Online hatred becoming major issue

The internet’s version of free speech does have a few disadvantages, though.

The freedom of expression granted by the internet has a plethora of advantages: near-instant communication with people from around the world, learning about cultures that one may never have been exposed to otherwise and access to unfiltered information, an advantage that critics of traditional media seem to love.

The internet’s version of free speech does have a few disadvantages, though. Theft of copyrighted music aside, internet commenting is quickly becoming the main freedom of speech issue being discussed.

What’s “commenting,” you say? When news website stories come to an end, some have a section at the bottom for “comments.” Invariably, those websites that allow commenting will also have guidelines or a more rigid “terms of service,” which are clearly worded rules for what is considered acceptable behaviour for commenting, and what is not.

This is the crux of the issue.

The American chat website Reddit is the latest big media site to deal with the two elements of internet commenting: the sane, respectful, thoughtful and tolerant commenters…and those who are less so. Misogynistic, puerile, hateful and intolerant are a few words that describe a community that is causing waves across North America for traditional media companies like Popular Science, Scientific American, Reuters and, to a lesser extent, CBC and for new internet-age companies like Reddit.

Popular Science cut off commenting completely on their online stories after a deluge of attacks from anti-science activists, Scientific American cut off commenting apparently due to a flame war that got out of control, Reuters eliminated commenting on any of their online stories (the company in explanation stated “(Comment websites) offer vibrant conversation and, importantly, are self-policed by participants to keep on the fringes those who would abuse the privilege of commenting”) and CBC recently introduced tougher commenting rules. Reddit currently is weathering a storm of controversy as hate-speech enthusiasts use “free speech” arguments as their defense for holocaust denial, misogyny, racism, intolerance, death threats and general bigotry.

For any readers who aren’t familiar with internet terminology, “troll” is someone who frequently posts insults, misogyny, profanity, bigotry, intolerance or other negative comments on websites principally to harm others and in return make themselves feel bigger. A flame war is, in essence, two people arguing through a comments section, with the argument getting more and more serious, usually including threats. Some flame wars have resulted in assaults or even murder.

The core of the commenting problem hearkens back to a cartoon published in the New Yorker in the late-90’s, just as the internet was picking up steam. It depicts a dog sitting on the floor next to a second dog sitting and typing at a desktop computer. The typing dog says, “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog!” Too true. One of the advantages to spreading hate through website commenting is the ability of the coward or troll to hide behind anonymity.

Anyone who submits a letter to the editor to the Pipestone Flyer has to have their name, address, phone number and home community included. That’s only fair. If the writer gives their opinion, their friends and neighbours have a right to know who is making those assertions. Anyone who feels strongly enough about an issue will be willing to have their name connected to it, and if they’re not willing to have their name connected to it, that speaks volumes about the information’s veracity, accuracy or relevance.

But troll apologists continue to wrap themselves in the flag of free speech and claim “It’s all for the good of the country.” They claim internet commenting should be free and unfettered with the ability to say anything at all about anybody with no responsibility taken for those comments, allowing every holocaust denier, Nazi, libel-monger, nut or lunatic free reign.

That reasoning is deeply flawed. Our society has laws in place to prevent libel, the irresponsible act of harming or destroying someone’s reputation with questionable or even malicious aspersions. Even the Internet has to have rules to prevent hate speech…it’s obvious the Internet won’t police itself.

People deserve to be protected from vile attacks which serve no purpose other than the titillation of a social troglodyte hunched over a computer.

 

Just Posted

File photo
Leduc RCMP request assistance to identify armed robbery suspect

Leduc RCMP are searching for suspect involved in an armed robbery at the Leduc Giant Tiger.

file photo
UPDATE: Leduc RCMP, Millet Fire Department and more on scene at serious multi-vehicle collision

Traffic is expected to be diverted for several hours and alternative travel routes are recommended.

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Friday, February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
U.S. border restrictions to remain in place until at least July 21

Safety minister says Canada, U.S. extending restrictions on non-essential international travel

The Sylvan Lake Gulls show off the home jerseys (white) and their way jerseys at the Gulls Media Day on June 17, before the season opener. Following the media day, the team took to the field for their first practise. (Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News)
Sylvan Lake Gulls ready to throw first pitch as construction continues

The Gulls inaugural season kicks off June 18 with a game against the Edmonton Prospects

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Most Read