Content Warning: Hate Speech
There have been numerous hashtags springing up across social media in the last few days such as #NHCAW, #NoPlaceForHate and #WeStandTogether. That’s because this week is National Hate Crime Awareness Week – which not only aims to remember those who have tragically lost their lives to vile acts of hatred, but also to spark real momentum in tackling hate crime. This initiative couldn’t have come at a more pressing time with the recent Home Office statistics showing that hate crime has risen by 29% in the last year alone, with the incidents spiking around events such as the Westminster terror attack and Brexit.
Although this campaign has caught wind predominately on social networks, those who commit acts of hate find no better place to thrive than on those same platforms, especially Twitter. The combination of a lack of face to face confrontation, an emboldening mob mentality and for some, the disguise of anonymity, means hate speech has intensified at unprecedented rates.
The most striking example of this is how the Alt Right and those who are ideologically affiliated to the movement utilised this platform to mainstream their prejudices. Nazis and white supremacists involved in this movement such as Richard Spencer and David Duke (Former Grand Wizard of the KKK) use their accounts to spout racist bigotry and amass a legion of followers to spread their views and harass others. These are a few examples of their tweets and retweets that are easily accessible and can currently be viewed on the platform:
— Richard ? Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) August 23, 2017
— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) April 22, 2017
In the UK figures such as former EDL leader Tommy Robinson and public commentator Katie Hopkins use Twitter to espouse similar views, especially about Islam. Reports of hate crimes related to Islamophobia are rising dramatically and tweets that discriminate based on religious beliefs only serves to create further division in British Society:
Muslim men raping white women is consistent with the teaching of Islam. Revoke their citizenship and deport the bastards. Asian my arse.
— Katie Hopkins (@KTHopkins) February 26, 2016
These tweets are the tip of the iceberg in a toxic online culture which normalises and protects hateful speech towards marginalised people as free speech, yet punishes those who defend themselves from it.
In this way, Twitter has recognised white nationalist Richard Spencer as an account of interest and bestowed upon him a verified badge, yet suspended actress Rose McGowan’s account after she recently spoke out against sexual assault.
Twitter has shielded Donald Trump and let him use the platform to personally bully and incite the harassment of members of the black community such as Jemele Hill. The tech giant also remains silent when prominent feminists such as Lindy West are threatened with rape on a daily basis, as neither seemingly violate the site’s terms of service.
We echo Amber Rudd and Theresa May’s recent acknowledgement that social media platforms should do more to stop the spread of inappropriate content. Although Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has made promises to curb online abuse on the platform, we believe enough is enough and that those who commit or actively incite hate speech must no longer be coddled and turned a blind eye to. More effective filters for inappropriate content must be explored and social media giants like Twitter need a renewed sense of responsibility in dealing with abuse, as opposed to tacit complicity.
Online hate remains under-reported with low prosecution rates. At JAN Trust we take online hate extremely seriously and pioneered the first ever online tool to report hate crime. We believe that freedom of speech does not extend to infringing upon another person’s right to be free from harmful language and abuse. Moreover, the right to free speech does not mean freedom from receiving criticism for the words you speak. Whether those words are said out loud, or typed on a computer – All forms of hate crime should be offenses punishable by law.
If you want to find out more information about hate crime or how to report it please visit our Say No to Hate Crime website at http://saynotohatecrime.org/.