Navigating Between Free Speech and Hate on the Internet

July 3, 2023 News & Updates

Monday, June 26, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) hosted a panel discussion on Navigating Between Free Speech and Hate: Regulating Social Media, as part of our Democracy Forum series. Our panelists included Sanaa Ansari, Senior Counsel in the Digital Justice Initiative at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Zaki Barzinji, Senior Director for Aspen Digital, and Faiyaz Hussain, Senior Advisor to MPAC for Strategy, Policy & Programs.

For this much-needed dialogue, we convened a panel of experts for a discussion on how to navigate the complex path between upholding the right to free speech and safeguarding our civil liberties all while countering the proliferation of conspiracy theories, the amplification of violent content, hate speech, and disinformation campaigns.

The Internet has changed our lives offering unprecedented opportunities for self-expression, community engagement, global connectivity, and the ability to access vital information.

However, the Internet has also given rise to numerous challenges, including the proliferation of conspiracy theories, amplification of violent content, hate speech, and disinformation campaigns leading to extreme polarization and deep erosion of public trust in our democratic processes.

Authoritarian regimes have often cracked down on the Internet to silence dissenting voices and engage in violations of freedom, including human rights atrocities. Minority communities, including the Muslim community, are particularly vulnerable to online hate and have been subjected to violence directly linked to the rise of White nationalism in the United States, while simultaneously being subjected to Hindu nationalist violence in India, and susceptible to extremist influence online.

Key takeaways that our panelists provided:

  • Hold platforms accountable for the amplification of active hate speech.
  • Urge transparency as it is essential for effective media regulation.
  • Ensure American Muslim voices are present and taken into account during the ongoing dialogue and decision-making processes’ regarding social media regulation.
  • Include experts within the Muslim community that are able to help mend this process by identifying the problems and potential hazards, and offering solutions to protect marginalized communities in a manner that does not infringe upon their civil liberties, including freedom of speech.

Through important discussions such as these, Muslims will have a voice in navigating regulatory practices on digital platforms, especially with those that produce hate for extremist audiences, while not impairing the civil liberties of Muslims to speak on atrocities affecting us.

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