be exercised in the transition from thought to action?

Assessing outcomes:
Assess the outcome of this exercise through a follow-up assignment or examination question (essay-type) that probes the boundary between acceptable attitudes and tolerated actions. The material below can be used for this activity, or if time permits as an extension of the class discussion.

In the context of the Internet and Cyberhate, describe the following terms:


The following questions may be useful in this discussion:

  1. What is the difference between these two terms?

  2. Is Tolerance a prelude to Acceptance?

  3. Does Tolerance lead to Acceptance always?

  4. Does Tolerance lead to desensitization?

  5. Is desensitization a prelude to acceptance?

  6. Do our attitudes change as a result of tolerance?

  7. Do our attitudes change as a result of acceptance?

  8. Is our society changing as a result of tolerance?

  9. Is our society changing as a result of acceptance?

  10. Are tolerance and/or acceptance society's means of progress?

  11. Does a society stagnate without Tolerance and Acceptance?

  12. Can we "over-Tolerate"?

  13. Can we "over-Accept"?

  14. Is Tolerance a "Camel's nose" that we should resist?

Think of the following:

Not in my backyard (NIMBY), non-commital, OK for others, love is tolerant, hate does not tolerate, overlooking, grudgingly, forced, not totally comfortable, an action of the mind.
Go along with, an investment, voluntary, an action of the heart, welcoming, caring.

The endurance of the presence or actions of objectionable persons, or of the expression of offensive opinions; toleration. []
Belief in something; agreement. []

The Arizona Republic had an interesting report on the 2001 legislative action regarding discrimination. The final statement here is of significance in this context:

                        Senate votes to ban employment discrimination by government agencies 

                        Associated Press
                        April 04, 2001 14:25:00

                        State agencies would not be allowed to fire someone or deny a promotion based on the
                        person's sexual orientation under a bill passed by the Arizona Senate today.

                        The bill (SB 1225) does not affect private companies and would allow government
                        employers to approve a gender-based dress code. It had been defeated on a tie vote last
                        week, but passed on a 16-14 reconsideration vote. It now moves to the House for

                        Sen. Pete Rios, D-Hayden, said such discrimination in hiring practices is wrong.

                        "People should be inclusive," he said.

                        But Sen. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, said the bill was creating "an anarchy of values."

                        "Tolerance does not require us to surrender deeply held beliefs," said Bowers. (Emphasis added)

A web page with the forms for the students to use is here.

A homework assignment related to Tolerance (combining critical thinking with editorial reviewing) is also available.

Additional remarks:
Freedom of Speech is a broad subject that includes discussions of the differences between cultures on this topic. See the class activity on Pornography over the internet across state lines as an example of differing cultures and a response to differing community standards. Other concerns include censorship.

Author contact information:
J.A.N. Lee
Department of Computer Science
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg VA 24061-0106
Ph: (540) 231-5780

© J.A.N. Lee, 1998, 2000.