One doesn’t have to spend much time on social web sites to come to realize those sites are being used to harass, spread hate, intolerance and incite violence. Hate is often disguised as a form of political debate or religious freedom, but it’s still hate and shouldn’t be tolerated.
Degrading images and hurtful language are, to some extent, protected by the First Amendment, but sometimes that line of protection is crossed and the activity becomes criminal.
“Beyond spreading hate, however, there is a growing, disturbing trend to use the Internet to intimidate and harass individuals based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin. When speech contains a direct, credible threat against an identifiable individual, organization, or institution, it crosses the line to criminal conduct. Hate speech containing criminal threats is not protected by the First Amendment,” a Leadership Conference article states. (http://www.civilrights.org/publications/hatecrimes/exploiting-internet.html)
While it seems true that individuals and organizations are being criminally attacked by hate speech it is difficult to prove intent, not to mention very costly. Sexual orientation has been the target in recent months, but religions other than Christianity received its fair share of hate and intolerance. And while Christian groups and individuals claim they have been targeted, it seems much of the hate and intolerance is coming directly from them and the political candidates they support.
Whenever a group or individual attacks another group or individual there is usually a hidden agenda behind the attack. Hate speech doesn’t always come from the average Joe, it comes from public figures too, such as Ann Coulter.
In a column, she wrote in 2009, Ann Coulter encourages the killing of doctors who perform abortions. In the column, she claims “49 million babies” had been “killed by abortionists,” while only five doctors had been killed in the same time period. She seems to say there is a gap between babies killed and doctors killed that needs to be attended to. She is obviously inciting violence and terrorism. She goes on to say, “I wouldn’t kill an abortionist myself, but I wouldn’t want to impose my moral values on others.”
While Ann Coulter might think, she is being coy in her column, what she wrote was an invitation for someone to commit a criminal act. Who knows whether Robert Dear Jr. acted on triggers provided by people like Coulter six years later when he murdered three people at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs.
It’s obvious to this writer that Coulter intended to incite violence, but those same intentions come from individuals on the social media sites such as Facebook too. Some people don’t seem to realize, or care, that what they say is not only hurtful to someone else, but it can also incite a third party to commit a criminal act.
While Facebook has been called to task concerning their users “Rights and Responsibilities,” they almost always side with the perpetrators rather than those claiming to be the victims. For example, when pages that seem to incite violence toward women are complained about, such as “You know she’s playing hard to get when your [sic] chasing her down an alleyway,” Facebook called it a pub joke. ” ‘It is very important to point out that what one person finds offensive another can find entertaining’” went the bizarre rape apologia. “’Just as telling a rude joke won’t get you thrown out of your local pub, it won’t get you thrown off Facebook,’” an article in the US edition of The Guardian reported.
The real problem isn’t Facebook, Twitter or any other social media, the real problem lies in the heart of the perpetrator. If you incite violence with hate speech you might be committing a crime before God and man – it’s that simple.
Think before speaking or printing something that will hurt someone else. It doesn’t matter what your agenda is, or who you believe you might be speaking for, you are responsible for what happens because of what you do or say.