CNET Special Feature: Dark side of the Web

The Internet has proved to be a wellspring of news, resources, and information for business, academia, and community, but its wild and woolly side is still lurking in the virtual basement.

The Internet has proved to be a wellspring of news, resources, and information for business, academia, and community. The new users, companies, organizations, and media outlets rushing online help the Net grow, but the corollary to that is that its wild and woolly side is still lurking in the virtual basement.

As privacy and the special needs of children play a greater role, it's becoming more important to be aware of what's called the dark side of the Web, which has almost always been there and probably always will. In a CNET special feature, the cyberstalkers, hatemongers, child predators, cultists, and kooks are brought into the open. Whether your concerns involve harassment or healthy kid surfing, you'll find the answers here. In addition, an interactive safety check can help gauge your comfort level online.

Cyberstalkers
When personal information is pilfered, it's natural to feel violated. When it's used to invade your privacy or threaten you, it can also be illegal. See what you need to know about chats, email harassment, and stalking, and how you can fight back.

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Hatemongers
The usual cadre of offenders make up this lot: neo-Nazis, racial supremacists, anti-Semites, separatists, gay bashers, and fundamentalists. However, many jurisdictions and organizations take hate crimes seriously. Here's who's watching the hate groups, how they operate, and what's being done.

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Child predators
The Web and online services are relatively easy to use, which is why they are being exploited by spammers, con artists, and pornographers. Of this last bunch, pedophiles and kiddie porn traffickers have been the impetus for many misguided efforts at regulating Net content, including the rejected Communications Decency Act. Check for the warning flags and how you can be more attuned to your child's Net experience.

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The lunatic fringe
Freedom of expression and religion are fundamental; the wonder of the Web is that so many voices are represented, including Heaven's Gate. Given the ultimate end of that sect, however, the prevalence of cults, alternative groups, and the lunatic fringe on the Net has raised eyebrows among some users. Here's the news of the weird.

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Interactive safety check
Take a quick quiz on your online habits, privacy concerns, and need for peace of mind when happening upon the dark side of the Web.

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