Mike Adams: Facebook Devolves into Dark Web of Anonymous Hate Speech
Two readers have drawn attention to this article on the impact of hate speech on Facebook so I publish it here.
Facebook devolves into dark web of anonymous hate speech
Thursday, August 26, 2010
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com (See all articles…)
(NaturalNews) When broadcast television was first invented in the first half of the 20th century, it was quickly heralded as a technological breakthrough that would inspire, educate and uplift human civilization. Educational programs and useful knowledge could be cheaply and efficiently broadcast to people everywhere, it was thought. The FCC even required television stations to run news programming without commercials as a trade-off for being granted broadcast space in the electromagnetic spectrum. This TV news, it was thought, was the broadcast station’s obligation to the betterment of society.
Those were the humble and well-intentioned beginnings of television, a game-changing “disruptive” technology that we now know has actually dumbed-down our population while becoming a cesspool for manipulative corporate advertising and idiotic entertainment. Far from enlightening human civilization, television has arguably enslaved it, seductively luring the population into a downward spiral of runaway consumerism, debt, disease and mainstream stupidity.
While educational television programming may still be found through such organizations as Nova, the BBC, The Learning Channel, Discovery and notable others, the bulk of television programming available today is an insult to the potential of human intelligence, and it only contributes to the collapse of meaningful discourse — a fact that becomes grossly obvious during every political election campaign.
The age of the internet
The internet has often been described as a far more intelligent medium than broadcast television. TV is a one-way street, after all: Program directors and advertisers shout their messages into the minds of passive observers (couch potatoes), none of whom have an opportunity to really participate or respond.
The internet is a two-way street, though: People can vote, comment and query. And for this reason, it has long been believed that the internet is healthy for society. Getting people engaged in discussions and participating in creative contribution projects seems a lot smarter than having them sprawled out in front of the old boob tube, mindlessly hypnotized by another episode of some me-too reality TV show.
Facebook, of course, has played the role of a key enabler in the online “mass participation” trend. But what has emerged from Facebook and other social network has not been the thoughtful, reasoned discussions and contributions we might idealistically hope to see. Rather, Facebook has, for reasons you’ll soon see, brought out the worst in many people, devolving into a tangled web of anonymous hate speech directed to anything and everything within reach.
Hence the new nickname for Facebook… Hatebook.
How Facebook became a hate engine
What could have been a platform for community sharing, idea-gathering and creative problem solving has devolved (with some exceptions) into a juvenile hate-fest of truly idiotic half-thoughts. And the worst of the Haters who prowl Facebook looking for something to attack and destroy are not merely a small minority of its population; at times they seem to dominate the conversations there (to the great dismay of the intelligent, thoughtful people trying to carry on a real conversation).
Yes, there are many thoughtful, positive and intelligent people using Facebook. Quite a few frequent our NaturalNews page, in fact. But far too often their thoughtful ideas are drowned out by what can only be called “mindless hate.”
In discussing this, however, let’s differentiate between reasonable criticism and mindless hate. “Reasonable criticism” is a comment or criticism emerging from reasoned consideration of some issue. A lot of what I write, for example, is “reasonable criticism” because it offers criticism and then explains reasons for arriving at that criticism. This article is a good example of reasonable criticism.
“Mindless hate,” on the other hand, is a kind of irrational, emotionally-charged hate speech that places no value on facts, reason or logic of any kind. It is merely an emotional discharge, almost a kind of mental vomit that has been splattered across the online world. And it contains some of the most vicious hate speech that has ever been recorded in human history.
I once read a post from a person who said, essentially, “I am sending out love to everyone on planet Earth!” From there, one Facebook Hater posted, “That must include the terrorists, too. So you love terrorists!” This was quickly followed by another Hater who chimed in, “I can’t believe she loves terrorists! Terror lover!” From there, if you can believe it, the posts devolved into even more mindless discharges of venomous nonsense against a woman who only sought to post something positive and uplifting.
I’ve asked around the natural health community as well as the celebrity community, and I’ve found that nearly every person who gains notoriety is now being victimized by a constant assault of hate speech on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Fine film actors, esteemed scientists, spiritual teachers and authors are all being assaulted by Hatebook vitriol. No person of noteworthiness escapes being targeted by Facebook Haters because they operate 24 hours a day and, most important of all, they operate with complete anonymity.
Haters, you see, are emboldened by their anonymity. If real names were required on Facebook, the density of hate speech would drop sharply. Because a lot of what people say in their hate rants is so bizarre and defamatory that they would never allow their real names to be attached to such verbiage. So they create fake accounts, then post their hate messages under false identities, allowing their inner hate to scream out to the world without any risk that such bizarre behavior would reflect on them as real people in the real world.
