Freedom of Speech ≠ Can say anything

Hate speech
Hate speech. Image: Fire, Hate Speech

Introduction

Nobody likes hate speech but hate speech occurs everywhere and every time in this society, no matter in real life or online social platforms. Hate speech can be harmful to victims that make people upsets and get injured or even killed. But there is a debate about whether hate speech regulations interfere with freedom of speech. For protecting people away from hate speech, there are kinds of regulations in law and platform.  Racial Discrimination Act is the regulation from the Australian government to regulate language use and reduce racial discrimination. And Europe’s 2016 Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online is the law to reduce hate speech for online social media platforms. Because people get hurt from hate speech so there are so many regulations to against it. Some people think social media platforms’ regulations can take control of it, but there is some other voice said that these kinds of regulations from social media platforms violate their freedom of speech, they have rights to say what they want unless the government’s law says no. This post will argue that social media platforms are the main roles to regulate the hate speech online but not the government’s law.

Historical Background

Australia is an immigration country that there were over 7.5 million migrants living in Australia and 29.7% of the Australian population were born overseas in 2019. There were 677,000 Australians born in China, 660,000 born in India, and 140,000 in Sri Lanka. The largest number of immigrants come from these three countries.  (Australian government, 2020).   Immigrate people are here in Australia that they have different languages and cultures from western people, if hate speech online does not get the control that will be a big problem in Australia.

Australia's population by country of birth
Australia’s population by country of birth by Australian Bureau of Statistics

Because of Discrimination Act 1975 and Criminal Code Act 1995, Australia handled gender, religious and racial discrimination well. With the development of society, social networks have now become the main communication tool for people that these laws and regulations lack the supervision of speech on online platforms. The more detailed supervision of hate speech online can only be handled by social platforms. The European Commission released the results of its fifth evaluation of the 2016 Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online. The results are overall positive with IT companies assessing 90% of flagged content within 24 hours and removing 71% of the content deemed to be illegal hate speech.

Supervision of social media platforms

Freedom of speech is not a license to abuse (NEDIM, 2020). Although government laws have been committed to protecting people from hate speech, it is difficult for them to manage every hate speech online. If people are walking on the street and encounter racial discrimination or other hate speeches, it may be useful to call the police because they violated the law, but on the Internet, many people use anonymous accounts or they have multiple accounts for hate speech, which allows them to escape legal sanctions. Facebook is an international social media platform that there is a large number of people who use this app worldwide. They can post anything they want. For example, some people’s posts violate the laws of some countries, it is possible that they are not from this country, so the local government cannot do anything to them. In this case, the supervision of the social media platform is the most important thing.

League of Legends report system
League of Legends report system, image by zhicheng Xu

Through the Code of Conduct, social media platforms can have a better way to monitor the hate speech of their users. Lots of social media platforms have their own report system to make sure their users who have been hate speech that they can have a way to report it and social media platforms can deal with it easier. For instance, in the video game League of Legends, if users suffer verbal abuse and hate speech, they can report the hate speech player at the end of the game. This system provides great help to the game environment of League of Legends. Because once the reported player is proven to have violated these rules that the system will give them corresponding punishments. If it is reported because of hate speech, this user will be banned from communication for 100 hours or blocked for a period of time. To deal with hate speech online that these methods are faster and more effective than government laws.

Free speech

Free Speech
Free Speech, image by Sean Illing, A philosopher makes the case against free speech

According to Right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to freedom of expression extends to any medium, including written and oral communications, the media, public protest, broadcasting, artistic works and commercial advertising. The right is not absolute. It carries with it special responsibilities, and may be restricted on several grounds. For example, restrictions could relate to filtering access to certain internet sites, the urging of violence or the classification of artistic material. How to define hate speech is actually a very complicated problem in some cases. People express their opinions on political issues, but the political issue is a particularly sensitive topic. For example, COVID-19, the virus was first discovered in China, but there is currently no evidence that this virus originated in China. People called this virus as ‘Chinese virus’. On the one hand, this virus was discovered in China, people call this as Chinese virus is reasonable because it makes this easier for people to know which virus it is. On the other hand, this name is a bit offensive to innocent Chinese people. Perhaps because of this virus name, Chinese people will suffer unnecessary harm, such as discrimination or injury. For example, there was a Japanese musician beaten up in New York City for being ‘Chinese’ because of Covid-19 (SoraNews24, 2020).

Social platforms cannot over-regulate language, because this will really affect people’s freedom of speech. For example, in China, many social media platforms limit the user’s vocabulary. In some social media platforms, users cannot type words like death, sex, mother (Chinese dirty words) and Xi jinping etc. when they type these kind words that the screen show ***. This aspect affects people’s normal communication online. Of course I do not want Australia to become like this.

Implications

This article hopes that social platforms can take effective measures to avoid the trouble caused by hate speech to people, but it will not bring a bad experience to users, and will not affect the communication between users. If social platforms do good enough supervision of hate speech, then the current online society will be more peaceful. This will not affect people’s freedom of speech, but people are responsible for their speech on the Internet. If anyone publishes racial or other discrimination, their posts will be deleted by social platforms.

 

Conclusion

Social platforms have rights to remove hate speech and illegal speech in Australia. Australia is a country of immigrants which it has a diverse culture. Social platforms will supervise the speeches made by users on the Internet, and they will handle hate speech and illegal speech independently or through the reporting system. Without affecting users’ freedom of speech, minimize the gender, religious and racial discrimination on the Internet. Because in many cases, the legal process is too cumbersome and this will waste a lot of time. In this society with a developed information technology that some hate speech or illegal speech will spread to the entire world within a few hours. So efficient processing on social platforms is the best choice.

 

 

References

 

Australian Governent. (n.d.). Right to freedom of opinion and expression. Retrieved from Attornry-General’s Department: https://www.ag.gov.au/rights-and-protections/human-rights-and-anti-discrimination/human-rights-scrutiny/public-sector-guidance-sheets/right-freedom-opinion-and-expression

Australian government. (2016, January 29). Racial Discrimination Act 1975. Retrieved from Federal Register of Legislation: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2016C00089

Australian government. (2020, August 05). Criminal Code Act 1995. Retrieved from Federal Register of Legislation: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2020C00245

Australian government. (2020, 04 28). Migration, Australia. Retrieved from Australian Bureau of Statistics: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/population/migration-australia/latest-release

Australian government. (2020, 04 28). Migration, Australia. Retrieved from Australian Bureau of Statistics: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/population/migration-australia/latest-release

NEDIM, U. (2020, 06 15). Is Hate Speech a Crime in Australia? Retrieved from sydneycriminallawyers: https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/is-hate-speech-a-crime-in-australia/?utm_source=Mondaq&utm_medium=syndication&utm_campaign=LinkedIn-integration

SoraNews24. (2020, 10 09). Japanese musician beaten up in New York for being ‘Chinese’. Retrieved from Japan Today: https://japantoday.com/category/crime/japanese-musician-violently-attacked-in-new-york-for-being-chinese

the European Commission. (2020, June 22). Commission publishes EU Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online continues to deliver results. Retrieved from the European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1134