The internet in the digital age is gradually connecting everyone and people can communicate with the world very simply. And in the internet, online platforms are the main way for people to communicate, share and express their views. As the user base increases, freedom of speech supports the birth of diverse cultures and arts in it. But on the other hand, hate speech is also growing as people express their views on online platforms. Platform administrators face a complex and difficult challenge: how to balance the conflict between free speech and hate speech. In this challenge, curbing hate speech is of utmost importance in examining how to balance the conflict. This thesis will explore the importance of balancing the conflict between freedom of speech and hate speech. Analyze how Twitter as an online platform ensures that freedom of speech is not abused.
The Importance of Balancing the Conflict Between Freedom of Expression and Hate Speech
Freedom of speech is understood as the right of individuals to express themselves freely and the right of the public to exchange information freely. These two concepts are seen as the foundation of the modern concept of democracy (Shankar, 2022). Freedom of speech encourages people to express their views, exchange ideas, and promote social progress. In the case of Twitter, freedom of speech supports people to communicate on the Internet, but with the growth of online communities, the conflict between freedom of speech and hate speech got out of balance. Some people began to abuse the freedom of speech by engaging in hate speech.
Hate speech becomes a weapon when freedom of speech is abused, which is often born out of ignorance, discrimination and prejudice. Although Twitter has been managing the community, it has had little effect. Hate speech continues to spread like a virus in the community. This can be very damaging to the community and its users. Hate speech has become a disturbing and ubiquitous global phenomenon in online interactions and is one of the major reasons for the increasing number of hate crimes around the world (Kienpointner, 2018). Hate languages are dangerous in two ways. For the victims, hate speech can damage the mental health of the victims, causing them to become self-absorbed and have low self-esteem which in severe cases can lead to suicidal tendencies in the victims. In 2019, South Korean actress Sulli was found to have committed suicide in her home. Before her suicide, Sulli was in very poor mental health and was severely suicidal. She was subjected to a great deal of hate speech during her lifetime. For society, hate speech can be divisive. Hate speech puts people on opposite sides of the spectrum, people vilify each other, and people are divided into subgroups that are separated by hatred such as prejudice and discrimination. This can have an unpredictable effect on social stability and can undermine cultural pluralism. That is why it is very important to balance the conflict between freedom of speech and hate speech because, in a balanced state, users have maximum freedom of speech and minimum hate speech.
Root Causes of Conflict Between Freedom of Expression and Hate Speech
The conflict between freedom of speech and hate speech stems from the plurality of human societies and differences in values. These conflicts manifest themselves in many ways, such as gender, race, and ethnicity. The reasons for the conflict between free speech and hate speech are different for different communities and are determined by the community’s user groups. Community managers need to understand the reasons for these conflicts and then set guidelines accordingly in order to curb the creation and publication of hate speech.
However, some believe that Twitter does not need to understand the causes of conflict and can solve the problem of hate speech by simply developing a censorship mechanism for hate speech. But this is not possible. Because the amount of content uploaded by users on many heavily trafficked websites is staggering and growing (Roberts, 2019). The huge amount of content means that more and more users from different cultures are entering the community. In the case that the users of the community have different cultural backgrounds, if the community managers do not understand the reasons for the conflict between freedom of speech and hate speech. The moderators may not be able to distinguish between free speech and hate speech. This can change the community environment into two extremes, filled with hate speech or users’ speech being greatly restricted. So, understanding the cause of the conflict is completely necessary for community managers.
“Hate-Speech-Aktion_18-11-15_01” by campact is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
Maintaining the balance between freedom of expression and hate speech conflicts: challenges and solutions
For Twitter, there are two basic guidelines for all solutions to balance the conflict between freedom of speech and hate speech:
- Elimination of ignorance, discrimination and prejudice in the community
- Establishment of boundaries for the freedom of speech of users to ensure that their freedom of speech is not abused.
The first aims at curbing hate speech at its source. The second aims to stop the publication of hate speech when it is not possible to stop its production.
