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?

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8 thoughts on “Hate Speech on the Internet and Political Correctness

  1. I agree with your blog post of the notoriety behind people leaving offensive comments. It becomes extremely noticeable in sites, like Reddit or YouTube, where I have seen someone post a video or picture only to be bashed with racist comments that have nothing to do with the original article. There are times when I wonder how many people actually bottle up their ideologies only to spray it out through cyberspace. The Internet is as far uncensored as any other medium can achieve. Television, print media, and radio have far more censorship hovering over editing rooms. I personally believe that the Internet harbors this hateful speech directed towards race, class, sex, etc. because of the idea of anonymity. Some people may believe they are truly safe behind the curtains of cyberspace, allowing them to express otherwise repressing slurs. Perhaps it’s to show some form of dominance in a world where they may feel anonymous and safe from discovery. I believe that whatever the reason may be, the slurs reflect the ignorance of many individuals. These individuals, however, shouldn’t be the cause of censorship throughout the Internet, in my opinion. Their actions should not trickle down to other people’s misfortunes. I believe that reporting such individuals to the website’s provider would be the best notion to counter the ignorance floating around certain sites, like Reddit and YouTube (among others). These anonymous individuals have usernames that allow them to make these posts, so their actions can still be recognized and punished through cyberspace with the help of reporting or flagging.

  2. I think the Internet harbors hate speech because of its anonymity and safety net like feeling that it provides users that sit behind the computer screen. The easiness of sitting in a comfortable environment and clicking keys puts users at ease to type what ever they desire. Some users take advantage of this environment in a positive way and are able to contribute and discuss topics with other users that they probably would not have been able to without the Internet. However, it leaves room for the opposite outcome where hate speech is created. Other users take this anonyms feeling and create hate speech that they probably would not have contributed if they did not have the safety provided by their computer screen. These users are ignorant to the fact that their “anonymity” is often a false. Websites collect user names, emails, and IP addresses. The security of the screen provides the boost of confidence the haters are looking for. I think it should be up to the individual sites to recognize these users and should block them from the sites. It is unfortunate that the anonyms atmosphere of the Internet can be used for both creative and hateful comments.

  3. I agree that political correctness is a double edged sword which has extremes on both sides of the issue. For example, it is not politically correct to say “Merry Christmas” , instead you have to say “Happy Holidays”. I believe that to be way too politically correct and some what stupid. There is nothing wrong with saying Merry Christmas during that holiday and “happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Ramadan” during the respective dates of those occasions. On the other hand however, there are some who use the right to free speech for malevolent ends. certain groups of people hide behind freedom of speech in order to practice their “right” of hateful speech, this is rather popular among political conversations and politics in general among blue collar and lower social classes. The internet is a beautiful thing but it can be ugly as well. You have to take the good with the bad in order to keep the internet free and available for all. Hateful and racist comments dominate the internet because it is a safe environment where one can “somewhat” hide behind a digital space and project their anger, hate and racisim from their actual lives digitally and anonymously. The physical environment of being in the comfort of your own home and represented by a screen name with no face to face interaction or representation is what fuels this behavior.

  4. I do feel that people use the internet to act out in ways that they could never get away with in the actual face-to-face world. Most people would never go to a movie and shout out obscenities for everyone in the theater. However, there are loads of individuals who go on YouTube and type all sorts of offensive things in the comment section of videos and everyone can read their comments. Often times these people are using usernames so that they remain anonymous. Maybe it is the pressure to be politically correct in society that pushes people to use the internet as a release. On the web you can be anyone and post anything you like. I agree when you pointed out that “maybe it seems thrilling to the user to say things that would normally be shunned in every day society.” Possibly if society was not so bent on everyone being politically correct all the time, then people would not be so apt to lash out on the internet. It seems that many people need a way to behave badly and they cannot do it in regular life, so they take to cyber life armed with an anonymous username and say whatever pops into their head.

