Now more than ever, the public has been debating whether hate speech should be protected under the First Amendment. Thanks to the current political climate, intolerant people have a renewed sense of confidence in announcing their discriminatory thoughts to the world. When activists try to defend themselves and others from those verbal attacks, the prejudiced people defend their statements by saying that they are exercising their right to freedom of speech. As unbelievable as it sounds, they are right. Hate speech is protected under the First Amendment, and as much as it pains me to accept it, it is for the best.
In a perfect world, I would love for intolerant ideas to be unacceptable in our society, but unfortunately, this is not our reality. I used to believe that people that are outright racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. should not have their speech protected under the First Amendment because it directly attacks groups of people, but it is tricky to say that hate speech should be banned because not everyone agrees upon what is considered hate speech.
Lee Rowland, the Senior Staff Attorney of the ACLU, explained in her TedX Reno speech,
"But what if we gave the government the power to decide which of those men was too hateful to speak? Look at our current president — he called Charlottesville marchers "very fine people," while reserving his ire for Black NFL players, whom he called "sons of bitches." Your idea of "hate speech" may not be the government's idea of "hate speech." I know mine isn't. But even if you agree with Trump — are you sure our next president will agree with your worldview? You shouldn't be."
I stated in a past article of mine, "All opinions should be given a space to be heard, no matter how unpopular they are." I still agree with that statement but to an extent. Even though I agree with Rowland that hate speech should not be censored by the government, that does not mean that I think that social media platforms should allow hate speech to be posted and shared on their websites. I was inspired to touch on this subject because of Mark Zuckerberg's recent decision to not have Facebook ban Holocaust deniers because it would be taking away their voice. He claimed that even though he finds it deeply offensive as a Jew, he will not have those people banned because he does not think that they are intentionally misinformed. Zuckerberg explained,
"Everyone gets things wrong, and if we were taking down people's accounts when they got a few things wrong, then that would be a hard world for giving people a voice and saying that you care about that."
Facebook will not promote this kind of misinformation, but they will not take those posts down unless they contain harassment or threats of violence. I do not agree with Zuckerberg's stance because allowing Holocaust deniers to still have a platform on Facebook will only help antisemitism thrive. Giving Facebook users access to inaccurate information about the Holocaust can cause people to garner hatred for Jews, which can then transition into threats of violence.
Since Facebook is not a government organization, I do not think they should allow intolerant opinions and misinformation to be posted on their website. Facebook needs to take responsibility for their role in allowing inaccurate information to be spread these past few years and take the appropriate actions to prevent it from continuing to happen.
Even though it frustrates me that I have to deal with seeing hate speech in order to be able to voice my own opinions, at least I know that our current president and future presidents cannot prevent me from fighting for human rights even if they see my stance as "hateful."