Which brings me to a curious question: Who, exactly, are these Haters?
The Hater next door
As it turns out, these are ordinary, everyday people. These are the people who are frustrated with their jobs, frustrated with their marriages, frustrated with their economic situation and frustrated with life. They have no place to vent this frustration in the real world. You can’t tell off your boss and expect to still receive a paycheck. You can’t scream at your husband or wife without risking a divorce. You can’t go around shooting people on the streets without getting arrested and thrown in prison.
But you can assassinate people online. Anonymously… and protected by the very structure of Facebook which seems to be designed to actually encourage argument (because conflict results in more posts, more attention and therefore more advertising revenue).
Your typical Facebook Hater is often the same guy you think is “a nice neighbor.” He’s quiet, polite in public, and follows the rules of society in the real world. But in the world of online anonymity, he becomes the Dark Lord Sauron, master of his domain of destruction, destroyer of dreams and all that is good. Mua-hah-hah!
He becomes, in other words, an entirely different person. And the extremes expressed by those two people might easily result in him being diagnosed as having “multiple personality disorder” if such divergent behavior were expressed in the real physical world. But in the online world, it now seems all too “normal.”
Facebook, by the way, does not give users the ability to effectively and permanently ban haters from posting on their wall, nor does it offer any sort of “hate filters” or other technologies that might ease this situation. As I hinted earlier, Facebook actually seems to encourage hate speech because it engenders conflict, and conflict attracts attention. That attention, in turn, translates into more page views and more ad revenues. To end hate speech on Facebook could mean losing half its traffic (or more). There’s just no financial incentive to stop hate from propagating across social networks like Facebook.
Facebook, you might say, feeds on hate.
The destruction of good people
The upshot of all this is that online hate speech is destroying the lives of many brilliant people. I know several genius-level individuals from the academic world who just couldn’t take the onslaught of Facebook hate speech and ended up closing their accounts, removing all social networking buttons and retreating to the online equivalent of a hermit’s hut in the woods.
What’s sad is that these are tremendously intelligent, talented people who have very important gifts of knowledge and insight to offer humanity. They are being systematically shouted off the stage by what can only be called idiotic hate speech vented from anonymous Haters who truly offer nothing to this world. They are, you might say, “useless Haters.”
Imagine if Facebook had existed in the time of Einstein or the famed physicist Richard Feynman. These brilliant physicists — whose ideas literally transformed our understanding of the universe — would have been relentlessly attacked as fraudsters and quacks by the prevailing idiocy of the masses. “Time is relative? It’s absurd! What kind of freakin’ idiot would even believe such a stupid idea?” And this would be followed by a few thousand posts of follow-up haters who neither have the intellectual capacity to understand Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity nor the inclination to learn more about it before lashing out in condemnation of it.
The tone of devolving thought
What’s really happening with Facebook, Twitter and other social networks is that the conversations that dominate society are devolving into mindless hate speech. Bobby hates Sherry. Sherry hates Cindy’s dress. Cindy hates Bobby’s stupid grin… and Bobby slept with Sherry the other night, even though he hates her, just to take a snapshot and embarrass her online.
This kind of thing is then followed by the most inane and utterly useless scraps of non-knowledge, such as: “I burned my toast this morning, and it reminded me of what a bitch you are” except, of course, I’ve spelled it all too well here. In the real world of Hatebook, such an insult would appear more like, “i burnt my tost this mrning, and it rimind me of what a bitch u r” followed by “ur pethetic” from someone else who can’t spell, either.
And round and round it goes — a chorus of madness based on a kind of mental derangement that seems to have infected an alarming percentage of the online population.
Don’t misinterpret me here, though: In no way am I saying that everyone online behaves in this way. What I’m saying is that those intelligent, thoughtful people who have something important to add to a discussion are frequently being drowned out by the haters who can always scream louder than the person they’re attacking.
And yet we still need social networks
Why does any of this matter? Because Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are now so popular that integrating with them is essential for the success of just about any online business. You either use them or you miss opportunities for reaching people. And if you use them, you automatically subject yourself to the hate speech of the deranged, creating not merely emotional stress but also an administrative task of trying to remove hate posts and counter the false and misleading “hate liars” who intentionally post information they know to be falsified.
This is true regardless of which side of the issue you’re on. Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat; whether you’re into natural health or conventional medicine; whether you believe in global warming or think it’s a hoax… no matter what side you take on any issue, you are going to be targeted for idiotic hate speech by the mindless social networking haters who invoke their hate outbursts as a kind of mental masturbation. They “get off” on destroying everyone else while reducing reasoned conversations to linguistic seizures sprinkled with spite.
