Time for a Change

Recently the English Premier League announced they are considering a ban on all social media platforms effective May 1st.   The ban is being considered to protect footballers (soccer players) from racial and homophobic abuse.  Most footballers are teenagers or 20-something’s.  

Racial and homophobic abuse has always been a feature of sports from a segment of “fans”.  It’s on a par with the jerks who post revenge porn against their exes when they realize those women won’t put up with the selfish, spoiled brat behavior that mommy indulged all those years ago.  

When racial or homophobic abuse happens on the field, the footballing authorities can investigate, identify and ban the moronic player spewing hate.  When “fans” scream filth, the home team can investigate, identify and ban the jerks for life from attending games.

Social media abusers can hide behind avatars and fake identities. In some cases, abusers are based outside the country of their victims.  In other situations, the abusers deliberately, with malice aforethought, route their internet connections through countries that can’t or won’t prosecute the abusers.  

It’s time to stop social media abusers from using their cyberspace anonymity to avoid the consequences of their hateful, malicious actions.   The first step is to require all social media companies to authenticate the identity of each account holder just as banks are required to “know your customer” by authenticating the identity of new bank account holders.  Social media companies should also continue shutting down the fake accounts they find littering their platforms.

The second step is to enact laws that require social media companies to provide the identity of the abuser to the victim.  This process should be quick and easy and low cost. There are limited (at best) privacy concerns for the abuser because no one has a First Amendment right to spew hate and the threat of violence.  Foot-dragging on ID’ing the abuser is tantamount to enabling and condoning the abuse.

The victim can then decide whether to file a criminal complaint or to sue for civil rights violations or defamation.  That brings us to the third step. The civil and criminal penalties for engaging in hate speech and revenge porn on social media should be much more severe.  At a minimum, abusers should be banned from social media platforms until they can demonstrate they deserve the privilege of having an account.

Abusers who spew hate on social media are usually feeling insecure and afraid of social and cultural changes that they view as a loss of power and control.  Their fears make them lash out to try to regain control.  They’re counting on us being so scared of drawing their abuse or violating their free speech rights, or of secretly sympathizing with their racist, sexist, xenophobic comments, or so uncaring that we do nothing.  It’s time for that to change. 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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