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Allowing Hate Speech Allows Sane People to Challenge Bigotry

by Todd A. Smith

 

Social Media, We Have a Problem


Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have an image problem in more ways than one.


Sure, freedom of speech only applies to the government preventing us from speaking our minds, with a few exceptions.


But to ban controversial figures like Minster Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones and others for hate speech, while President Donald Trump is the captain of hate speech on Twitter epitomizes hypocrisy.


Why should media personalities and religious leaders have to hold themselves up to a higher standard than the leader of the free world?


Furthermore, banning people from social media for hate speech presents a slippery slope because who defines hate speech and how hateful does one have to be to actually be considered hateful in the eyes of the social media giants?


On May 2, Facebook banned seven users, labeling them as “dangerous individuals and organizations.”


The banishment has received criticism from Black and White to the left and the right as many see it as a violation of the First Amendment. 

 

That argument is not true because companies can limit what you can say on their platforms.

 

As long as the government does not try to infringe on your First Amendment rights, a freedom of speech violation does not exist.


Nevertheless, even President Trump has come to the defense of some of the right-wing media personalities affected by the Facebook ban.


However, Trump has said nothing in defense of Farrakhan, which is no surprise to any breathing soul.


Farrakhan has always been an advocate and soldier for the African-American community since joining the Nation of Islam decades ago.


However, he has said many things that are anti-Semitic and he should receive ridicule for those hateful statements.


But many of the same people who bash Farrakhan for anti-Semitic statements have no problem with Trump’s racist, sexist and Islamaphobic statements.


If the leader of the free world can peddle in unproven conspiracy theories and bigoted rhetoric, why can’t normal citizens do the same thing?


Furthermore, Trump cannot criticize censorship when his administration censors the media on a regular basis by not answering questions from reporters of certain news outlets and calling every story that paints him a negative light as fake news.


Although they are not obligated to, Facebook and other social media companies should use the First Amendment as a guideline to handling controversial figures on their platform.


Free speech should be allowed on social media as long as the user does not threaten someone violently.


Free speech should be allowed on social media as long as a user does not defame someone else.


Free speech should be allowed on social media as long as the user does not infringe on someone else’s intellectual property.


Free speech should be allowed on social media as long as it is not too vulgar.


And free speech should be allowed because despite the bigotry that exists today, good can come from divisive rhetoric.


Personally, I have seen social media bring people together from different backgrounds because they were able to express their thoughts on controversial issues freely and openly.


Back in the day, bigotry stayed behind closed doors a lot of times.


A lot of times bigotry stayed in the house as people surrounded themselves with like-minded individuals.


Often, bigotry festers when a person does not have anyone to challenge his or her views and beliefs.


However, social media has allowed people to come out of the house and interact with others.


Now, when a person puts an unpopular opinion on social media, others will challenge their perspective for better or worse.


Those challengers might educate the bigoted or ignorant person with a perspective that they never thought of, and hopefully that encounter will replace that ignorance with understanding and empathy.


Social media, and the Internet as a whole, has reduced the size of the world.


Racism often festers in a racist environment in which a person is indoctrinated with ignorance and not exposed to the very people that they are taught to hate.


However, when people engage in a dialogue with someone who thinks differently than them and looks differently than them then that interaction has the power to eliminate the stereotypes and prejudices that the person once had.


Part of the reason that Trump has not graduated from the school of ignorance into the school of intelligence is that he seems to surround himself with people who think like him, pretend to think like him or are scared to challenge his thinking.


Having a bunch of yes men and yes women in his circle is why Trump probably indulges in racism and conspiracy theories.


Listening to other perspectives, no matter how much he disagrees with them, would make Trump a more empathetic person and a better leader.


Therefore, allowing people who peddle in hate to remain on social media, which allows people to directly challenge them, would hopefully enlighten them and lead them to a better understanding of people who are different than they are.


Closing hateful people off from the rest of the world will not cause them to hate less.


It might cause them to hate more because they might only interact with other hateful people.


“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” said a Facebook spokesperson last week. “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts…”


Facebook went on to say that the social media platform constantly monitors pages for violations.


Violations include calling for violence against someone because of race, ethnicity and national origin.


Furthermore, violations including slurs or hate speech in a user’s about section.


Often, Facebook prevents others from praising people or organizations that the social media company has banned for hate speech and promoting violence.


Unfortunately, the Facebook ban might have unintended consequences like preventing true dialogue, understanding and reconciliation.

 


This article was published on Friday 10 May, 2019.
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