Editorial: The freedom to combat hate speech

Hate speech on privately owned platforms is a rising topic of conversation, and the distinction between being protected by the First Amendment and subscribing to the terms and conditions of social media platforms is seemingly being confused.

Adopted in 1791, the First Amendment ensures that citizens have the right to freedom of speech, press and peaceful assembly among other rights, and stipulates that Congress shall not pass any law to deny such rights.

Freedom of speech in the digital world has similar, and potentially even more, regulations on what people are able to post. Social media and online companies have, and should, implement limitations on what kind of speech is allowed on their platform in order to prevent the spread of hate speech and posts inciting violence. It is of the utmost importance for social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to set these guidelines, as what is shared on them can have real-world implications.  

Countries across the globe have different government regulations when it comes to how big tech companies handle hate speech, and in the United States there are more people asking that the government insert themselves into social media companies’ affairs so that any and all speech can be shared. 

These platforms are still largely self-regulated and it’s up to them to decide what users can and cannot share across the platforms. 

More specifically, Twitter states in their hateful conduct policy that users “may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or serious disease.”

When signing up for these platforms, users are agreeing to their terms and conditions. While citizens do have a right to freedom of speech and expression, that doesn’t include freedom from consequences for their actions. When one breaks a social media platform’s terms, they are subject to the repercussions.

Recently, severe controversy surrounding Kanye West, now legally recognized as Ye, and his anti-Semetic remarks led to his account being frozen and widespread debate as to whether or not the First Amendment protects such remarks.

Although the remarks in the video weren’t directly posted by Ye himself, his tweet (that can no longer be accessed) posted on Oct. 9, resulted in the incitement of hateful action against the Jewish community as seen in the instance in Los Angeles, California where individuals hung banners over a freeway that said “Kanye was right about the Jews” and “Honk if you know.”

As these events illustrate, this kind of rhetoric online has real repercussions in physical spaces. We as young Americans, stewards of the next generation of our nation, must treat this issue with the gravity it deserves and demand that social media do more to correct it.