Hate and the Internet

Pam Tapper

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A few weeks ago, the Sundial published a story about the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA), a student organization, which was the target of surveillance by the LAPD. The Sundial received over a hundred online responses to the story. Some were negative responses from critics of MEChA. Some were negative responses from supporters of MEChA toward the critics, but most were malicious and belligerent.

It’s time for news organizations to review their online comment policies. Where is all this hate coming from? Some have suggested that the hate may be coming from other countries who have access to the online Sundial. Others have suggested that it comes from generations of hatred and misunderstanding.

Hate is defined as intense hostility, usually from fear, anger and a sense of injury. The fear is from focusing on someone’s differences instead of their similarities. The anger is from a perceived sense of injury. “That different, fearful other person got a benefit that I didn’t get. Or that different, fearful other person might take away one of my benefits.”

Hate speech is usually negative speech directed at a group instead of an individual. It includes written as well as spoken language.

Some think the opposite of hate is love, but others have suggested the opposite of hate is tolerance; the ability to have an open mind toward individuals and groups with different ethnic backgrounds or different points of view, even different religions.

In a free society, if we are to have free and open discussions, we must have tolerance of the other person’s point of view. How can we come to a consensus of opinion, or an understanding, if we don’t allow the people to speak or express themselves openly?

Part of the problem is technology. The Internet has grown at such warp speed, and our culture hasn’t had time to catch up with it. It is illegal to yell “fire” in a theater, but it is not illegal to spew hate on the Internet.

The Internet is so viral. One comment can be sent all over the world, without the writer realizing how far it goes geographically or how deep it cuts internally.

The Internet can be a wonderful tool to bring people together intimately, while they are thousands of miles apart physically.

Unique blood donors and organ donors have been located on the Internet, helping to save lives.

The Internet has the power to do great good, but it also has the power to do great harm. A girl was driven to suicide because an older woman pretended to be the young girl’s boyfriend and rejected her, and then humiliated the girl by spreading the story on the Internet.

There is a great responsibility in using the Internet. It is almost like driving a car. Unfortunately, no one has to take an Internet test to use the Internet, like taking a driver’s test to drive a car. Anyone can send and anyone can receive, regardless of age or integrity. Anyone can print lies or profanity, and anyone can read lies or profanity. The responsibility rests with the sender. It is up to the person to discipline himself or herself as to what they send out and how it will impact the receivers.

In the case of the Sundial comments, the Internet was used to transmit hate and harm. The Internet makes it easy to inflict harm and then run away. Phony names can be used on the Internet, so that no one knows one’s real name or even their real sex or age.

It’s like throwing rocks from behind a fence. One can throw rocks and inflict harm and never be identified.

When we have letters to the editor, the writer is required to provide his or her full name, CSUN ID number, phone number and major. Today online contributors can be anonymous or give made-up names. It is difficult for the press to regulate censorship. In the Constitution, we are guaranteed freedom of speech and freedom of the press. To tamper with that in any way causes a strain. We remember the censorship of Nazi Germany and Communist Russia and don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Some local campuses have decided to try and pursue a policy of freedom of expression without allowing the writer to be personally attacked. Some have encouraged a constructive tone in online comments and discouraged insulting the writer that they are commenting on. Some have reserved the right to delete comments that are vulgar or fraudulent. Hopefully, news organizations will review their online comment policy and consider what impact hate comments can have.

Due to the personal attacks and negative comments that have found their way on the Sundial’s Web site, the Sundial has decided to implement a new comment policy as stated below:

The Daily Sundial welcomes and encourages readers to comment. We believe that fostering discussion between those expressing different points of view is important in upholding the freedoms of speech and the press to which we are entitled.

Stories on controversial topics often attract many negative comments and personal attacks against others. We believe comments such as those can derail discussion of the issue at hand and block constructive dialogue. Thus, we reserve the right to delete any comment without prior notice.

However, we also hold that comments expressing unpopular, under-represented or otherwise controversial viewpoints are equally protected under the First Amendment.

We may delete comments that:

• Threaten, invite, or encourage violence.

• Are derogatory of others on the basis of political affiliation, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference or disability.

• Are fraudulent, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, sexually explicit or indecent.

• Are posted by authors who or misidentify or misrepresent themselves.