Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Bell Atlantic respond to President Clinton's call to fight hate speech

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Washington, D.C. -- The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the Leadership Conference Education Fund (LCEF) and Bell Atlantic today launched a new web site, www.civilrights.org, to fight the escalating problem of hate speech on the Internet.

The civil rights organizations announced their new weapon in the war on hate crimes at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The initiative was inspired by President Clinton's call for Americans to find ways to eliminate hate crimes, a challenge made at the recent White House Conference on Hate Crimes.

"Bell Atlantic saw an opportunity to join forces with the civil rights community to counter the frightening espousal of hatred and violence against Americans because of their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation," said Bell Atlantic Chairman and CEO Ray Smith.

Bell Atlantic is contributing $100,000 to develop the web site, including a grant from the Bell Atlantic Foundation to maintain the site for two years.

The LCCR/LCEF web site will provide: up-to-date information on hate crimes around the country; community, legal and law enforcement strategies to address those crimes; materials for young people, parents and teachers to help future generations embrace tolerance and diversity.

The web site also contains information on affirmative action, disability policy and religious freedom issues, congressional voting records and coalition members.

The idea to create an Internet site was also triggered by the proliferation of Internet hate speech by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the White Aryan Resistance.

Such hate groups have become more sophisticated in communicating their doctrines and in recruiting, according to LCCR Executive Director Wade Henderson. "Instead of the street, they recruit on the net," he said.

The number of hate sites on the Internet has more than doubled to 250 in the last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Despite growing concerns about the flood of cyberhate, there's also greater concern and support for the First Amendment protection of free speech. "This web site will respond to hate with information and competing ideas without seeking to restrict Internet speech," Henderson added. "Our site, www.civilrights.org, is an antidote to cyberhate."

Political, community and civil rights leaders joined Henderson and Smith in launching the web site. They included: Rodney Slater, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation; Maria Echaveste, assistant to the president and director of the White House office of public liaison; Dorothy I. Height, chair, LCCR and president, National Council of Negro Women; Wade Henderson, executive director, LCCR; Karen McGill Lawson, executive director, LCEF; Abraham H. Foxman, national director, Anti-Defamation League; and Raul Yzaguirre, president and CEO, National Council of La Raza

The web site was developed and designed by Issues Dynamics Incorporated, a Washington, D.C. based communications firm.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights is the oldest, largest and most broadly based civil rights coalition in the country and has been at the core of federal civil rights initiatives over the last 47 years. The Leadership Conference Education Fund is a nonprofit organization that conducts research and educational activities on civil rights issues and communicates with the American people about the strength of our diversity.

Based in New York, the new Bell Atlantic -- formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and NYNEX -- is at the forefront of the new communications, information and entertainment industry. With 40 million telephone access lines and 5.8 million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations and investments in 21 countries.

The Bell Atlantic Foundation administers all domestic and international philanthropic grants on behalf of Bell Atlantic.

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