Communities have been created around a shared interest in photography, Miles Davis's music and travel to offbeat places. A small minority, however, advance a hatred for Jews, blacks or gays, including a 'Death to the Jews' site and a site called 'Death to Blacks." The hatemongering is fast becoming an embarrassment for Google, the world's most popular search engine, particularly because the company has adopted "don't be evil" as its motto. The potential for tarnishing Google's gold-plated brand name also underscores the risks the company faces as it expands into new Internet businesses in which it has less experience. For Google, the trouble on Orkut--which is still in beta, or test, form--could easily escalate. A prosecutor in Brazil, where the service is especially popular, has already initiated an investigation into some of the more virulent Orkut sites.
Orkut is somewhat more than especially popular in Brazil: 65% of its users are Brazilians, and among the haters are a number of "who let the foreigners and their stinking jabber in here?" communities. I applied for a content manager position there recently on the grounds that I speak fluent Portuguese (well, sorta fluent) and told them they would never be able to manage problems like this without me. They didn't bite, and I'm not about to swap the glories of Brooklyn for the plastic fantastic Silicon Valley.
Don't see how Google can be held responsible for this kind of thing, though. I'm an absolute libertarian on this kind of thing. Hey, if people want to expose their hateful views publicly, it's our duty to debate them. My hero is the ACLU attorney who helped the KKK get a parade permit for Wall Street, then joined the thousands who turned out to rebut the handful of dumbass racists in their white sheets. To me, that reflects our society well: We still have a problem with racism in this country, but the vast majority of people won't tolerate it. If you want to associate yourself publicly with 'Death to Blacks,' prepare to have scorn heaped upon you, and don't expect to get a lot of Christmas cards. If Osama had started up a "Determined to Attack America" forum on Orkut, maybe Condi Rice would have sat up and paid attention.