Civil Rights Groups Intensify Calls to Stop Online Hate Speech

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Activists want to end the spread of hate online.

Civil Rights Groups throughout the United States are calling for social media companies to rein in the hate speech that is occurring on their websites. The latest call was undertaken hours after it was revealed the suspect in the Tree of Life Synagogue slayings spread hate speech on the website Gab.com. 11 people were killed in the hate crime at the Pittsburgh location as they met for services at the synagogue.

On the Gab.com social media site, the gunman spewed anti-Semitic hate speech and threats towards Jewish people before carrying out the attack.  Now, Gab.com has been forced to find a new web host and people are left wondering if social media groups should do more to prevent the spread of hate speech.

Even the definition of hate speech is not something that is agreed upon with every social media firm. Following the Charlottesville neo-Nazi march that turned deadly, Facebook was forced to examine its own tolerance for hate speech on its website. In an attempt to toe the line between hate speech and free speech, they established the concept of motivation within their definition of hate speech. Essentially, the working definition of hate speech that is blocked on their site is something that celebrates hate crimes or terrorism or threatens violence.

With yet another hate crime having been initiated on social media, websites are left wondering whether or not that is enough. According to six major civil rights groups, the answer is no. The murders at the Tree of Life Synagogue are believed to be the deadliest assault against Jewish people in the history of the United States.

As such, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Center for American Progress, Free Press, Color of Change, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Southern Poverty Law Center have released recommendations for social media sites to quell hateful activities on their websites. According to their definition, hate activities includes when people “threaten, harass, intimidate, defame, or even violently attack people different from themselves.”

The groups are going to issue a report card on the steps taken from this point forward on social media sites to reduce these instances and the tolerance for them. Even though many are excited for the changes, there is going to be growing pains. The definition of free speech and the conditions under which it can appear in an open social media forum is going to experience some serious scrutiny in the months to come.

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