  5. The need to be politically correct in every other avenue of life besides one’s activity on the internet certainly plays a role in the hateful speech found there in abundance. I think there are some more pertinent questions, however. Even if there was no requirement for political correctness in the media/ public, how many of those people spouting hateful nonsense, whether racial or otherwise, would begin a confrontation and say those things to another in public or would have the courage to say it to an entire group? The anonymity, the lack of repercussion and confrontation, is more to blame, I believe. Sure, maybe there are some people out there who need to let off some racist steam because they can’t do it anywhere else…I believe most of these people, to generalize, fall into the category of cowards. It is the lack of identity and physical presence that allows it. So, is it the result of other areas of life? I think this is the only area of life where such exchanges are facilitated and made commonplace. The nature of the internet allows for it.
    I also feel like the those words and phrases, the hate speech and the constant cruelty, is devalued in a way. In the sense that everyone is desensitized to it on the web, and I question how many of the people saying these things really understand what they mean? The internet requires a different type of empathy, and some of these people (often they seem to me like grade school/ high school kids) might not understand that yet. I’d be very curious to see some sort of study done on the topic, somehow ferret out information on the nastiest of the commenters. We could discover demographics of the people spouting this nonsense. I suspect part of it is age.

  6. Unfortunately yes, the US has become a safe harbor for hate speech on the internet. Too much freedom and anonymity has driven these individuals to speak their mind on the internet without the consent of other people’s feelings. Just like others of you have already mentioned; these people feel safe being anonymous and believe they are protected with freedom of speech. We live in a world full of cruel people. It is sad to see so much ignorance on the internet, but I believe the internet is a place where people should be able to speak their mind. What if we lived in a country where a single comment we made was questioned by whether or not it was hate speech or even just a joke? Lawsuits could potentially be a solution to hate speech threatening to harm others. We have enough censorship on the TV and radio already, having this censorship on the internet would be crossing the line. Let there be a space for everyone to speak their mind, there should be a place where everyone can be themselves even if it’s just ignorance. Enough is enough and we should know that we are not fully safe. There are loopholes in the internet and people can always be tracked down after a comment they made. Even simply requiring a registration could help reduce the number of hateful comments made. Reputation has long been a deterrent for shameful acts. Or just the fact that it’s more of a process to post a comment could reduce the number of trolly comments.

  7. I believe the reason for the hate speech is because the Internet is a lot less regulation than television or other mediums. It is a lot easier to remain anonymous and you do not have to look the person in the face and call that person horrible things. There is not as much emotional attachment. On the Internet, you can write a hurtful comment, leave the website, and never check back to see what other people say. I doubt that many people would say the awful things they said online to the face of whoever they are talking to. It is a shame that this is one way people use the freedom of the Internet, when that freedom can be so wonderful. You are allowed to speak your mind (at least in the U.S.) and the rules are not as strict due to anonymity. I feel like people are just not as aware that the Internet is quite different than Television or reading a magazine. Almost anything goes. Just like for online video game, the Internet should have a warning saying “Your experience may change going online.” Maybe it is not the Internet to blame for the hateful speech. Maybe it is the education or the lack of education that some people have. A lot of the hateful comments I see on Youtube, for example, are some of the most ignorant and unintelligent things I have ever seen.

  8. The anonymity that the internet provides definitely contributes to people posting hateful speech on twitter, blogs, forums, or whatever. It is not a nice thing to do but I feel it is better that people are free to be ignorant than be forced to be fake. If everyone is going to be civil (politically correct or fake) on the internet, it doesn’t really bring to light the issues that really affect us as a society. Real speech is better than gilded speech. It is sad that there are so many people that are racist or homophobic, but it is better to know that people like that exist in the real world even if you don’t know who they are. We shouldn’t be sheltered from all the evil ideas that are around us in our daily lives. The only way people can try to solve bigotry is by knowing that it is around us. In a politically correct reality we are sheltered from people’s true feelings and ideas. For example, the Mitt Romney hidden video of him speaking to a bunch of his peers. He wasn’t being politically correct by saying 47% of the people weren’t going to vote for him so he didn’t need to worry about them. He would have never said such a thing had he known the video was going to go all around the internet and media outlets. He did say it though, and people found out, therefore they became more informed about him. People hide their true feelings behind political correctness. People can also express themselves freely without being known via the internet. I’m not really sure what is worse but neither sounds very pleasing.

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