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Website which 'could have prevented Rwandan genocide' goes live

Anyone ever called you a cockroach? Sperg? Swingbelly?

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A genocide prevention charity and a campaign software development house have joined forces to create an all-encompassing database of online hate speech.

The insults are collected together on a site called HateBase, which aims to provide NGOs and governments with the ability to "use hate speech as a predictor for regional violence."

The pair of charities who came up with the idea want activists around the world to send over examples of nasty words, so they can build the largest ever database of racial, sexual and homophobic slurs.

Hatebase was inspired by the use of the word "cockroach" during radio broadcasts just before the Rwandan genocide of 1994. "Hate radio" stations blanketed the country with anti-Tutsi propaganda ahead of a huge genocide which cost the lives of over half a million people.

Explaining the thinking behind the site, Timothy Quinn, the developer of Hatebase, said:

"As soon as you have logged incidents of hate speech you can start mapping that stuff, looking at frequency, severity, the migration of terms geographically. There's a whole lot of value when people start mapping it against the real world."

He added: "If you were following events in Rwanda in the early 90s, you'd want to start looking for the word 'cockroach' as a metric. That's exactly the sort of thing we're gunning for."

Hatebase allows people to log their own examples of hate speech and also to tell the world if they have been called a certain word. It contains words in many different languages and is the result of a joint venture between Mobiocracy, an organisation which designs software for global campaign groups, and The Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention.

However rather than possible precursors of genocide the Hatebase site has so far mainly become filled with words like tranny and shemale, which are used to describe transexuals and transvestites, and "sperg", apparently a shortened version of Aspergers used in speech as a "variant of retard". From the details of the term on its Hatebase page at the time of writing, it has supposedly appeared once in Pyongyang.

It is unclear whether one North Korean calling someone a sperg on the internet could indicate that a genocide is about to occur there.

The reception to the project has been mixed, with some Twitter users welcoming Hatebase and others slamming it. One, a Danish "web-entrepreneur" called k0nsl, said Hatebase was "useless" and a "racket". ®

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