I have several close Jewish friends. I can’t even pretend to understand what it must be like for them right now, to see this news come out over the past few days. We’ve known for a while that some crazy folks online have targeted Jewish journalists and pundits who have reported negative information about their candidate, or simply expressed views that did not line up with what they wanted to hear. However, once Mic.com published their expose Wednesday, our suspicions morphed into realities that knocked us in the faces with eight tons of racist and hateful anti-Semitic bricks.
The following day, I read the second, more technically detailed article by Mic.com on the Google Chrome app extension that allowed “echoes”, so these people could more easily identify their targets and incite hateful speech and barrages of disgusting vitriol. It hid under the innocuous name of “Confidence Detector”, and it somehow managed to escape any and all of Google’s internal controls.
Fortunately, as of Thursday night, Google pulled this app from its store, though not after it was active for five months.
During this week, the European Union asked social media companies, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter, to voluntarily comply with EU rules to crack down on hate speech. This sparked a trending topic on Twitter, #IStandWithHateSpeech, under the auspices of protecting “Free Speech”. Honestly, at the time, I really did not know what to think. I do now.
- Y’all do not know or refuse to acknowledge what “hate speech” is. Hate speech is not “I don’t agree with you”. Hate speech is inciting violence, dog-whistling, threatening rape and other bullying and harassment. It is metaphorically crying “fire” in a public building. If you want to protect that, I’m not sure I want to live on this planet anymore.
- This hashtag was started as a movement by the alt-right, which I find incredibly ironic. The ultra-Nationalists are suddenly incredibly concerned with what is happening in Europe? Why?
- I feel like a broken record, but I am going to point out again that these companies are all privately owned. IF…IF they decide to crack down on hate speech in the United States, this is NOT a violation of anyone’s freedom of speech. This is the right of private enterprise to do whatever they wish on their own platforms. If Mark Zuckerberg wakes up in the morning and decides he no longer wants to allow the word “George” on Facebook, he can do that. We can all quit using Facebook in protest, and he can go bankrupt, but it has nothing to do with the Constitution.
- If anyone cared enough to be educated before screaming about suppression of their speech, here is an excerpt from The Guardian:
- The likes of Facebook and Twitter have vowed to protect free speech online, despite pledging to crack down on abuse. On Tuesday, the companies announced a set of standards for dealing with hate speech, including:
- A promise to review the majority of reports of illegal hate speech and remove the offending content within 24 hours
- Making users aware about what is banned by each company
- Training staff to let them better spot and respond to online hate speech.
Would there be a huge outcry demanding protection of hate speech if the “radical Flying Spaghetti Monster Worshipers ” got together and built an app to star and target Christians? Or if any other group did?
My heart breaks for my friends. My heart breaks for every person who feels targeted because of his or her heritage, race, religion, sex, sexual preference, disability, or anything else that makes him or her unique. This week it especially hurts for my Jewish friends.
There are no words to adequately describe how I feel. There is nothing I can say to ease the mind of my closest friend who is currently inconsolably upset by all of this. I have thought long and hard about it. I spent days trying to figure out what to say to her, and what to say here. And after all of this, at the end, really the best I have to offer is this:
I love you with all of my heart. I stand with you; I do not stand with hate speech. I am here, and I will support you any way I can. I will listen, I will fight, I will love. I will not back down. I am your friend, and nothing and nobody will ever change that.
(((Renee D. Webb)))