Beyond Takedown: Expanding the Toolkit for Responding to Online Hate

Propaganda, War Crimes Trials and International Law: From Cognition to Criminality 143, Predrag Dojcinovic, Ed., Routledge, 2020

American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2020-11

14 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2020 Last revised: 19 Mar 2020

See all articles by Molly K. Land

Molly K. Land

University of Connecticut School of Law

Rebecca J. Hamilton

American University - Washington College of Law

Date Written: January 1, 2020

Abstract

The current preoccupation with ‘fake news’ has spurred a renewed emphasis in popular discourse on the potential harms of speech. In the world of international law, however, ‘fake news’ is far from new. Propaganda of various sorts is a well-worn tactic of governments, and in its most insidious form, it has played an instrumental role in inciting and enabling some of the worst atrocities of our time. Yet as familiar as propaganda might be in theory, it is raising new issues as it has migrated to the digital realm. Technological developments have largely outpaced existing legal and political tools for responding to the use of mass communications devices to instigate or perpetrate human rights violations.

This chapter evaluates the current practices of social media companies for responding to online hate, arguing that they are inevitably both overbroad and under-inclusive. Using the example of the role played by Facebook in the recent genocide against the minority Muslim Rohingya population in Myanmar, the chapter illustrates the failure of platform hate speech policies to address pervasive and coordinated online speech, often state-sponsored or state-aligned, denigrating a particular group that is used to justify or foster impunity for violence against that group. Addressing this “conditioning speech” requires a more tailored response that includes remedies other than content removal and account suspensions. The chapter concludes by surveying a range of innovative responses to harmful online content that would give social media platforms the flexibly to intervene earlier, but with a much lighter touch.

Keywords: Human Rights, Hate Speech, Myanmar, Facebook, Social Media, Platform, Freedom of Expression, Internet, Propaganda, International Law

Suggested Citation

Land, Molly K. and Hamilton, Rebecca J., Beyond Takedown: Expanding the Toolkit for Responding to Online Hate (January 1, 2020). Propaganda, War Crimes Trials and International Law: From Cognition to Criminality 143, Predrag Dojcinovic, Ed., Routledge, 2020; American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2020-11. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3514234 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3514234

Molly K. Land (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

Rebecca J. Hamilton

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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