Freedom of speech, still one of the hottest topics of debates, is the right for the people to express themselves without restrictions from the government. This definition comes with some exceptions, of course; hate speech, as is evident from its name, is the expression of hatred toward a particular group (Muslims, Jews, females, LGBTQ+, etc.). At last, somewhere between these two stands anonymity, the state of being unknown. Social media is the base to all of these, and more importantly, serves as a means of expression.
I strongly believe that social media encourages people to express themselves openly. Members of the LGBTQ+ community for instance, many of whom are closeted in real life, can easily reach out to one another and share their ideas and stories on a social platform—where they are not put under pressure. For example, according to the report of Department of Culture, Media & Sport, in England, LGB people are more likely to use social media than straight people. LGBT movement has also become a relevant topic under social issues; the social-network effect is helping the promotion of it through videos, posts, texts and pictures.
Networking helps people be themselves. It’s a lot easier for one to put forward their honest thoughts and opinions on almost any topic on a website, as there are no people that can judge them directly, unlike in real life. Social media helps people share their opinions anonymously—there are laws that secure the user as well as their privacy, therefore creating the comfortable environment for them to open up on whichever topic without revealing their identity (this can take a turn for the worse, nevertheless that’s completely up to the intentions of the consumer). Not to mention, writing behind a screen is a lot easier and practical than
speaking to an audience of 100 in a conference room. The difference between the two is that, in the former, you don’t have 100 pairs of eyes gazing into your soul, which can be a big plus for socially anxious people who have something to say.
Now, opening up the phrase hate speech a little bit; firstly, what’s offensive for us might not evoke the same feeling in someone else. Not everything carries the same value for the all of us. does not justify hate-speech, not everything has to affect every single person to be offensive So labelling something as “hate speech” can be tricky. Speech has never been a completely good or a completely bad situation. Secondly, the word “speech” is neutral in itself and stands for many other terms- including hate speech. For better or for worse- social media platforms help spread any kind of speech. This idea results in opposition to the prohibition of hate speech by some people. So, this raises a question: where does free-speech end and hate-speech begin? To be honest, I believe there’s a blurred line between the two; we can see how the idea of “freedom of speech” varies from culture to culture, so it’s understandable that defining something as “hate speech” might be tricky. However, that does not justify hate speech; something doesn’t have to be offensive for everyone for it to be labelled as offensive—and neither does it mean that morally unacceptable or extreme views such as racism and sexism do not exist, which we define as hatred toward a particular group—sound familiar? This is not what free speech is, so I believe it’s completely fine to erase a racist or sexist comment off the face of the internet. I admit that censoring what technically should be allowed on social media might seem like it goes against our rights, but permitting an utterly free and unmonitored speech can lead to threats, bullying, and hate speech (as it already does). Which is why the commonly used social media platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr have their own policies about this. Moderators of these are taking action against hate speech, defamation and threats—on Twitter, for example, you can report someone who throws abusive or offensive stuff around and have their account terminated if you can show five of their tweets as evidence. My point is, while it’s good for people to be exposed to different kinds of ideas, including those opposing their own, we should know where to draw the line.
Summarizing, social media greatly helps voices of minorities be heard and helps the consumer express their opinions on a topic while keeping their identity to themselves. Hate speech is not free speech, and therefore abolishing hate speech is not hindering free speech.
Department of Culture, Media & Sport. (2016, April). Taking Part – Statistical Release. Retrieved on 17 December 2017 from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/519678/Social_media_-_FINAL.pdf