Nov 29 2018
Internet culture: Free speech and Hate speech
It is most likely safe to assume that very few people predicted the internet becoming so widespread as it is today in the United States.. The average person interacts with it daily, using its near infinite reservoir of knowledge for education, business, leisure activities, and just about anything else you can think of. The internet connects entire cultures, and has relatively few, if any, inherent restrictions to what can be posted on it. Unfortunately, some individuals take advantage of this global connection to spread hateful views on a daily basis. This has created an ongoing argument between those who want to stop such harsh rhetoric, and those who believe the free nature of internet should remain untouched.
In order to understand the moral issues that drive this debate, one must understand the two concepts on a fundamental level. Free speech as a concept is defined as the individual right to express their opinions without being censored or restrained. While at first glance free speech seems simple, it becomes much more complicated in practice. Speech “has the potential to insult, undermine morals, and subvert political authority”( Zaremby 1). Your speech is not always protected in every situation, such as if you yell “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. History has multiple examples of this, including, “United States v. Schenck, a now-overturned case from 1919, the Court determined that advocating draft repeal during wartime created a “clear and present danger” that Congress had the right to prevent”(Zaremby 4). In short, any speech that could be interpreted as causing harm to other people can be restricted. The issue is defining what types of speech “cause harm”.
Similar to free speech, hate speech is much more complicated than just “words that hurt my feelings”. A common definition of hate speech is “bias-motivated, hostile, malicious speech aimed at a person or a group of people because of some of their actual or perceived innate characteristics”(Berkley 2). Hate speech also “undermines this public good, or it makes the task of sustaining it much more difficult than it would otherwise be. It does this not only by intimating discrimination and violence, but by reawakening living nightmares of what this society was like—or what other societies have been like—in the past”(Guiora 959). While hate speech is not protected under any sort of federal law, it is not explicitly prohibited, either. This is because what qualifies as hate speech is interpreted in many different ways. To clarify, “This is because of the requirement that hate speech must be directed against individuals or groups because of actual or perceived innate characteristics”(Berkley 2). Other classifications of what qualifies as hate speech includes, “whether hate speech causes harm (the harm question) and whether the power to impose or enforce hate speech law will inevitably be...