Hate groups multiply online

They're all over the Internet: Messages gloating about the killings of Judge Joan Lefkow's husband and mother — all part of a growing web of online hate.

"The targeting of judges and other government officials by white supremacists and other extremists is nothing new," says Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in  San Bernardino.

And the Internet is a tool used by many white supremacists, including those allied with Matthew Hale, put in prison for plotting to kill Judge Lefkow.

"He would be a local, two-bit player in the Chicago area had it not been for the Internet," says Rabbi Abraham Cooper with the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "And it is the Internet that is his engine and his ticket to becoming an international player."

Even with Hale in prison, his group, the World Church of the Creator, has spawned Web sites in Spanish, Portuguese and other languages, appealing to a global audience.

"In the past, you needed a Klan leader to start a rally," says Levin. "Now you just need a computer keyboard and a screen."

And that ideology of hate can be delivered into peoples' homes without regard to location.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has tracked hate Web sites since 1995. They have seen a rapid multiplication in the numbers of those sites in the past decade — from one at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing to more than 5,000 now.

"What you have today is maybe the strongest vehicle for racist bigots, anti-Semites, xenophobic anti-immigrant groups," says Cooper.

Go to a search engine, put in what bothers you, you come out with your allies, down the street and around the world.

"The key here is not the number of hate groups, but the fact that the technology can deliver messages of hate and instructions on who should be targeted straight to people who are ticking time bombs," says Levin.

Now the police are trying to figure out if that's what happened at the Chicago home of Judge Joan Lefkow.