TechTakes: It's time to stop sharing hate on social media

MARCH 20 — Too many of us are unwittingly enabling purveyors of hate speech. It happens each time we retweet or share messages of a hateful nature.

In the beginning, I supposed we were all trying to do the equivalent of citizen's arrests. But by amplifying hateful messages we are also making sure they reach a wider audience which benefits the very people we do not want to help.

Take for example the manifesto of the Christchurch shooter. I've seen local media outlets share the manifesto in its entirety which is one, lazy reporting and two, unethical on the level of sharing a suicide note.

There is a reason that the ethical modus operandi for suicide notes is they are not shared.

What a responsible media outlet would do in the case of a suicide note would be the following: report that the deceased left behind a suicide note.

Why is it a bad idea to share the contents? One reason is to respect the privacy of the deceased and also protect whomever it was addressed to.

Another reason it is unethical to share suicide notes is they can often trigger those vulnerable to suicide idealisation. Copycat suicides are common, especially in the wake of widely reported celebrity deaths.

I think the same approach should be taken by media. Report the shooter summarised his demands and goals in a manifesto, while summarising the contents.

It's lazy and dangerous reporting to just publish said manifesto up in its entirety because one thing manifestos are designed to do is to help rally supporters to a cause.

While governments often strongarm media into spreading propaganda, in cases like this, publishing the manifesto is the equivalent of disseminating the information.

"Let people make their own judgements," some might argue.

As can be evidenced by most family WhatsApp groups, the average person can be really awful at making judgements about all the information floating around out there.

So what can you, the average person, do to avoid being the tool of a radical/hatemonger?

Here are my own suggestions:

1. If you see hateful content, don't share it. Report it.

2. The best way to tell your followers/social media friends to also report/block is to mention the content offhand — give a general description without actually giving the person extra eyeballs.

3. The block button is your friend. Block awful pages and awful people. Not just for your sanity but so you won't be tempted to do dumb things such as share their content.

4. If the content is awful enough you think the police should be involved, make a report. But if it's not that terrible, attempt to minimise its effect instead of amplifying it

Internet mobs are becoming too prevalent these days and while public shaming is occasionally warranted, taken too far it's incredibly harmful.

Let's not end up being bullies over the occasional tasteless tweet or Facebook post. Save your anger for when it is actually needed.

Think twice before you retweet or yell at a complete stranger on the Internet. Life is too short to be spending all your free (or not so free) time picking fights online.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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