Education creates the least risk of unintended side effects and can help prevent hate speech in cases where it does not pose an imminent threat of violence (Jääskeläinen, 2020). This means that education is the most viable and safe option for Twitter to combat ignorance, discrimination and prejudice, and for this reason, Twitter needs to educate users within its community by publishing educational articles and posts. Make the ignorant aware of the cultural diversity. Enhance their horizons as well as cultural sensitivities so that they recognise the line between free speech and hate speech. For people with discrimination and prejudice, the community can launch mandatory targeted education for them after identifying their hate speech, such as gender equality and gender education for sexists, stressing the importance of equality between men and women, as well as the harm of gender discrimination. This will help to dissolve their prejudices and discrimination, improve community harmony and make the community more inclusive.
However, there are also arguments that Twitter should rely more on technology, such as automated filtering and keyword recognition, rather than relying on education to change users. But there are limitations in the technology field, and it is not possible to block subtle hate speech. Malicious users may constantly try to skip the censorship by finding loopholes in the system. Importantly, purely technical means cannot take into account the impact of the platform on the users in terms of shaping their behaviour and perceptions. Education can help users better understand multiculturalism and encourage them to express their opinions more responsibly and respectfully.
In the long run, education is the most effective means of curbing hate speech. But long-term goals are hard to achieve for Twitter, which in 2016 sought to be acquired by Google, Salesforce and Disney, but all three deals fell through. Because the environment of Twitter has become quite bad due to hate speech (Gillespie, 2018). So, Twitter needs to use short-term effective means and educational tie-ins to curb hate speech. To cope with this situation, Twitter needs to strengthen its censorship mechanism in two directions, the first one is, adding AI to its automatic censorship mechanism and adding more cultural and linguistic types to the censorship database. AI can block and remove hate speech more intelligently than keyword censorship and the multicultural data in the database can make it simpler for AI to distinguish between hate speech and free speech in the multicultural community of Twitter. The second is the inclusion of more manual vetting to ensure that hate speech is removed quickly in the few cases where obscure hate speech has fooled the AI’s scrutiny.
Overall, to balance the conflict between free speech and hate speech. In the current situation of Twitter, the review makers need to first understand the aspects and causes of the conflict between free speech and hate speech in their community, and then develop a mechanism to carry out targeted education as well as strengthen the censorship mechanism. With these improvements, Twitter users can have maximum free speech and minimum hate speech. The Twitter community will be more inclusive and respectful.
Beale, S. (2013). Twitter Cornhole. https://www.flickr.com/photos/laughingsquid/10041657646/
campact. (2018). Hate-Speech-Aktion_18-11-15_01. https://www.flickr.com/photos/campact/44976659775/
Gillespie, T. (2018). Custodians of the Internet: Platforms, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions That Shape Social Media. Yale University Press. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,shib&db=nlebk&AN=1834401&site=ehost-live&custid=s3382554
Jääskeläinen, T. (2020). Countering hate speech through arts and arts education: Addressing intersections and policy implications. Policy Futures in Education, 18(3), 344–357. https://doi.org/10.1177/1478210319848953
Joohee, C. (2019). Deaths of Goo Hara and Sulli highlight tremendous pressures of K-pop stardom—ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/International/deaths-goo-hara-sulli-highlight-tremendous-pressures-pop/story?id=67303374
Kienpointner, M. (2018). Impoliteness online. Internet Pragmatics, 1(2), 329–351. https://doi.org/10.1075/ip.00015.kie
Roberts, S. T. (2019). Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media. Yale University Press. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/usyd/detail.action?docID=5783696
Shankar, S. (2022). The Ruse of Freedom: A Comparative Essay on Ahimsa and Freedom of Expression. Cultural Critique, 115(1), 1–34.
UNESCO. (2021). No one is born to hate: Addressing hate speech through education. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PXLvKT1U4M
United Nations. (2022). Hate Speech & the Consequences Explained | What You Can Do to Prevent the Next Atrocity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQeoUQa3MiU