The SPLC today announced the release of Change the Terms, a set of policy recommendations to help social media and other internet companies reduce hateful activities on their platforms.
Although a free and open internet creates immense social value, it can also be used to engage in hateful activities on a large scale. For example, white supremacist and other organizations that incite hate are using online platforms to organize, fund, recruit supporters for, and normalize racism, sexism, religious bigotry, as well as anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant animus, among other activities.
“Social media platforms have a tremendous impact because of their ability to amplify extreme ideas from the fringes,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, one of the partners in the Change the Terms initiative. “The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented how hateful rhetoric online can turn into violence in real life, including the tragic events that we saw unfold in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year. Internet companies must do more to ensure that they are doing their part to combat extremism and hate, and take the threat of hate and extremism on their platforms more seriously.”
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Hate activities on the internet discourage the online speech of the targeted groups, curb democratic participation, and threaten people’s safety and freedom in real life. While some companies are taking steps in the right direction to reduce hateful activities online, anti-hate provisions in most companies’ terms of service are not enough.
To ensure that companies are doing their part to help combat hateful conduct on their platforms, the SPLC and other organizations in this campaign will track the progress of major tech companies – especially social media platforms – to adopt and implement these model corporate policies. Then, in the following year, the organizations will provide report cards to those companies on both their policies and their execution of the policies.
The policies and the report, “Curbing Hate Online: What Companies Should Do Now,” shares what the organizations learned from meeting with experts on terrorism, human rights, and technology around the world, and includes recommended policies to help internet companies reduce hateful activities that are taking place on their platforms.
These recommended policies are based on the online tools and information that are available today. It is important to note that policies and approaches for addressing hateful activities will need to change along with the technologies and their uses. These changes will result from the lessons learned by internet companies and researchers who evaluate data on hateful activities online.
The Center for American Progress, Free Press, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Color of Change, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law are among a coalition of more than 40 groups that joined the SPLC in announcing the Change the Terms initiative.
“Coordinated online attacks by white supremacists have sparked violence in the offline world,” said Jessica González, deputy director and senior counsel at Free Press. “They also chill the online speech of those of us who are members of targeted groups, frustrating democratic participation in the digital marketplace of ideas and – even more importantly – threatening our safety and freedom in real life. Internet companies can no longer neglect how the hate speech of the few silences the voices and threatens the lives of the marginalized many."