HATE SPEECH ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Ronald J. Pawley
March 24, 2020
There is a troubling, tumultuous affiliation between social media and hate speech.
Many folks are casual users, or an unashamed addict, or a person without any online presence, social media has affected our lives in unprecedented ways.
Social media’s influence throughout the world is undisputable. Regrettably, with this enormous connectivity, comes with it the caustic presence of hate speech.
Social media and hate speech have worked as a tool to assassinate characters and lives in horrendous ways.
Character assassination is a deliberate and sustained effort to damage the reputation or credibility of an individual. The term could also be selectively applied to social groups a/o media and institutions.
Agents of character assassinations employ a mix of open and covert methods to achieve their goals, such as raising false accusations, planting and fostering rumors, and manipulating information.
Hate speech was relatively ignored for several years on social media sites under the protective umbrella of “free speech,” says Ronald J. Pawley.
Unscrupulous people were allowed to type whatever damaging, uncorroborated garbage they wanted against their victim with immunity — as often as their repulsive judgement dictated.
Research to combat hate speech:
Online harassment. hate speech, which is defined as online harassment with a race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender-focused twist on it, has a similarly strong presence online, due mostly to the fact that the number of hate groups in the US has tripled since 2009. And with social media being an integral tool for these groups to spread their message, it’s no wonder sites like Facebook and Twitter have become hotbeds for hate speech.
Currently, social media platforms have begun making serious efforts to combat hate speech. Unfortunately, most of them are still scrambling to come up with an effective means of properly and appropriately dealing with the problem a meaningful way. Some have been decidedly more successful than others, but still no one has found the silver bullet that will end hate speech on social media once and for all. But we’re getting there.
A little more than a year ago, Twitter announced a troll muting function for users that didn’t want to be bothered by harassers. It was their first significant step in the right direction to eradicating hate speech from their infamously cruel platform. Granted, it came nearly ten years after the platform launched, but hey, better late than never. Unfortunately, that step didn’t lead to a run, a jog, or even a walk in the right direction.
While CEO Jack Dorsey has iterated and reiterated the importance of getting rid of these hateful tweeters on numerous occasions, little has been done to impede the onslaught of insults, slurs, and generally offensive behavior. Despite countless “policy changes,” the platform continues to value free speech over the necessary condemnation of these trolls, leading to an understandable pushback from protestors.
When it comes to hate speech on their platform, Twitter is admittedly walking a tightrope between free speech and verifiable monsters. And while a social media platform is far from the Supreme Court, it does present an issue unlike any other. With celebrities, sports stars, and current presidents of the United States utilizing it for everything from daily updates to global threats, it can be hard to put in place a system that can effectively decipher what is considered hate speech and what isn’t, particularly when you’re trying to get an algorithm to do it for you.
Speaking of algorithms, Facebook’s isn’t working either. As easily the most popular social media platform in the world, the importance of eliminating hate speech is paramount to their continued success. Unfortunately, the algorithm in place to take down offensive posts is far from perfect, often leaving incredibly hateful posts up due to ridiculous loopholes while banning users that post nothing more than playful quips.
The sheer volume of Facebook posts, comments, and replies is far too much for one company to handle without the help of an algorithm. The reality is though that entrusting such a sensitive role to a computer has obvious downfalls, particularly when the role in question requires a decidedly human eye to get it right 100 percent of the time. Unfortunately, until Facebook can get this algorithm sorted out, hate speech will continue to flourish, while everyday people take the brunt of the action. But, with the way things are going with lawmakers, they don’t have a lot of time to figure it out.
While self-policing has been the agreed upon strategy for social media companies dealing with hate speech, some countries have grown weary of the slow and ineffective systems in place. Germany, for example, just put into effect a law that would fine social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to the tune of $60 million for not removing hateful content on their website in a timely manner (sometimes less than 24 hours).
The primary argument against this law is that it may impede press freedom, as social media companies will likely err on the side of caution and delete anything that even resembles hate speech. However, I think we can all agree that it might be time to bend this hate speech stick the other way to correct a wrong that has been prevalent in our society for more than a decade. And if it takes a couple of million dollar fines to do it, so be it.