No longer confined to isolated corners of the web, cyber hate now enjoys a major presence on popular social media sites. The Facebook group “Kill a Jew Day,” for instance, acquired thousands of friends within days of its formation, while YouTube has hosted videos with names like “How to Kill Beaners,” “Execute the Gays,” and “Murder Muslim Scum.” The mainstreaming of cyber hate has the troubling potential to shape public expectations of online discourse. 

Internet intermediaries have the freedom and influence to seize this defining moment in cyber hate’s history. We believe that a thoughtful and nuanced intermediary-based approach to hate speech can foster respectful online discourse without suppressing valuable expression. To this end, we urge intermediaries to help address cyber hate by adopting accessible and transparent policies that educate users about their rights and responsibilities as digital citizens. Intermediaries’ options include challenging hateful speech by responding with counter-speech and empowering community members to enforce norms of digital citizenship.

Danielle Citron & Helen Norton, Intermediaries and Hate Speech: Fostering Digital Citizenship for the Information Age, 91 Boston University Law Review, 1435–1484 (2011).