Measures need to be taken to both identify and end hate speech online.
It’s been less than a week since the violent shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. The combined events claimed the lives of over 30 people and injured dozens more. While the grieving process continues, others are looking for a way to reduce the motivation for these mass killings in the future.
Now, researchers and religious figures are calling for changes to the way social media and similar sites operate in an attempt to quell hate speech before it turns into real violence. After all, the shooting in El Paso was linked to a social media site called 8Chan, where the shooter was able to post a lengthy, racist manifesto. In it, he detailed his hatred for Hispanic people, specifically immigrants coming from Mexico. He purposely travelled to El Paso to shoot people who fit into the Latino and Hispanic communities.
President Trump called on social media leaders to meet with him on Friday, August 9, 2019 in an attempt to discuss how social media plays a role in radicalizing individuals and supporting extremism that turns violent. The president hopes there will be an ongoing effort to find and detect mass shooters before they launch an attack.
Yet, the typical social media sites that carry the bulk of the 4.8 billion social media users are only partially to blame. In the case of the El Paso shooter, his radicalization and manifesto both seemed to stem from the little-known 8chan, a site that has been mentioned in blips when major shootings happen. Cloudflare, a tech security company who protected 8chan from attacks, dropped the site earlier this week. Now, with tech support dropped for the site, people will inevitably find new places to congregate.
Cruelty against a religion, ethnicity, sexual identity, or race has reached a fever pitch. Here are some tips to help students deal with hate speech online. #digcit #hatespeech pic.twitter.com/CuRpD2mGKB
— Common Sense Education (@CommonSenseEd) August 1, 2019
While limiting the areas that allow hate speech to thrive has been the goal of religious leaders like Rabbi Marvin Hier, there are other steps that can be taken. Specifically, with the new election cycle for the United States coming soon, the Rabbi says “We’re about to go into the presidential (election) season again with, I would say, an almost hysteric level of demonization of the other. We need a cease-fire.”
However, the fact remains that people vying for a highly contested presidency are not likely to give up on demonizing the other side if it means losing votes. With gun control measures seeming less likely with every shooting and a new round of vitriol ready to spill onto the airwaves and social media, one has to wonder how long it is before another person decides to commit an atrocity.
In an opinion piece published by FOX News yesterday, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Jewish human rights organization Simon Wiesenthal Center, said, “Democracies have to begin to deconstruct vicious online breeding grounds of hate and terror. And parents must also intervene to keep the online merchants of hate from preying on our kids’ vulnerabilities.” Cooper said we must engage with our children and be role models for them, giving them experiences that generate positive feedback and love that is so desperately needed in their formative years. Cooper praised President Trump for taking the important step to work with social media companies to find a way to curb hate posted online.
At the time of publication, the outcome of Trump’s meeting today with social media executives is unknown. However, CNN is reporting on a draft executive order titled “Protecting Americans from Online Censorship,” the result of an ongoing campaign “over an alleged but unproven systemic bias against conservatives by technology platforms.” The title of the draft order seems to be at odds with curbing online hate speech.