RACISM + SOCIAL MEDIA
How Free Speech Became a Lame Excuse To Spread Racism on Twitter
White supremacists celebrated Elon Musk's takeover
Free speech is a fundamental right in America that protects our ability to express ourselves. But what happens when free speech becomes nothing more than a lame excuse to spread racism? In the wake of Elon Musk's takeover, Twitter is entering the "find out" phase. Emboldened by the idea of an unfiltered social media platform, racists increased the use of the N-word on Twitter "by nearly 500% in the 12 hours" after the deal was finalized. In response, some users have either left the platform or discussed the need for moderation. Toni Braxton, for instance, noted that "hate speech under the veil of free speech is unacceptable."
Even before Elon Musk, whose family profited from the South African apartheid, took over Twitter, Black women were "84% more likely than White women to be mentioned in abusive or problematic tweets." Social media was already a racially hostile environment for Black people. Still, it seems Musk's takeover signified a new dawn for white supremacists, one where racism can become as omnipresent as the server. So, how did "free speech," a seemingly benign civil right, become food for racist fodder?
Under the veil of free speech, many believe they say anything they want; even cruel, dehumanizing things are given a pass. But "the First Amendment only protects your speech from government censorship." So, privately owned media companies, like Twitter, have every right to refuse to publish content they find unacceptable. After all, publically traded companies have to face the scrutiny of their shareholders, who may favor some views more than others. Free speech, in America, is rooted in the idea that people can speak out against the government without fear of retribution, not ferment hatred against fellow citizens, like Black people.
While the First Amendment protects free speech, America never guaranteed anyone the right to speak without consequence. Meaning if someone like Toni Braxton no longer wants to use Twitter because of the unchecked racism on the platform, that's her right to withdraw. The backlash to Braxton's tweet shows that some White people want more than the ability to…