THE BLOG

Protests Over Milo Yiannopoulos Being Nominated As Rector At Glasgow Show The Divide Still Between 'Free Speech' And 'Hate Speech'

13/03/2017 11:24 GMT | Updated 13/03/2017 11:24 GMT
Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Free speech has become a topic constantly under debate recently. Where does the line exist between giving your opinion and being hateful and antagonistic to a particular group? Especially, since a lot of groups have fought hard for their opinion - be that be women's rights or civil rights activists whose free speech was and is today often censored or torn apart. Understandably then, people believe we should have the right to express what we believe in, as there have been plenty of theories that at the time were met with hate and disdain and later revered.

However, there is a line between giving your opinion, however disturbing it may be, and encouraging hate, and I think that is where the gap is in the case of Mila Yiannopoulos who was banned from Twitter for helping lead the campaign of abuse against Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones in which he mocked her in tweets as well as sharing faked screenshots that made it look like she was writing racist posts.

The attack of Leslie Jones was the accumulation of the amount of hatred that had risen on the internet to the all female Ghostbusters film, as it became the most disliked trailer on YouTube, which hopefully people can see now was largely due to misogyny. Yes, I was one of those people who didn't want a Ghostbusters reboot, but a large reason why it was attacked was because the leads were female and not that it didn't look great in the trailer (which, I can be frank and say it didn't, however having not seen the film I cannot comment further than that).

However, the sexist and racist abuse directed at Leslie Jones was morally disgusting and quite frankly revolting.

It was these comments and Leslie Jones refusing to take them lying down that got the perpetrators including Yiannopoulus banned from Twitter, and I think what Twitter said in regards to why they banned the individuals is important here, as they focus on how the behaviour went past stating an opinion to full on online abuse:

"People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter. But no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. Over the past 48 hours in particular, we've seen an uptick in the number of accounts violating these policies and have taken enforcement actions against these accounts, ranging from warnings that also require the deletion of Tweets violating our policies to permanent suspension."

"We know many people believe we have not done enough to curb this type of behavior on Twitter. We agree. We are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to better allow us to identify and take faster action on abuse as it's happening and prevent repeat offenders. We have been in the process of reviewing our hateful conduct policy to prohibit additional types of abusive behavior and allow more types of reporting, with the goal of reducing the burden on the person being targeted. We'll provide more details on those changes in the coming weeks."

Also, this is not the first offence (or the last) for Yiannopolus either, as despite having a general contempt for the gaming industry, he helped spearhead the GamerGate movement. For those who don't know the GamerGate was a hashtag uses to attack several females in the gaming industry with abuse including rape and death threats. Milo Yiannopolus took up the cause writing an article attacking, "the army of sociopathic feminist programmers and campaigners, abetted by achingly politically correct American tech bloggers".

Basically, I think we can establish that as a human being morally he does not rate very highly. But does that mean he shouldn't be allowed to speak or voice his opinion, despite how despicable people may think it is?

Well, here is how I think of the difference between free speech and hate speech. It is one thing saying, "I don't think the Ghostbusters being all female is true to the original"; it is another thing to then personally led a barrage of hate against an actress for no reason other than the fact that she decided to star in that film.

It for these reasons that the student, Holly Hallam started the petition against Milo Yiannopoulus students asking for him to be removed from the nomination for the position of Rector at Glasgow University (along with Professor Jordan Peterson). She also focused on the fact that his speeches and the way he talks about people does not fit in with the university's Equality and Diversity policies. Therefore, it wasn't that just that she didn't like his politics; what he has said about people means that he has literally shown that he does not treat everyone as equals and breaches university guidelines. This is not someone then that should chair the governing body of a University.

If you are still confused over what the difference between allowing free speech and hate speech is- here is another way to think about it. Remember, when everyone was upset that Yiannopoulos' book was to be published by Simon and Schuster because they are a big name in publishing. What I feel a lot of people were missing in the argument that was trying to be made was that people were not arguing that he should be banned from publishing at all, but that there is a difference between allowing something to be published and giving someone a platform to publish. Though, his book was eventually dropped by publishers over his remarks that many believed supported paedophilia anyway.

I think in this case I have to agree with Holly Hallam who started the petition against him being considered for the candidacy. His belief system goes beyond saying that I do not like a group; it literally encourages people to attack their group. For example, it is one thing if you preach that abortion is wrong; but it is another if you encourage people to publicly shame people who have had abortions or physically attack them.

I am not saying he shouldn't speak (though I wish he wouldn't); but there is a difference between giving a perspective and encouraging an attack on a group.

For me that is the difference between hate speech and free speech.