Five Steps for Fighting Hate Speech on Social Media
Posted by Angie Myers
For my final paper in ENGL 745: Communication Strategies for Emerging Media, I chose the topic of hate speech on social media. While learning about social media in this course, I was reminded of its impact and importance every time our country endured another mass shooting and a social media connection was revealed. I decided to research the relationship between online hate speech and real-world violence, and I was surprised by what I found.
In their policies that govern content, social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter acknowledge that hate speech can lead to violence. The first sentence of Facebook’s hate speech policy reads, “We do not allow hate speech on Facebook because it creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion and in some cases may promote real-world violence.” Twitter announced it is updating its “Hateful Conduct Policy” to prohibit content that dehumanizes members of an identifiable group because it can “lead to offline harm.”
Social Media Hate Speech and Violence Feedback Loop
I was glad to see they recognize the problem, but their efforts to combat hate speech seem too little too late. In my final paper, I wrote about the recent shootings involving gunmen who spewed hate speech on social media. I also learned how research is looking at the feedback loop of social media hate speech and violence that is amplified by algorithms and filters that create echo chambers and spread hate speech in a viral way to those outside a self-segregated group. The study that I found most interesting was by Petter Törnberg from the University of Amsterdam.
Triple Parentheses Hate Speech App
In my research, I also learned about the Google Chrome plugin called the Coincidence Detector that was removed from the Chrome store by Google in 2016 due to hate speech. The app would find people with names thought to be Jewish and tag them by surrounding their last names with triple parentheses. The triple parentheses would then help users find people to harass online, especially Twitter.
The Coincidence Detector app was especially frightening to me since I grew up in Alabama with the name Goldblatt and a Jewish grandfather. I went to an elementary school that was predominantly Jewish in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1970s, and I remember having to evacuate a couple of times every school year due to bomb threats. I never understood it at the time, but now I realize why that happened.
Five Steps to Limit Hate Speech on Social Media
Hate is alive and well today in the United States, around the world, and online. Technology companies and governments have an obligation to make sure social media networks are not used to spread hate. In my final paper, I recommended five steps to limit hate speech on social media:
- A broad definition of hate speech such as the one suggested by Change the Terms should be used. The policy should be presented to users on a regular basis in a form that is easy to understand such as in a question format as suggested by Flynn (2012).
- Hate speech should be taken down immediately. Violators should be warned or banned, and technology companies should face steep fines if they do not act quickly.
- Accounts posting objectionable content should not be amplified by algorithms. If posts are deemed objectionable, but not hate speech, they should be quarantined making them searchable but not deleted nor promoted to others.
- Technology companies should consider working together to ban repeat offenders on multiple platforms but allow for an appeals process and provide transparency in tracking and enforcement.
- Companies that have billions of users should have more than 10,000 content reviewers. Governments should consider requiring social media networks to have a minimum threshold of workers doing content reviewing that is in proportion to the number of users they have within a given jurisdiction.
Communication Strategies for Emerging Media has been one of the best courses I have taken in the Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Thank you Dr. Pignetti for an exceptional learning opportunity, and thank you to my fellow classmates for your contributions to the course and your responses to my blog posts as well as discussion posts. I hope you all have a happy holiday season.
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