Since the invention of the internet in 1983, it has been used as a platform as well as a weapon due to the fact that hate is protected by the constitutional right to freedom of speech. This loophole has allowed a culture of violence and supremacy to rise on the internet in recent years. Meme pages, online games, and other forums are filled with hate speech, white supremacist propaganda, and cruel jokes. Some users go so far as to praise terrorists, and yet the government remains uninvolved in punishing them.
In the aftermath of countless mass shootings and terrorist attacks, online hate speech has only intensified, with little to no restrictions. Although hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, action can still be taken. Harmful threats and vows made by anyone on the internet can, and should be investigated, but at what point is that necessary? No matter the intentions of the writer, online threats have a serious impact on society and regulation is necessary.
Possible government regulations to the internet might cause fear about infringement upon rights. Some believe acts like inflammatory speech, should not cause quite an uproar, for they may view it all as “a joke” to not be taken seriously. As a nation, we have seen that if attention is not paid to online threats, the effect can be devastating. Whether it be fib or fact, once this hate goes onto the internet, any one viewer can be influenced. It is a harsh and certain truth, but nonetheless, some cannot come to terms with the magnitude of the issue.
Whether it be fib or fact, once this hate goes onto the internet, any one viewer can be influenced. It is a harsh and certain truth, but nonetheless, some cannot come to terms with the magnitude of the issue.
Currently, a 15-year-old white male in Daytona, Florida as well as a 38-year-old white male in Indiana are being charged federally for making shooter threats. The Orlando Sentinel released a video of the arrest taken on a police body camera. The teenager vowed online to “kill 7 people at a minimum” using his father’s M-15. This threat was directed toward his classmates and was made using a fake name in an online game. The police on the scene cuffed the boy as his mother expressed her concern for her son. “He shouldn’t be treated as though he’s a terrorist or something because he made a silly statement on a video game,” said the mother, but the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office takes terrorist threats such as these quite seriously, even if made by a juvenile.
Just as this Daytona teen is being charged for making terroristic threats, so is 38-year-old Thomas McVicker. A report from Time magazine states that McVicker threatened to open fire on a Memphis church, slit the throat of the pastor, and then commit suicide. This threat was brought to the attention of the FBI once a friend of McVicker came forward with text messages that the FBI considered “credible threats to conduct a mass shooting and suicide.” McVicker’s job confirmed that he had applied for leave and planned to spend Thursday in Memphis.
In the past, Berkeley High School students and staff have witnessed the repercussions of insufficient punishments for online hate , and yet Berkeley Unified School District has neglected to establish a protocol for situations such as non-violent hate speech, even after students demanded that action be taken.
In cases of physical harm administration knows exactly what to do, but if no physical harm is done the perpetrators of this hate can walk away free of repercussions. This promotes an unsafe environment at school for those who are targeted and the Berkeley school board and administration should have already handled this. When no action is taken those who participate in hate are left with the idea that what they have done is not worthy of punishment.
What happens on the internet is for all to see, and once a threat is made it is our duty to do everything in our power to prevent harm. The lives of all must be protected against white supremacy and hate-motivated violence. It is far more hazardous for society to not act swiftly on matters such as these. Once those with power come to terms with the enormity of internet threats, we as a nation can make strides towards a solution for domestic terrorism in the United States.