The number of "hate" sites on the Internet has risen from one in 1991 to more than 600 today, says a representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
At that rate, there could be in excess of 1,000 sites by the end of the year, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the agency devoted to the study of the implications of the Holocaust and acts of genocide.
A three-year study by the organization showed that the number of sites that pump out hatred against such groups as immigrants, blacks and Jews has increased more than 300 per cent in the last year.
Cooper said yesterday that the centre monitors more than 250 hate groups - skinheads, the Ku Klux Klan, and Aryan Nations - across the United States and has seen them go from posting flyers on telephone poles to gaining a presence on the Internet.
"The problem is not new", he said. "The problem is that it is now taking place in the mainstream of culture."
Cooper noted a site that provides one-stop shopping, allowing the Web surfer to access hate music, derogatory jokes, and a "kitchen" that gives recipes for 100 different bombs.
"We may be talking about the lunatic fringe, but they have the sophistication that allows them to escape the gutter", he said.
He praised Canadian Internet service providers for voluntarily limiting use by hate groups.
As a result, Canadian-based hate sites aren't a problem - except for one provider in British Columbia that hosts 22 sites, said Sol Littman, Canadian representative of the centre.
"We wrote the owner in case he didn't realize what he was doing", Littman said. "But he said he wouldn't be a censor and then added more sites."
Littman said he has asked the B.C. attorney-general to press charges but has yet to receive a response.
He said the best way to combat the proliferation of hate groups is to have an international agreement on policing the Internet.
"We have international agreements on air flights and postal matters", he said.
"Many treaties are substantial and will work."
Cooper said this may be difficult because of Americans' liberal views on freedom of expression, but he didn't rule such an agreement out.