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War of the Words

Jeff Campbell

Posted on November 3, 2018 16:16

1 user

Is social media the ultimate weapon to spread hatred and spur violence?

Words matter, a picture is worth a thousand words, word play, sticks and stones etc., lots of words about words. When violence erupts, the immediate talk goes to mental illness or gun control, but should we be talking more about word control? Or, to be more exact, thought control.

Or, should we be talking about the delivery mechanisms of the thoughts and words? Social media has provided the ultimate breeding ground for the delivery and spread of hatred.

In recent reporting from the New York Times, the paper revealed that a simple search on Instagram easily returned almost 12,000 examples of anti-Semitic hatred on the platform. The article also detailed the way social media is being used for various nefarious purposes by the likes of high-ranking members of the Myanmar military to foster fear among the country’s minority Muslim population.

Like guns, social media is nothing more than a tool, but in the hands of the wrong users, it is a highly effective means to weaponize words to bring more hatred and violence to the world.

Also, like guns and mental illness, the problems created by social media defy simplistic solutions -- such as whether the companies will police themselves, or if government will control what can be posted.

It is a slippery slope when we begin to give powers to small groups or unaccountable companies to control what thoughts can be shared.

Maybe we need a clear and agreed upon standard definition of damaging hate speech that all platforms and delivery mechanisms utilize across the board. The standards could be set by a governing body that represent all relevant stakeholders to eliminate (to the extent possible) complaints that some group is being unfairly silenced.

I know, easier said than done, impossible in today’s political climate. It all goes back to the childishness of the two political parties and the voter’s failure to hold them accountable, but enough with the dead-horse beating.

Agree or disagree with major newspapers, at least they have some level of editorial review process monitoring their words. Social media via the internet is a wild west free-for-all. I reiterate what I have written before that no one should rely on or seek out news or reliable information from social media.

This is what happens when an invention is started to fill one need (keep “friends” connected) and morphs into something that it is ill-equipped to handle. Part of the problem is the that the desire to monetize social media entered the picture and necessitated expansion of services like news and ads that has fostered this breeding ground of hatred.

Hopefully we can collectively work together to improve the social media environment, but that will be hard since social media is a major mechanism being used to divide us, along with the press and political parties, all while saying with a straight face that it’s the others that are being divisive. Maybe it’s time to take a cue from fictional anchorman Howard Beale.

Jeff Campbell

Posted on November 3, 2018 16:16

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