#IStandWithHateSpeech Trends On Twitter In Fiery Debate Over Free Speech
If you logged onto Twitter this morning you'd be forgiven for thinking it had be overrun by racists as #IStandWithHateSpeech trended.
And to a degree, it was:
Dig a little deeper however and you'll discover the hashtag is actually a discussion about free speech and censorship.
On Tuesday Facebook, Twitter, Google’s YouTube and Microsoft all pledged to work within an EU-regulated code of conduct to crack down on hate speech.
Across Europe online racism has been noticeably on the rise, fuelled by fear and insecurity over the refugee crisis:
European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said tackling illegal online hate speech would also target social media used by terrorist groups to radicalise young people and spread violence and hatred.
He added: "The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech."
The four web giants signed up to the EU deal will have the power to remove flagged content deemed to be hate speech using dedicated teams of moderators.
They will have to tread carefully balance between freedom of expression and hateful content:
Many argue that censorship of views, no matter how vile they are, is not the approach we should take.
Others claimed "hate speech" as a term exists solely to shut down arguments counter to current liberal ideals:
The recent experiences of Jess Phillips illustrate the effect online abuse can have on people at the receiving end.
The Labour MP received rape threats just days after Phillips wrote in a blog on The Huffington Post UK last week to mark the start of the Reclaim The Internet campaign, aimed at ending sexist bullying on the internet.
She wrote about how she she was often accused of “trying to stifle freedom of speech”.
“I’ve been called the thought police, the Stasi and, as is currently so very de rigueur, a Nazi. I’m not trading secrets on the streets of East Berlin, holding rallies or burning books, I’m just saying “dude don’t be such a douche on the internet.
“The funny thing is about all the so-called libertarians on Twitter shouting up for free speech is that they are promoting the exact opposite.”
The debate over whether or not social media platforms should be the arbiters of what can and can not be said online is particularly prescient in light of reports that Facebook's trending news section routinely suppressed conservative views and outlets.
Former Facebook 'news curators' spoke out last month about how they were instructed to inject stories into the sidebar even if they weren't popular enough to warrant inclusion based the site's trending algorithm.
Stories by conservative sites such as Breitbart would only be picked up if they were also covered by more mainstream outlets such as the BBC, the report said.
In the UK police have already taken action against a number of individuals after the posted inflammatory comments online.
Earlier this year, Matthew Doyle, 46, swiftly became infamous after he confronted a random Muslim woman in Croydon demanding an explanation for the Brussels terror attacks - and then tweeted about it.
Initially Doyle - who works for a PR company - attempted to explain the tweet as a publicity stunt, but soon let slip his true feelings.
He was later arrested at his home on suspicion of inciting racial hatred on social media.
In 2012 a student, Liam Stacey, 21, was jailed for 56 days for tweeting racial slurs about footballer Fabrice Muamba soon after he collapsed during a FA Cup tie at Tottenham.
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