Essay:ADL Campaign Against Internet Freedom

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Extracted from Laird Wilcox, The Watchdogs: A Close Look at Anti-Racist "Watchdog" Groups, Editorial Research Service, 1999, p. 76-77. (PDF) ISBN 0-993592-96-5 [1]

From its earliest years the Anti-Defamation League has been hostile to the idea of an uncensored forum for bona fide freedom of expression. In it’s continual campaign to keep what it regards as “hostile” criticism of Jewish institutions or individuals from public expression. The internet provides a special challenge to censors of this kind. In 1990, for example, the ADL attacked Prodigy Service for allowing what it called “anti-Semitic” messages online. A major computing magazine editorialized:

We dispute the tactics of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL) in its attack on the Prodigy Service, which the league claims failed to censor anti-Semitic messages on an open-access bulletin board system. The ADL presented a sample inflammatory message to the media to point out the necessity for censorship of online services. In fact, the same message was submitted for posting and rejected by Prodigy 15 times in October 1990. Ironically, Prodigy has come under fire from the press for censoring its messages.255

Of particular interest to the ADL were internet messages disputing holocaust claims. According to Debra Nussbaum Cohen of the Jewish Telegraph Agency, the following was posted:

Most of the exterminationist survivors’ tales have long been demolished as fantasy and exaggeration. The Holocaust itself is really an edifice, a monument so to speak, to the naive gullibility of the world in which even the most outrageous survivor’s tales and the falsest testimonies are totally believed without the slightest doubt.256

This is a statement that would obviously upset and outrage Jews, many of whom lost relatives and friends in the Holocaust. Their anger is understandable, but the way to combat noxious speech or expression in a free society is by debate and discussion and not censorship. Defending the principles of freedom of expression, Prodigy spokesman Steven Hein said:

The free and open nature of our bulletin board systems means that we will postnotes on controversial subjects, to which some people may object at times. That is the essence of the lively and vital exchange of views which have come to characterize interactive electronic media.257


252 Larry Witham, “Christian Activist Tries to Mend Ties With Jews: ADL Chief Welcomes ‘New Beginning,’ Washington Times (4 April 1995).

253 Ibid.

254 Matthew Dorf, “Opposing Goals: Christian Coalition’s Political Muscle Concerns Jews, ”Washington Jewish Week (14 September 1995).

255 Michael D. Espindle, “Up Front,” Home-Office Computing (January 1992).

256 Debra Nussbaum Cohen, “ADL Charges Computer Service With Condoning Anti-Semitism,” Kansas City Jewish Chronicle (25 October 1991).

257 Op. Cit.


  1. Laird Wilcox, The Watchdogs: A Close Look at Anti-Racist "Watchdog" Groups, Editorial Research Service, 1999, p. 76-77. (PDF) ISBN 0-993592-96-5