What should we do about online hate speech? Ban it? Embrace it? In this episode of The First Five we explore the approaches that different social media platforms take when it comes to users posting hateful and offensive content.
Prominent social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have policies in place that say you can be censored, or even kicked off them, if you harass others or use hate speech. Today’s episode takes a deep dive into what, exactly, these policies are and what kind of impact they have on our conversations. Does banning hateful speech make it easier for more people to share their thoughts online — or does it end up suppressing controversial views? Is it necessary to ban hate speech in order to have a functional social media platform? And who should determine whether a post is hateful? Human moderators? Algorithms?
In this episode, Lata Nott explains the hate speech and harassment policies that Twitter and Facebook have in place, and how these companies put them into practice.
She talks to Jillian York, co-founder of Onlinecensorship.org, an organization that tracks how tech companies and social media platforms censor content. York gives her perspective on why online censorship matters.
Then, Lata talks to two people who have created social media platforms that take very different approaches to online hate speech:
Utsav Sanduja is the communications director for Gab.ai, which is popularly thought of as “Twitter for conservatives,” and takes pride in not having a hate speech policy in place. The platform does censor harassment and threats. Sanduja talks about his belief that human moderators are ideal for making these decisions.
Bindu Reddy is the CEO and founder of Candid, whose platform requires that all speech remains anonymous, and employs a sophisticated algorithm to censor hateful content. Bindu is of the belief that algorithms are the best way to implement a consistent policy. However, in Lata’s interview she reveals that as Candid has grown, she has found that she doesn’t need to police hate speech as vigorously. Since every user is anonymous, hate speech has less of an impact. As Bindu says:
“Racist and sexist comments don’t land as much when you don’t know who people are.”
Lata Nott is the executive director of the First Amendment Center at the Newseum Institute.
Utsav Sanduja is the communications director for Gab.ai.
Bindu Reddy is the CEO and founder of Candid.
To learn more about the censorship policies of different social media platforms (including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Snapchat) and how they compare to each other, see the First Amendment Center’s primer on Free Expression on Social Media.
To learn more about how social media platforms actually enforce their policies, or report an incident where your speech has been censored on social media, visit Onlinecensorship.org.