Blocking hateful and threatening posts from your social media feeds isn’t censorship, for crap’s sake. Censorship is the suppression of free speech. You’re still perfectly capable of bleating your fear-filled messages of intolerance and xenophobic BS on your own feeds, on your own website, on signs in your yard, in the books you publish, etc.. Hell, hire a marching band or a skywriter to say those things.
A news outlet or social media feed is not actually a public space – these sites are owned by a business, and therefore when you signed up to use them, the fine print that you didn’t bother reading outlined which permissions you were giving that business as it pertained to your actions and posts. Most businesses have a clause that says something about hate speech. The ones who don’t, should.
Many regions have laws against using threatening language. That means that you’re fine to call a politician horrible names, but if you say they should be shot, killed, hurt, or assaulted in any way, that’s against the law. What do you mean, why? Because in some places, that might be considered conspiracy to commit murder if someone actually takes your advice, that’s why.
This is pertinent right now not only because there are so many people actively advocating for the assassination of political candidates and leaders (I was shocked the first few times I saw people saying Rachel Notley should be shot. I was shocked when, five hours after being elected, someone called for Prime Minister Trudeau to be shot. I was shocked when someone said the worst thing about the recent alleged murder in Saskatchewan was that the accused left witnesses.)
There is a difference between stating an offensive and small-minded opinion and actually promoting hate and advocating violence. I don’t think enough people take online comments seriously enough, and I’d like to see more being done to track down the folks who do that kind of crap. We’re moving very, very slowly toward that goal, I think. Too many people think there’s nothing wrong with saying “I’ll bring my guns up to Canada and shoot you, you stupid liberal” (that was my most recent death threat, which was the result of my saying that I see a lot of my US friends expressing shock over what the Republican candidate said in the latest speech). If you’re out at an event, and you tell someone you’re going to kill them (especially if you’ve also been threatening them all night or being generally aggressive and miserable toward them), chances are good you’ll be removed, and possibly that the police will be called to deal with you. This needs to be the same for all communication – online forums too.
The practice of ‘outing’ someone (“doxxing” – and don’t bother correcting my spelling on that particular word; both “doxing” and “doxxing” are used and I prefer the latter because there are so few words with double exes – is when you publicly post someone’s name, address, and/or other personal information online) who’s said horrible things smacks of vigilantism. While I don’t have a problem with vigilantes like Batman (although he whines too much) and Spiderman and even Deadpool, I’m also a huge fan of due process. Mostly because I know I don’t have the skill to determine someone’s guilt or innocence based solely on what I read on social media, or on what I read in the paper, or on what I see on the news, or on what people tell me. I just don’t. Neither do most people. That’s why we have a judicial system.
It might not be fair, but it strives to be just. Or something like that. Anyway, I do like to see people experience consequences for their actions, especially when their actions are hurtful and damaging (as racism always is. Always. There is never a time when racism is okay. Nor sexism. Nor any kind of bigotry, really). But there needs to be (and in some cases there are) processes through which actual hate speech, harassment, and threats are dealt with that don’t involve posting someone’s personal information in a public space.
Why is that even a problem? The reason doxxing is a problem is because it’s not just that person who’s affected by the practice. If you commit an offense, you ought to be prepared to live with the consequences. Should your family also have to suffer the consequences? What about someone with the same name as you? What about your neighbours? It’s one thing to pass on a screen shot of horrible, horrible things to someone’s boss; it’s another thing entirely to post it to a very public space.
This is the thing about all of this – it’s all about rights and freedom. You have the right to say whatever the hell you want on your own terms and in your own public space – this is the freedom of speech. There are consequences, of course. And if you issue threats or advocate violence or promote hate, those consequences include legal action against you. Those consequences include the possibility that your employer will see what you’ve said and will decide that’s not the image they want to portray.
I guess on the other hand, if you’re okay with posting pictures of yourself online and are willing to stand behind your convictions, however hateful and fear-filled they are, that’s better than pretending you’rse something you’re not? I dunno. The practice of doxxing leaves me with a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. It feels like an invasion of privacy. It feels like a violation. I’ve never been the sort of person who believes in ‘an eye for an eye’ – that kind of mentality just simply promotes brutality and doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t deter people from continuing to do shitty things.
I guess part of it is the “how far does it go” thing. Like, if you say hateful things on Facebook, does that give someone the right to find out your credit rating and post it on Facebook? Does that give someone the right to find out who your employer is and badmouth them for hiring you? It just seems bad.
Of course, the easy solution is to stop being bigoted twits.