Social media has inarguably become the Wild, Wild West of communications.
But the solution suggested yesterday by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice in letters to the heads of Facebook and Twitter is a slippery slope indeed.
“In order to effectively stem the tide of hate speech and bullying” on the social media sites, the group urged that they “take aggressive and proactive steps to combat this conduct. If not, courts and regulators will step into that void and mandate reforms.”
The letter, sent by the organization’s director of litigation, is, of course, aimed at intimidating both social media giants into some form of voluntary compliance. And the companies do have policies against hate speech, which they attempt to enforce — albeit imperfectly.
Frankly hate speech is the least of their worries right now. In recent weeks there was that vicious attack on a white mentally impaired teen by four young African-Americans broadcast live to Facebook as they shouted racial slurs. Or the teen accused of livestreaming her friend’s rape over Twitter’s Periscope. Chicago gangs have taken to using social media to boast of their crimes.
So is there a problem — especially with the video components of social media? You bet there is. But somehow we think that’s not exactly what the Lawyers’ Committee had in mind with its pleas against “hate speech” — a phrase now so abused by every “snowflake” on college campuses that it is virtually meaningless.
“The failure to take more aggressive action — and to protect minority users — is tantamount to facilitating discrimination and raises the specter of liability under federal and state law,” the letter states.
So only minorities can be victims of hate speech? (Guess women need not apply.)
It is high time to recall the advice of Justice Louis Brandeis on the issue of hate speech — that “the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”
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