Hate Speech Is Not Your Friend


Jadyn Gelfand, Staff Writer

According to the Anti-Defamation League, 44% of people in 2020 encountered hate speech online. Even worse, Cardiff University has reported that there is seemingly a link between online hate speech and real-world hate crimes. On social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, hate speech has become an epidemic that needs eradication.

Although people should be allowed to speak their opinions freely on social media platforms, hate speech is something so violent that it must be outside of publicly acceptable discourse.

Most social media companies have banned pornography. If sex is deemed worthy of regulation, then violence and hate speech should be regulated as well. When Tumblr banned pornography in 2018, they rationalized it by stating that, “Posting anything that is harmful to minors…is abhorrent and has no place in our community.”

Tumblr believes that posting pornography is harmful to children yet continues to let white supremacists post about wanting to kill (certain) children. The hate speech that is allowed to thrive on social media companies such as Tumblr, poses a real danger to people. The Anti-Defamation League explained this connection through a survey that showed that approximately 22% of Americans report that online hate and harassment makes them feel less safe in their community

Unsurprisingly, seeing images and reading words meant to hurt fulfills its intended effect. If social media companies are blocking porn to protect their users, then they must also ban hate speech to live up to their own standards.

As news companies regulate what is expressed on their platforms, social media companies have a moral responsibility to do the same. In fact today, social media functions more or less like newspapers for a wide audience. Dick Lilly from The Seattle Times wrote that “[Social media companies] presented the user with new content… With that action, they have become publishers, no different from newspapers.” 

Prior to newspapers moderating what they published, they would print exaggerated stories, outrageous headlines, and baldfaced lies. As reported by Alan Sunderland at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, one famous case was the Great Moon Hoax of 1835, when the New York Sun briefly became the biggest selling newspaper in the world by revealing that the moon was populated by man-bats.

Newspapers now closely regulate what they publish to avoid situations like that of 1835; similarly, social media companies must do the same when it comes to hate speech.

While banning certain types of ideas is a slippery slope, it is an equally slippery slope to let hate and violence run wild on these platforms. There is a middle way between censorship and unhindered white supremacist vitriol.

Vera Eidelman, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, alleges, “Facebook will do no better at serving as the arbiter of truth versus misinformation, and we should remain wary of its power to deprioritize certain posts or to moderate content in other ways that fall short of censorship.” 

It is certainly true that banning any type of opinion could lead to a censorship problem, but that does not mean that the other side of the extreme is any better. Allowing hate speech to exist freely on these platforms appears to help foster white supremacist ideas and negatively influence youth.

Shannon Martinez, who de-radicalizes people as program director at the Free Radicals Project, told The Washington Post that the influence the Internet has on forwarding white-supremacist ideas shouldn’t be ignored. Censorship is concerning, but protecting white supremacy is far more concerning. It is possible to shut down white supremacists without over censoring others on social media.

Censorship is a slippery slope, but there is a middle ground between that and unobstructed neo-Nazism. The real danger is allowing people to say whatever they truly want to say online without repercussions. Inevitably, people won’t limit their hate just to the online arena. It is crucial that social media companies put their users first and take down the scourge of hate speech.