Stop Hate Crime & Start Loving
FREE SPEECH VS. HATE SPEECH AT SCHOOL
Students in public schools do have free speech unless that speech is determined to “materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of the appropriate discipline in the operation of the school.” This ruling from Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969) is still the legal standard that other cases follow. While online speech can be created outside of the school building or outside of the school day, the school can use disciplinary measures if the online speech interferes with others’ rights to feel safe in school and receive their education. For instance, in Shen v. Albany Unified School District (2017), a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that off-campus social media activity – in this case a student created and posted to an Instagram account with racist messages targeting members of the school community – could be considered “school speech” if the online acts were done by students and with the intention of disrupting the school operations.
IS BANNING HATE SPEECH A FORM OF CENSORSHIP?
There have been accusations that social media companies censor people with certain political perspectives and, ironically, some of the people who accuse social media companies of censoring them have very large social media followings. It is true that some people have been banned from Twitter, Facebook and other platforms while others have had posts removed or demoted so they would get less attention.
In the vast majority of these cases, the social media companies have taken these steps because of the person’s behavior rather than their ideology. Expressing opinions on all sides of the political spectrum isn’t just allowed, it’s encouraged on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. What isn’t allowed is harassment, bullying, threats or posts that demean people based on race, religion, ethnicity or other personal characteristics. Therefore posts that contain racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim sentiment, or similarly hateful content may be flagged or removed.