Media & Technology in Society: “Free” and “Hate” Speech

Introduction

Nowadays, technology and the media are inextricably linked, and neither can be isolated from current culture. This aspect of modern life contains several socially acute issues, and one of them is the topic of free speech and hate speech. While “free speech” has always been considered from a positive perspective, the concept of “hate speech” has been controversial. One of the opinions “There’s no fine line between “free speech” and “hate speech”: Free speech is hate speech; it’s for the speech you hate — and for all your speech that the other guy hates” (Steyn, 2015). In this essay, three main points will be provided: an understanding of concepts of “free” and “hate” speech, how they are related and a supposable solution to the issue. Both concepts of speech are tightly related to each other, hence, to eradicate problems, related to “hate” speech, the “free” part of speech must be legitimately restricted, as well.

The Concept of Freedom in Speech

“Free” Speech

Freedom of speech sounds familiar to everybody and it seems as if this concept is clear to understand: people are free to express anything they have in mind. Nevertheless, freedom of speech is a double-edged sword. It is, indeed, the right to freedom of expression that covers all types of ideas, including those that are highly offensive. (Golderg, 2016, p.690). Freedom of speech is under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution; hence, it has legitimate protection. It is the foundation of a healthy democracy, and without it, other fundamental rights, such as the right to vote, would be destroyed. Generally, certain ideas can be spread around the globe in a few hours. It makes a clear understanding that the concept of “free” speech has a great influence on society today. On the one hand, freedom of speech was all about human rights protection and made an exceptionally positive impact on the development of society.

The Issue of Freedom

For decades, a plethora of justices, pundits, philosophers, and others have waxed lyrical on the crucial role that freedom of expression plays in the promotion and maintenance of democracy. Nevertheless, the question is whether there is a breaking point for free speech, a point at which the hateful, destructive, or controversial nature of speech should cause it to lose people’s strong support (Wermiel, 2018). It might happen because there is a certain moment when the freedom of expression becomes extremely controversial and offensive. It might cause serious disagreements in society, which in turn, can lead to negative consequences.

The Concept of “Hate” in Speech

“Hate” Speech

The issues of “free” speech lead to the concept of “hate speech”, which is contrary to the positive impact on society through media and technology. “Hate” speeches or expressions are threats to democratic values, social peace, and social stability. According to Seglow (2016), it is helpful to categorize the moral arguments against hate speech into three types to make progress in understanding why it is wrong: “hate speech may be considered:

  • intrinsically wrong, and/or;
  • directly harmful and/or;
  • indirectly harmful (where harm is a wide, generic category)” (p.1105).

Hate speech that threatens or incites lawlessness or contributes to the motivation for criminal conduct may be prosecuted as a hate crime in specific cases, but not simply as offensive speech. It means that “hate” speech negatively affects society but it cannot be legally restricted to prevent disagreements.

The Relation Between “free” and “hate” Speech

Based on the arguments, provided above, it would be quite logical to conclude that concepts of “free” and “hate” speeches are strongly related and affect each other. Moreover, “hate” speech appears in the context of “free” speech. However, the case of suppression of “hate” in a speech would be a violation of its freedom. At the same time, media and technology spread any sort of information around the network, and people start expressing their opinions, which can confront each other and cause another debate. This relationship creates a chain of consequences that cause endless debates about the topic of “free” and “hate” speeches.

The Solution

Legal Restrictions

To improve the situation with the “hate” speech and “free” speech, Goldberg suggests “the need to incorporate free speech consequentialism and to constrain it” (Goldberg, 2016, p.707). While the concept of “hate speech” is not a legal term in the United States, the Supreme Court of the United States has consistently decided that most of what would be considered hate speech in other Western countries is protected free speech under the First Amendment (Wermiel, 2018). Besides, the suggested restrictions can include the following: hate speech and incitement must be prohibited by governments. (Goldberg, 2016, p.707). Restrictions can also be justifiable if they protect a specific public interest or someone else’s rights or reputation. (Goldberg, 2016, p.707). Thus, if “hate” speeches are partly restricted by the government, the freedom of speech retains its liberty and human rights. It also relieves society from aggressive and offensive speeches that might cause serious social disagreements.

Conclusion

In summary, the provided arguments have supported the idea that media and technology have a strong impact on society and that the topic of “free” and “hate” speech is, indeed, highly controversial. Moreover, the particular topic has a tight relation between its components, which is the reason for its problem. Fortunately, there is a solution, suggested by one of the scholars, and it can be considered for the realization (Goldberg, 2016). The issue of “free” speech and “hate” speech also remains in a power of society that expresses its ideas through media and technology providers.

References

Goldberg, E. (2016). Free speech consequentialism. Columbia law review, 116(3), 687-756.

Seglow, J. (2016). Hate speech, dignity and self-respect. Ethical theory and moral practice, 19(5), 1103-1116.

Wermiel, S. (2018). Human rights magazine. The ongoing challenge to define free speeches, 43(4).