The Internet allows for discussion on various issues but also allows open doors for hate speech
By Denzel Codrington
The Internet has opened a portal for discussions on various matters. People from around the world discuss various issues on message boards and through comment sections on news stories. It’s a wonderful thing when people have the opportunity to discuss world events in an open forum almost instantly regardless of their location. Websites like Facebook and CNN streamed the inauguration of Barack Obama instantly allowing people to express their feelings on that historic day.
The opportunity to express opinions openly has not however been entirely positive. Many users take advantage of the anonymity that the Internet allows to spew hatred in comments an on various blogs. If you scroll to the comments section of a Yahoo News story concerning Barack Obama or any issue concerning race, it’s not uncommon to see the dreaded ‘n-word’ thrown into posts as well as claims of “white power”. Its freedom of speech, right? Ironically enough, when it was discovered that the internet had such opportunity for discussion it was thought that it would make everyone seem equal, since no one could see each others’ faces, how could you judge by the color of one’s skin? On the contrary it seems that since everyone’s face is concealed, that’s even more reason to post disparaging remarks. No one is present to scold or punch you in the face for your racist remarks.
A ‘troll’ is someone who posts inflammatory messages with the primary intent to invoke an emotional response. It’s common that when confronted with the complaint that the message is racist or offensive, that it was just a joke. It’s unclear whether trolls are actually sincere with the messages they post, since it’s usually case specific but is claiming “niggers, spics and Jews should die” ever a matter to wonder the sincerity of? And yes if you look at the right story on Yahoo News, it is not uncommon to see something like that. Internet forums, which are specifically intended to be places for discussion, are primary targets for trolls who will even take a subject unrelated to race and turn it into one. A gardening forum can potentially become a place for racist jokes and remarks.
There are those however who use the Internet to express their beliefs without anonymity. Facebook is a known site for college racism. Lest we forget about the infamous event back in February where UCSD fraternity students mocked black history month by hosting a Compton Cookout through Facebook. In the Facebook message students were informed they would be serving watermelon, fried chicken, and malt liquor. Another event took place at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where two white students began a racist wall-to-wall conversation on Facebook when a black student entered their room. In their conversation they made comments such as “she already has her nigger instinct to kill us and use us to her pleasure”. They immediately deleted the messages after their friends responded negatively to them and the university punished them accordingly. Facebook recently garnered negative attention for allowing holocaust denier groups to form.
Those who play online videogames through Xbox Live or Playstation Network, experience similar problems. When playing games such a Call of Duty or Halo online, it’s not uncommon for players to freely use racial, homophobic and anti-Semitic slurs. These racist gamers take advantage of the anonymity that the internet allows to show their true side, as most usually make up names for their ID, some of which are offensive as they make plays on ethnic slurs. Online gaming services have however tried to curb the online hate speech by offering players the option to report players who use offensive terms. The online services will then review the player in question, temporarily or permanently ban them.
One could (in theory of course) create a KKK endorsing site in pure anonymity. There are groups that try to curb hate speech such as HateWatch who buy racist domain names so that real racists cannot buy these domain for themselves. Hate groups however do find way to post their views on the Internet. In 1995 the former Grand Wizard or national director of the KKK, Don Black created Stormfront.org a white supremacist neo-Nazi Internet forum which has been described as the internet’s first and largest hate site. It features links to other hate and white supremacist sites, a merchandise store and even an online dating service (for heterosexual white gentiles only). Stormfront has gone so far as creating a website called Martinlutherking.org which is full of information to discredit the civil rights activist. Whatever your beliefs are on King it’s interesting to note that if the words Martin Luther King are typed into Google it’s the third site listed.
What can be done to curb hate speech on the Internet? The answer as of now is nothing. How do you stop Internet hate speech when actual hate speech cannot be regulated? The United States cannot and will not support any law that regulates or encroaches upon freedom of speech. Therefore Internet hate speech will only end when racism is ended or somehow regulated.