The big-picture result of this is that people who go online feel increasingly negative and stressful about their lives. Society suffers as a whole when anonymous hate speech is allowed to dominate the bits and bytes of the ‘net. These days, there’s almost no room left for reasoned verbal discourse. Common sense, it seems, can’t fit into a 140-character tweet. Forget the TV sound bite — online bites are mere fragments of thought that often contain nothing other than seemingly random words placed in some bizarre sequence interspersed with insults or profanity.
This is the best we can do? Really? This is the civilization that sent men to the moon, that built an atomic supercollider, that has unlocked many secrets of biochemistry and that hopes to someday colonize other worlds? Who, exactly, is going to develop the next generation of technological innovations when our teens are too busy texting and cheating on tests to actually learn mathematics? How are democracies going to survive if there’s no tolerance for rational discussions about political candidates and their policies, and the whole contest comes down to who can spew the most lies to the greatest number of voters?
So how do we shift the tone of online interactions into a more positive, responsible direction? This is a crucial question for our time, and it’s one that is just barely beginning to be considered.
A knee-jerk reaction often leads to the idea of, “Well let’s require everybody to have a license to use the internet, and they can only use their real names.” At first, it might sound like a decent idea, but the more you look into this, the more quickly you realize that this would turn the internet into a virtual police state, with governments monitoring, controlling and censoring online discussions. Anyone “caught” arguing against mandatory vaccination policies, for example, might be banned from using the ‘net.
For obvious reasons, governments should never control access to speech. Police State nations like China are already putting such requirements in place, and they are very effective at allowing the government to censor and control online conversations. Such draconian rules don’t make sense in a nation like the USA where freedom of speech is still widely respected.
But there are other potential solutions available to us. At the very least, social networks like Facebook could do a lot more to improve the situation. They could provide users with better tools to ban Haters or automatically filter out posts with an overtly negative tone. Facebook could introduce a “reputation” system where people are voted into “white hat” or “black hat” status based on what other users think of their comments. Users could then automatically ban any posts from those with low reputation scores.
A reputation system, you see, is what could bring back some measure of civility to the internet, even if real people hide behind virtual names.
I believe there is a billion-dollar idea here, where some energetic entrepreneur could introduce a reputation monitor system that could offer internet-wide reputation scores for a given user, allowing websites to use that reputation score as part of their content visibility calculations.
In fact, I foresaw the need for such a service nearly a decade ago and registered many domain names back then such as ReputationMonitor.com, ReputationGuard.com and ReputationServices.com. If anyone reading this is interested in creating and launching a reputation technology system that could help solve the problem of Hatebook Haters, I’d be very interested in partnering with you and promoting your solution.
While a reputation system is one idea for reducing the tone of mindless hate on the ‘net, there may be other ideas that are just as powerful that we haven’t thought of yet. Keyword analysis systems can easily score posts in terms of their positivity or negativity, and sites like Twitter or Facebook could allow users to control their own “hate filters” (sort of like parental filters for children) that would automatically filter out the most negative posts. (Spam filters often work in much the same way.)
This could serve as a kind of “hate firewall” that would greatly reduce the amount of mindless hate that gets spewed across the internet. We have firewalls for viruses and hackers… why not for Haters, too?
Here’s another interesting idea: Develop a linguistic analysis engine that can sit on top of a corporation’s data stream and filter all incoming and ongoing text for extremely hate-filled emails or text posts. We actually developed a similar technology that already exists underneath our NaturalNews.com content system: It rates stories for their top concepts and then statistically relates those concepts to other stories in order to make intelligent recommendations for readers. Doing the same thing for emails or text posts is a fairly straightforward matter.
But in order to get to these solutions, we as an online society must first recognize that the “Hatebook” approach to online communications is simply not acceptable. We must admit that allowing anonymous hate speech to continue online is destroying our collective quality of life while adding nothing of value to society.
And yet, if we take action to reduce the anonymity of Haters, we must take care to preserve the freedoms of speech that make the internet, as a whole, a very valuable tool for the sharing of knowledge, creativity and solutions.
This is obviously a difficult balancing act, and I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just know that what I’ve seen coming out of Facebook is some of the most dark, hateful and truly devolved “free speech” I’ve ever witnessed. And it is destroying the good will of good people to whom our world owes a debt of gratitude.
We can do better than this. We must do better, in fact, if we hope to survive as a civilization. The open sharing of intelligent ideas is crucial, I believe, to us finding solutions for the really big questions that confront us today: How will our planet survive humanity’s destructive domination? How will we colonize other planets to insulate ourselves against future cataclysmic events? How can we preserve and expand the whole of human knowledge so that future generations are wiser than we? How can we explore the causes of happiness?
These questions cannot be discussed in an environment that favors mindless hatred and anonymous stupidity over well-formed ideas and reasoned argument.