Talk about your unintended consequences! At least I don’t think “social networking” on the Internet was envisioned as creating a platform for hate groups and terrorists in the U.S. Unfortunately this has come to pass before our very eyes in the deadly confrontations in Charlottesville last weekend. Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that such groups are also able to raise funds for their reprehensible intentions to spread hatred for blacks, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, feminist activists, etc., thanks, in some measure to “funding” sites that solicit contributions online. The sites themselves are not the culprits, but the hate groups that use them for such purposes must be stopped. PayPal, for example, has already agreed to remove at least 34 organizations that include companies that are selling gun accessories explicitly explicitly for killing Muslims!
Silicon Valley firms may be ill-prepared to manage such a large societal role. These companies have limited experience handling these issues. They must answer to share-holders and demonstrate growth in users and profits – weighing in on free speech matters risks alienating large groups of customers across the political spectrum. These platforms are so massive – Facebook, for example, counts a third of the world’s population in its monthly user base: GoDaddy hosts and registers 71 million websites – it may actually be impossible for them to enforce their policies consistently. But tech companies are reportedly forging ahead. At this point it appears to be an industry-lead initiative that has been decried by some “alt-right” leaders as intrusive censorship that could lead to increased government “”meddling.”
Spewing hatred on the Internet, to my mind, is not exercising free speech. We are constantly being reminded that “words have consequences” in our daily political discourse. Freedom of speech demands that we use words to ensure a freedom of expression that does not foment hatred.