Hate Speech on the Internet and Political Correctness

During the last class we mentioned the topic of hate speech and where it stands legally on the internet. We talked about how hate speech is protected under freedom of speech unless there are explicit threats against someone, but this is usually hard to prove. Because the internet gives anonymity to it’s users there isn’t a lot of repercussions to post hateful comments or messages on a website. Just go to any youtube video and scroll through the comments; there you will see the bashing of religions, genders, races, and sexualities regardless of if the video even dealt with any of these subjects. The prevalence of hate speech on the internet isn’t a new concept, in fact I would say it has just come to be accepted as one of the Internets unfortunate characteristics. However something I have been pondering is whether the prevalence of hate speech on the internet is a product of our overly politically correct society.

The internet does contain some forms of censorship such as the banning of child pornography, the shutting down of various pirating sites, and the self censorship employed by various websites. Nevertheless, cyberspace is a far more free environment to do and say what you will with out any major repercussions that would occur in the real world. All other forms of media such as print media, television, and radio are heavily censored and restricted as to what can be shown or heard. Almost anything and everything can be considered offensive to some group somewhere therefore media companies are always at risk of being sued. Political Correctness and sensitivity doesn’t of course only pertain to media but is prevalent in the education system and the work place.

While on the internet a user is protected by anonymity and can say what ever they want. What I’m curious about is if people take this freedom too far so that they can say those hateful comments just because they can. Or maybe it seems thrilling to the user to say things that would normally be shunned in every day society. While I certainly see the need for political correctness I sometimes wander if it has gone too far. May be we are a society that is just too easily offended and to ready to label someone as ignorant, racist, sexist, etc.

What reasons do you think that the internet harbors this hate speech?


Editing Citizen Journalism?

In a digital realm where social media serves to connect people from disparate locations, cultures, and backgrounds, the old adage “it’s not what you know but who you know” may not mean the same thing as it once did. But the same digital tools used to network also make it difficult to gain attention. The ease with which an individual can self-publish material on social media such as blogs means it is sometimes hard to be heard over the noise of the crowd. In fact, in a medium that relies heavily on sharing links from others, being connected to the right individuals (or not) can play a vital role in your success. Online publication without gatekeepers can also mean the dissemination of raw, informal, biased, or factually inaccurate writing.

The South Korean news website OhmyNews seems interested in alleviating some of these problems with online citizen journalism. The website allows any person to join and submit their own “citizen reports” to be published. Paid staff editors then review the submissions and decide which articles to promote (and by extension which articles to hide). Though the schema has changed, OhmyNews also paid writers small amounts for each story posted and had rewards for the more popular posts. Bringing together all the amateur writers into a single, professional style publication surely boosted the credibility and attention received than had they published individually. It also served to build a community to support citizen journalism as a whole.

OhmyNews is very popular, with over 70,000 citizen journalists and 2.5 million page views a day, but seems doomed to fail financially. As a free website, OhmyNews relies on advertising to generate enough income. Though it did report early profits, the website has had financial struggles since 2008. Their well-funded venture into Japanese media was a complete failure after only two years in operation. OhmyNews International, the English language version, now seems almost abandoned.

What went wrong?
OhmyNews represents an interesting hybridization between traditional mass media journalism and online citizen journalism. By establishing a “gate” through editors and a single publication space, they seemed to alleviate some of the inherent problems with amateur reporting. But what went wrong? Perhaps their sales staff has done a poor job finding suitable advertisers. The small staff had difficulty editing a huge (and growing) number of submissions each day. Though (our class guest speaker) Terry Heaton, writing in his blog in 2004, believed that OhmyNews was no longer an experiment – the website was a “stunning success by any measure” – it is clear that the verdict is still out. It also begs the question – should “professional” journalism have anything to do with “grassroots” journalism? Is this hybrid model suitable for the future of journalism, or will we have to rely on social folksonomy and aggregators to collect our news from various sources (blogs)?

Regulate yo-self


From the article:
“In the case of social media, we have the other interesting dimension that the core of social media is about voice and views of the group. As such, social media are perceived to operate in a relatively democratic and self-regulating way.

Whether this is really true and if so, represents an effective way of determining what gets taken down or not, depends on your view of the wisdom of crowds. 4,000 people “liked” the original Aboriginal Memes page and would argue that there was nothing wrong with it as it was supposed to be “funny”.”

Unfortunately this article lead me to the facebook page with “aboriginal memes” and  I’m not exactly sure how and why people decide to make those sort of memes and how or why they think they are funny.

The whole point of the article, though, is that the original facebook page started a lot of controversy and was eventually taken down by facebook because of it. But not long after new versions of the page were back up and running. So, what do we do? How can Facebook regulate this?

My suggestion, and that of many others, self regulation. Yes, I agree, “aboriginal memes” is horrible, nasty, racist, inappropriate nonsense that people shouldn’t have to see… so, don’t look at it. I will never go back to that page again. When Chick-Fil-A came out and said they do not support gay marriage my dad swore. he would never eat at Chick-Fil-A (I do support gay marriage, but can’t seem to give up the chicken sandwiches). My dad has not eaten at Chick-Fil-A since. He has better self control than I do.

I agree, It does seem quite impossible to regulate a lot of what is on facebook and social media sites, but to me it seems that facebook is already doing an okay job. There is a button on facebook that says “report.” I have never actually clicked on it, but I have thought about it a few times. Instead of clicking that, I think I actually deleted some people (self regulation).

But, I guess that really can’t be the answer. There needs to be some sort of way to regulate facebook.

