Social media needs to censor actual offensive content

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Lily Longan, Reporter

Social media has taken over every aspect of our lives. From President Trump’s tweets to the Logan Paul suicide forest scandal, a lot of controversy surrounds how people use the internet, and if the administrators that are supposed to protect the mainstream of people using social media are doing an effective job.

The things that should be censored on social media are not. The amount of horribly graphic acts of violence and hate speech that resides as “memes” on platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat is disturbing.

Anyone can own social media, and there is no lack of hate groups and organizations that use platforms like Twitter to attack minorities and propel phobic content to a mass following.

Millie Bobby Brown is one victim of social media aggression. Memes that included edits of her pictures paired with homophobic speech and the #TakeDownMillieBobbyBrown hashtag circulated twitter and Instagram until the child star was driven off of Twitter. Where did the hashtag arise from? It was used as an ironic joke referencing a fake story shared on Twitter about Millie Bobby Brown forcefully removing a fan’s hijab. Attacking a child, even a famous one, is a low and despicable move. Social platforms have blurred the line between comedy and slander or hate speech.

Some may argue that social media is a place of free expression and that censoring controversial or offensive content is a slip and slide to taking away a free speech platform. Social media platforms are a place for people to poke fun at everyone. Memes are a way for our young generation to relate to one another, and just another form of popular culture. There is nothing harmful about clips of Spongebob edited to sad music or a kids show from Russia going viral. But when pages use their lucrative power of followers and endorsements to attack minorities or other easy targets, we are left to question who is there to keep people with social power in check.

Young people are easily influenced and at the same time unaware of many parts of the adult world. This makes them an easy audience to manipulate and get a shock following from. This is a dangerous kind of audience. If you get likes and followers from posting content that is entertaining because it is shocking, you can get away with posting things that would be deemed obscene if it didn’t have a large following behind it.  

The most outstanding recent example of a social influencer posting obscene content that made big news was Logan Paul with his video of a dead body in Japan’s infamous suicide forest. The video gleaned over 6.2 million views before he took it down, and Youtube was slow to punish him after a number of high profile celebrities publicly bashed him for his actions. Many of Paul’s supporters were children, and they have been exposed to video of a dead body probably before they can understand the concept of death. Youtube makes money off of viewers, and the fact that it did not censor the video in a timely manner is despicable.

Another thing that makes its way around the internet and is often uncensored is hate speech. Look deep enough into Instagram pages and you will be guaranteed to find a page that promotes hate for someone’s sexual and gender identity, body type, or race. People feel emboldened by the internet to say things they never would or should in real life. In 2015, Sam Smith directly called out an account that was set up for the sole purpose of demeaning him because he is openly gay. These accounts attacking people based on their lifestyles continue to persist on social media, and when one page or post is taken down, the owner will inevitably find a way to restart their account or get the message of hate back out there. If Instagram truly cared about its users it would make sure that hate speech could be more easily reported. Animal abuse gets taken down quickly, but most other things that are highly offensive to viewers are left up on a regular basis. Teenagers are known to be especially prone to insecurities, and public hate speech could reverse the forward progress of acceptance in the U.S.

If social media platforms wanted to maintain their freedom of speech while also making their communities safer for every user, they should dedicate more people to finding pages that spew hate speech and obscene content. They should also look into censoring content besides animal abuse, done mostly by following up on reports from their users. If a few pages were discouraged from posting this content, the world (which is today largely affected by social media) could move once again in the direction of acceptance and make social media a safe place for everyone.