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Former ACLU head discusses hate speech, censorship

Former ACLU head discusses hate speech, censorship

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As social media giants such as Facebook and YouTube make headlines for attempting to root out hate speech on their platforms, former ACLU president Nadine Strossen says this – a form of censorship – may be a step in the wrong direction. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 18, Strossen spoke along with interim Executive Vice President and Provost Jennifer Gerarda Brown about the implications of censorship at Quinnpiac’s School of Law Center. 

“Hate is an emotion, and what one person hates someone else loves … it’s always impossible to come up with an objective definition,” Strossen said. 

In her book “Hate: Why We Should Resist it With Free Speech, Not Censorship,” Strossen does the work of examining the effectiveness of censorship in limiting hate speech. She says censorship isn’t only “ineffective,” it also can be “counterproductive.” 

“In the recent history of how the more open-ended libel laws were enforced, they were being enforced against the Civil Rights movement repeatedly,” Strossen said. 

It wasn’t until the 1964 case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan that a higher standard was set to declare libel, allowing reporters to report on more civil rights abuses.

So if we were to nix censorship, what could be done to combat hate speech? 

According to Brown, “The cure is more conversation, if we’re brave enough to have it, and if we have structures in place that enable it to happen in a way that is fair to all parties who are in that conversation.” 

But people who feel victimized by hate speech, may not want to engage in such converations.

“It is not the responsibility of people who are disparaged. It should be their choice,” said Strossen. “We should do everything to equalize access to education, communication, self confidence, all of the resources that are necessary to make people effective communicators, so they feel empowered to have those conversations.”
Twitter: @everett_bishop