By Cameron M. Bray ’16
Most people would agree that social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter are primarily used in a light and social manner, especially for entertainment.
In fact it would be hard to believe social media can be and is used for other, more nefarious purposes.
However, social media today is also used as an outlet for spreading propaganda, fear and hatred.
Clearly, those responsible are abusing freedom of speech to spread pernicious rhetoric, and this needs to be stopped.
ISIS, perhaps the most notorious terrorist group alive today, uses social media to showcase its brutality and ruthlessness. The tragic, filmed execution of James Foley, which aroused so much ire internationally, was originally posted on Youtube.
It was quickly deleted, though it had already circulated widely. ISIS has used everything from Tumblr to Internet memes (notably #thecatsofjihad) to spread its message in order to gain new followers and benefactors.
During the World Cup in Brazil, ISIS jumped on the hashtag #WorldCup2014 bandwagon to gain the massive soccer audience’s attention and to flood the Internet with its propaganda.
Even more bizarre, ISIS uses allusions to popular video games, notably “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto,” in its videos and memes to attract western followers.
The infamous Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS, maintains a Twitter account.
There the church, known for its extreme and spiteful rhetoric, posts a wide variety of hashtags, which range from #GodHatesBikers to #GodHatesOklahoma.
While simultaneously spreading its vile and malevolent message, the church declares via Twitter that is performing #GodsWill.
But the overarching question is this: Why are groups such as these—widely described as hate groups and terrorist organizations—permitted in the first place to promulgate their evil doctrines?
The answer is social media sites do not want to censor content, even if it is hateful or malicious, because they want to create an aura of liberalness and openness.
To them, censoring content would mean hindering, or possibly damaging, the freedom and ease of communication their medians allow.
According to The Daily Beast, both Youtube and Twitter have begun shutting down accounts and removing content associated with these groups, and I applaud them for doing so.
Other social media sites should likewise strive to find the balance between freeness and civility, and should disfranchise those who promote savagery and evil.
It’s one thing to champion freedom of speech, but it’s another to allow someone to blatantly abuse that freedom and use it as a weapon to harm others.