9 December, 2015

Our own responsibility

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Category: European Action Day, Human Rights
Community Manager
3 pm

ltraincrowdedWritten By Zociana Stambolliu

“Our own responsibility as individual Internet users in relation to hate speech online”

The action of hatred on London’s subway, of people handing out “fat-shaming” cards, is a perfect example of how thoughtless and inconsiderate of others’ feelings our society can be. Human dignity is inviolable and it must be respected and protected. The dignity of the human person is not only a fundamental right in itself, but constitutes the basis of fundamental rights in international law.

Although today we have the means to make known incidents of human rights abuse and fight for them through social media, often some of us become part of the problem, meaning those who violate others’ rights through mismanagement of online space. There are indeed many cases where hate speech online is not perceived for what it really is by the user. When someone posts a hateful message it is possible that he doesn’t realize how hurtful this is to the recipient. This can be apparent by the reaction of the “hater” especially when an offended friend reacts to the hateful message, which in this case most of the times is apologizing, giving the idea that it was meant in a generic context. On the other part, there are people aware of the harm that they are causing but the prejudices are so strong that are not allowing him/her to see beyond that.

The protection of vulnerable groups by online hate speech is of high importance, but on the other hand, it raises many questions like freedom of speech, the same as freedom to be protected from violence or those are two different kinds of freedoms and should freedom of speech have certain boundaries when it comes to hate speech? This was exactly what was again brought into the surface by the Danish Cartoons Crisis of 2008. All these questions make the issue even more controversial and difficult to solve.

It is exactly this kind of complexity of the issue that has made legal and other kind of measures apply little progress, thus the individual user has to demonstrate great responsibility and take the lead in this fight. As it was aforementioned many hateful messengers do not realize the amount of harm they are doing, it is important for us to remind that to them and not let go. Furthermore, being active by supporting the campaigns and activities against hate speech are really important in order to sensitize our environment. We have to remember to always take a stance in support of diversity; it is very possible that our support will not reduce or eliminate the “haters” but it will mean a lot for the abused and it will motivate others to do so.

Above all, we should always keep in mind that an attack against human rights and dignity is against all of us. Therefore, fighting for the person next to us means that we are fighting for ourselves as well. The rights that might be taken away from us or our children in the future call us along with following what the majority wants,  to respect the minorities.


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