Limiting Speech Will Not Limit Hatred

Good faith efforts to limit hate speech can fuel the very fires of hatred they aim to extinguish.

By: Connor Tyler

The ability to express dissenting opinions openly is the cornerstone of many Western societies, especially that of the United States. However, in recent years many countries have surrendered their ability to speak freely in an attempt to build an environment seemingly free of polarization. And while this may seem to be the morally righteous choice, as opposed to allowing radical or hate filled opinions run rampant, often time it achieves the exact opposite of what it sets out to accomplish.

Such models as those used by the European Union and United Kingdom have been championed recently for their progress in eliminating so called “hate speech” from radio, television, and online platforms, and to the credit of those who hold this opinion such models have been successful in scrubbing these domains of “hate speech” and other provocative opinions and messages. For example, in several E.U. member states, companies such YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter may face legal fines of several million euros should they not remove content described as “hate speech” by the states. Unacknowledged by many sponsors of this type of censorship is that by censoring many of these opinions, these policies bolster a large number of claims made by their opponents and fuel the flames of unrest that typically give rise to the widespread polarization they seek to end.

If it is truly an end to political unrest and hate that the public yearns for, then there exists no better solution than to allow the public access to information and opinions that challenge their own beliefs.

Such inflammation can be observed on a multitude of social media websites, wherein popular dissenters and fringe groups have been censored, giving rise to an increase in their base. This phenomenon was demonstrated earlier this year when Alex Jones, an American radio host and conspiracy theorist, was targeted by several social media platforms. This gave Jones extensive media coverage and publicity, which inevitably served to grow his audience. The increase in his and others’ backings, coupled with the ever-expanding distrust of such domains as Facebook and YouTube that followed, only gave birth to more political and cultural polarization.

Despite of the effects that policies such as widespread censorship of radical opinions and proclaimed “hate speech” have been observed to have, many still back them, believing that they are the only realistic means to end the ever growing divide that exists nearly universally in Western societies today. In my opinion this belief is utter nonsense and will do nothing but ostracize groups who hold such opinions as those which are being censored. If it is truly an end to political unrest and hate that the public yearns for, then there exists no better solution than to allow the public access to information and opinions that challenge their own beliefs and to resolve their differences through open and critical discord.

If steps are not taken to restore our society to one that allows for the free and open exchange of ideas and opinions, then radicals are destined to become the predominant ideological groups, where more and more people will find themselves inside the echo chambers of the few platforms that have yet to ban these opinions. However, not only will persons who disagree with the beliefs sponsored by such policies grow more radical, as dissenting opinions begin to flee platforms that censor them, the platforms themselves will begin to grow more radical as they come into conflict with differing opinions less and less frequently.

Photo: hatred? by Jukie Bot on Flickr

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