It’s doubtful that any frequent Facebook user has never seen something on the site that offended them.
A status commenting that such-and-such a thing is “gay,” as in stupid. A posted photo that’s less than flattering. A group supporting something that is against their morals or beliefs.
But when does it cross the line from oppositional or even distasteful into offensive or hateful?
This week in Between The Lines, we looked at hate speech on social networking sites – more specifically, Facebook. We explored groups, pages and comments that would offend even the most politically apathetic LGBT person. We listened to gay Michiganders tell us what they found offensive. We questioned Facebook and GLAAD spokespeople about where they think the line should be drawn between free speech and hate speech.
The truth is that there is no possible way within reason to completely rid social networking sites of hate. There are only ways to combat it.
We can’t boycott. Try telling LGBT youth not to use Facebook or Twitter and just see how far that endeavor gets. Besides, boycotting would only kill the messenger. Social networking sites are not to blame, and they can’t bear all the responsibility for monitoring the activity of 300 million users. They respond to reports of hate and offensiveness, including against LGBT people. And we applaud them for it.
We can’t fight hate with hate. Sending a scathing message to a person who uses a slur against LGBT people or creates an offensive group will only reaffirm their hatred, not combat it.
We can’t, above all, ignore it. It’s there – in the form of everyday conversation to over 3,000 groups with the word “faggot” in them. Ignoring the problem will only make it worse.
What we can do is make each and every one of ourselves – LGBT, allied or however we identify – personally responsible for the eradication of hate on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter and beyond.
First, know the boundaries. Social sites don’t respond to being bombarded, but they do respond to hate speech. Read up on the site’s terms of service and act accordingly.
Have a spare moment? Do a search for anti-gay or derogatory terms on a networking Web site. When you find groups or pages that are offensive, report them as such.
But don’t stop there. If you feel comfortable doing so, send a message to the offender explaining why what they did was hateful. Or, create an opposite group and encourage friends to join. Make sure that for every message of hate and discrimination, there is one of tolerance and love.
Make your next status or tweet about equality and acceptance. Join groups and become a fan of pages that preach the messages you believe in. Equal rights for all. Gay marriage. Tolerance. Anti-violence. Invite friends to do the same. You never know whose news feed your action might show up on – or whom you might be influencing through your actions.