From the article:
“When it comes to social media, we exert a choice over who we follow and whose pages we decide to look at. In the case of email, we have intelligent and adaptive software that filters offensive SPAM that is in part determined by how we as individuals filter our messages. Sites like Facebook and Twitter and Google+ will eventually incorporate this sort of functionality that will allow the individual to decide how much or how little they want to see.

Whether this leaves us wiser or happier or even safer, only time will tell.”

Do you think self regulation is the best answer? Or, what do you think the best way to regulate facebook is?

Fandom & Media: A Co-dependent Love Story

When speaking about fandom within the context of the ever-growing realm of social media, it is inherent that we clarify that it is not technology that dictates fan behavior nor is it fan behavior that delegates the structure of technology. Rather, the relationship between fandom and new media is mutually developmental, meaning that they both adapt according to each other. This idea is known as “convergence culture”, a term coined by Henry Jenkins, the founder and director of the comparative media studies program at prestigious MIT. Think of fandom and Web 2.0 as figures in a co-dependent relationship where both parties look to each other for potential ways to better their roles.

This idea of convergence culture suggests that these platforms that facilitate fan communities are nothing new, but that they are in fact merely adaptations of platforms from old media. For example, websites (such as http://www.lindsaylohansource.com) dedicated to reporting upon the happenings of a specific celebrity, politician, band, or what have you are not a new thing. Checking this kind of website on a regular basis or even following a public figure(s) on Twitter is just an adaptation of the Fan Club, an engraved figure from the time of Old Media. These fan clubs provided a service that was foundationally equitable to platforms existing in New Media with the intent of providing a place for fan communities to engage.

For example, if you belonged to a Bugs Bunny fan club than you could receive letters in the mail that suggested that they were from Bugs Bunny himself. Nowadays, fans turn to public figures’ blogs, twitters, websites, etc. to find messages that are also supposedly directly coming from the figures themselves. As you can see, both the old and new fan platforms were providing fans with the same (albeit false) sense of a relationship between themselves and their icon.

Furthermore, fans on a mailing list could also receive invitations to events where they could meet their icon and/or interact with fellow fans. New Media has merely adapted the same general idea by making this coming together of a fan community easier. Now, fans can find each other online through a variety of web resources and then communicate with each other any time they want even if they’re countries apart.

To further exemplify how fan communities facilitated through new media are merely grown-up versions of their old media counterparts, we can examine fans’ desire to create for each other. Fans were creating things for each other (fanzines, slash fiction, drawings, songs, etc.) even before new media reared it’s pretty head. Fans could distribute to display these creations by entering a picture in an art contest, singing a song about their icon at open mic night, etc.). New media came along and recognized this desire fans had to create for each other and simply found ways to make the dissemination of these materials between each other and the public faster, easier and wider spread. For example, there are now blogs dedicated entirely to Star Trek slash fictions and fan-made music videos on Youtube.

The important thing to remember is that fans do not do these things because new media allows them to; they’ve been behaving this way even before Web 2.0. However, on the other end of the spectrum, new media didn’t facilitate places for fandom to exist just because fans wanted it to. Instead, new media wanted these fans to participate so they provided places fan communities could exist, but then new media affected fandom by facilitating activities that had not been imagined and/or possible before.

Privacy in a Public Space

Let’s be honest. For most of us, Facebook is the only way we connect and interact with certain people. Perhaps they are friends from high school, distant relatives, or (God forbid) exes. We may even have “friends” who we only met once, maybe at a party or through a mutual friend, but whom we have not seen since. It really is great to have a network on which to have some sort of interaction with these people, even if we don’t know them all that well. Personally, I hate deleting people off Facebook. I feel as if I’m losing a connection, and I always worry that once I delete them, I’ll soon randomly run into them and have to explain why I made the decision to delete them. Crazy, right? Here’s the thing, though; my personal information, my thoughts, my life (the parts that I choose to make public) is on this site. I don’t want basic strangers having access to that.

This makes me stop and ponder my decision to actually post personal information on a social networking site. The information I post online isn’t usually anything that a person couldn’t access through public records: place of birth, current city, date of birth. So why don’t I feel comfortable with staying connected to these deleted people? I guess it’s because I don’t want others to have such easy access to me, to my life. And yet, I still keep this information up. I still post personal feelings, thoughts, my everyday life for everyone to see. This begs the question: why do we feel the need to post such personal things on a public forum? Even with privacy settings, there’s no guarantee that someone, whom we’ve given access to our profiles, won’t abuse this access and exploit our information. Seriously, why do we post private information on a public site? I don’t understand this phenomenon, and yet I participate.

Naomi Troni explores this topic in her article “Social Media Privacy: A Contradiction in Terms?” http://www.forbes.com/sites/onmarketing/2012/04/24/social-media-privacy-a-contradiction-in-terms/

She explains that we as a society have become so used to doling out pieces of information that we rarely give a second thought to providing it online for companies when purchasing a product or service, or subscribing for membership to a website. It’s only when our information is exploited and our privacy violated that we become wary of our lax privacy issues. Reputation.com discusses the top 5 social media privacy concerns of 2012. http://www.reputation.com/reputationwatch/articles/top-five-social-media-privacy-concerns-2012 It’s almost terrifying to think about how much information we’ve already posted online and who has access to it. Is there any other way to be more protective of this information?

Maybe we’ll never be able to go back to having completely private lives, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be more diligent with protecting our information. Personally, I’m now more aware of what I post online and what I allow to be seen by the public. My privacy is more important to me than giving a website permission to access my account. So far, I haven’t had really any privacy issues, but I know this is not the case with everyone. Have you ever had a problem with a social network privacy policies/settings?