Many of us have come to a point where we couldn’t imagine our lives without the internet- no doubt one of the greatest forms of technology ever. The online world is borderless and doesn’t know distance in bringing people closer. However, as much as the cyber world is connecting people all over the world in few simple clicks, it is also manifesting how we humans fall behind in terms of our relationships and interactions.
For a better understanding of my view, you might log into your facebook page and search for groups under the word hate. You will easily come up with groups like ‘Ban Islam, I hate Islam, I hate Israel, f*** Americans’ ‘anti-Christanism’ etc. Or tune into some of the youtube videos that perpetuate stereotypes that range from seemingly harmless fun to dangerous hate propagandas about a certain group of people, religions or nationalities. The point is as much as these social networking platforms are bringing people together and are being used to promote good causes, they are also serving those who want to demonstrate their prejudices and hate agendas. People also tend to release their frustrations and anger in various unpleasant online behaviours that are termed as ‘flaming’ and ‘trolling’, which are defined respectively as ‘hostile and insulting interactions’ and ‘posting controversial topics with the intention of upsetting others’. Hate speech, which also could be seen in flaming and trolling, is particularly disseminating prejudice against a person or group of people or institution based on race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, and so on.
Recently, a 20 years old singer, born of a Chinese mother and an African American father made it to the finals of a talent show in China, which has instigated racially prejudiced uproar from Chinese viewers online, demonstrating the racist side of the country to the whole world. Lou Jing, in spite of her talent and good looks, received a stream of despicable insults on online forums and blogs because of her race and mixed heritage. While the internet is the single medium that Chinese people can say whatever they want, the government applies an expensive censorship scheme to prevent circulation of anti-government agendas. Unfortunately, to Lou Jing and her family disappointment, racism is not among the issues the government intend to censor.
Lou Jing’s case is just one example how internet makes it possible to mobilize against or for a certain cause or person or institution. Anonymity on the internet enables people to say whatever they want to say. It is estimated that more than 8000 hate sites exist on the net. Neo Nazi groups, terrorist organization and anti-immigrant groups are out there trying to taint the world with their messages of hate, prejudice and intolerance. Games like the one that asks you to shoot immigrants crossing the boarder or to hit George Bush’s face with a shoe could also be categorized under expensive humour that perpetuates certain issues of bigotry. Besides that, daily behaviours of people on the internet showcasing hate and stereotypes in chat rooms, blogs or comments are rampant. As a human being, it strikes me how these kinds of interactions reveal how far we lag behind in terms of race relations, diversity and religious tolerance. The cheap slurs and name callings prove the true visage of our intolerance, ignorance and prejudices that we dare not share, disseminate or broadcast in face to face or other forms of communication channels that wouldn’t guarantee us with anonymity. What bothers me most also is that most internet users are young people, whom I except to have much progressive views on race, ethnicity, gender and religious diversity.
When it comes to radical and racist websites, like for example Islamist extremist or white supremacist groups, some countries may ban the websites. The International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence provides a detailed strategy for action in ‘Countering Online Radicalization’, categorized as deterring producers, empowering online communities through media literacy and promoting positive messages.
However, this doesn’t solve the problems related to individual users on any normal website or social network platform, who air their hate-speeches with or without intentions of influencing other’s point of view. Every time I encounter such hate speeches, I feel unsafe in this world and contemplate how far we still have to go in improving human relations. In every simple ‘flame’ that belittles women, vilifies a certain race or religious groups, condemns and threatens immigrants, I see the high mountains that we yet have to keep on climbing to seek for better human relations. Especially considering the vast number of children and young people being exposed to the net more and more, it is not an issue we afford to overlook.