hate speech

Hate speech on social media – voice of the bullies?

Few days back, as I was researching hashtags for a marketing campaign based on the LGBTQ+ community, tags such as #homosexuality_not_accepted, #homosexualityiswrong and #homosexualityisasin surfaced at the top of my search results. The aforementioned disturbing search result is bound to send one onto an introspective reverie, doubting the basis of the so-called modernization of our thought process. Is hate speech on social media the voice of the bullies, and what can we do about it?

Having resided in a cosmopolitan setting, it is hard to digest that such homophobic sentiments still persist, let alone to such a large extent that Instagram algorithms suggest such hashtags to be trending. I am not oblivious to the struggles of the LGBTQ+ people, especially in more restrained parts of the world. Yet the hashtag trends suggest that there are a considerable number of people residing in my current urban surrounding who still uphold such regressive ideals. The point of the article is not to change every individual’s mentality, we all know that it is not a perfect world, but to strive towards that perfect world by limiting the propagation of hate speech on social media. Because that is how we evolve!

How toxic is the propagation of hate speech on social media?

We are all well-versed with an economic vicious cycle, let’s borrow the model to explain the toxicity of hate speech on social media. A trending hashtag is more likely to pop-up as a search result for the keyword “homosexual”, the posts with such hashtags are more likely to be surfacing on people’s search feeds. Leading to the propagation of hate towards the people of a certain sexual orientation, needless to say how persuasive popular opinion on social media gets. Which would in turn lead to further public exposure of such wrong ideals.

Homosexuality is not the only topic that is facing the brunt of social media toxicity. Search results on various other human rights movements such as feminism and racism demonstrate equally unsettling archetypes. In a world were more of than half of the population is struggling for equal pay and work opportunity based on their sex or sexuality, trending hashtags such as #feminazi_memes or #feminismiscancer are severely disconcerting.

The exploitation of Freedom of Speech

Many seek to argue that, being a liberal one must consider everyone’s opinion, even if their belief system does not align with yours. Yet the problem here is not valid opposing points of view, but an act of denying someone of their basic human rights. Exercising freedom of any form requires a certain degree of responsibility. Taking a democratic right for granted to oppress others’ freedom to live is wrong on simple humanitarian grounds.

The basic principle of bullying is to leech onto the insecurities of the already burdened. Yet we allow social media sights to be the Holy Grail for bullies and trolls in the name of Freedom of Speech. As regular users of such platforms, it is our responsibility to check which opinion makes a valid argument and what purely stems from bias and hate. Let us come together in suppressing the voice of bullies!

The subsequent course of action

The very fact that it’s easier for controversial topics to gain more traction on social media platforms than genuine good content seems to be a reflection of certain defiled audiences as well as the majority’s stunning passivity in the face of such depravity. While the tone of the previous statement is harsh, it justifies how pressing the issue of hate speech on social media is, especially on the mental health of someone already struggling with their identity.

Regulation of content on public platforms is the need of the hour. Yet, cyber algorithms are not always very effective in detecting offensive content. Hence, while consuming it is our prime responsibility as fellow humans is to make the basic effort to flag offensive content. Trust me, tapping on those three dots at the top right-hand corner of an Instagram post would not really take much of your precious scrolling time!

 

Aishwarya Mitra

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