The rise of nationalism and racism has fueled calls for social media platforms to combat the phenomenon. After the New Zealand attack, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler convened a hearing, saying that the internet has contributed to the spread of white nationalism around the world. The Senate Judiciary Committee also held a hearing, calling for more critical interrogation of conservative speech.
Nationalist discourse online
While social media platforms may not be responsible for all racist incidents, they are a significant factor. Their participatory nature has enabled groups and individuals to express extremist and racial views, and to spread their ideology across the internet. It is imperative to understand the role of social media platforms in the emergence and propagation of racism. In particular, social media has facilitated the reproduction of racism and nationalist discourse online.
Fueled communal violence
In addition to spreading racism, social media platforms have also fueled communal violence. In recent years, lynch mobs have been on the rise. Many of these attacks are based on rumors spread through WhatsApp groups. Similar incidents have occurred in Sri Lanka, where vigilantism has erupted out of rumor spread on social media. In March 2018, the government of that country blocked Facebook, WhatsApp, and Viber, citing their widespread use of racist views.
Solidarity with the cause
In spite of all this, social media can still promote racism and nationalism. Studies have shown that Black Americans are more likely to engage in activism-related activities on social media than White or Hispanic users. They are also more likely to post photos of themselves in solidarity with the cause. But how can social media combat these practices? We must understand what the role of technology in the spreading of nationalism and racism is in society.
Previously considered unacceptable
As social media platforms dominate the socio-political landscape of nearly every country, they have also promoted racism. It is important to note that these platforms have a tendency to encourage hate speech and racism. They allow individuals to express their views in ways that have been previously considered unacceptable. Using social media platforms to express one’s ethnicity is not only a form of discrimination, but also an act of denigration.
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While the online platforms that promote racism are not a cure-all, they can at least help to reduce the incidence of racism. Proper education is essential for changing the mindset of the people. To prevent this kind of hate speech, it is necessary to educate them about the consequences of such acts. But social media platforms have their advantages and disadvantages. They should not be used as an excuse for xenophobia.
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