#IStandWithHateSpeech. Bizarre hashtag, right? Well, last Tuesday this hashtag was the number one trending subject on Twitter in the United States.
The hashtag was sparked in response to Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google’s YouTube channel when each agreed to work out a regulated code of conduct to prevent and remove hate speech after a significant increase of anti-immigrant, anti-Islam and pro-ISIS tweets, posts and comments began to surface.
“The European Commission said the four web giants will review the majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech in less than 24 hours and remove or disable access to such content if necessary,” according to The Huffington Post.
This turned into an internet-wide debate where people tweeted opinions on how they feel about our “politically correct” society.
To be clear, I believe in our First Amendment rights. Even if that means people have a right to say hateful things. I do believe that censorship in any form can set a dangerous precedent for the future. But at the same time, these tech giants are also private businesses and have a right to make these kinds of decisions for their own companies and have a duty to protect the safety of social media users in a way they best see fit.
“We remain committed to letting the tweets flow,” said Karen White, Twitter head of public policy for Europe. “However, there is a clear distinction between freedom of expression and conduct that incites violence and hate.”
As I was going through #IStandWithHateSpeech tweets, it consisted of hateful comments, mostly bashing Islam, followed by a statement on how “political correctness” is infringing on their free speech.
I began to question why speech such as a tweet I read that said, “Who cares if I offend some towel-head Muslim,” was being defended while Facebook and Twitter were being criticized. Think about the intentions of these companies and even the intentions of those who speak and think politically correct. To be more respectful. To be more compassionate. To be less hateful and more understanding of others. To minimize harm and bullying.
Even at BYU-Idaho, I’ll hear students say hateful comments and phrases that degrade specific groups of people, yet these same students have such a problem with people using curse words that overall don’t mean anything. I’m not saying speech needs to be censored — I believe the opposite.
I appreciate different points of view and ideas being voiced, and I feel it is essential for a society to progress and move in the right direction. What I am saying is, on the other hand, let’s not criticize those who are striving to create a more compassionate, understanding society because those individuals have the right to express themselves, too.
Our First Amendment rights in regards to freedom of speech are still enforced and protected. When people claim political correctness is infringing on that right, it is false. Everyone still has a right to say what they want, even if it’s hateful. The problem people have with political correctness is that when people want to say hateful, insensitive statements, society now calls them out on it — and nobody likes to be called out. But everyone’s right to freedom of speech remains.