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Civil rights groups call for tech companies to crack down on hate speech

Civil rights groups call for tech companies to crack down on hate speech

A group of civil rights organizations is pushing technology companies to create policies to more effectively address hate speech and extremist groups.

The six organizations, joined by 40 other organizations who echoed the call, wrote in a report that they want the platforms to take firmer stances against “racism, sexism, xenophobia, religious bigotry, homophobia and transphobia” and enforce policies against hate speech and extremist groups more strictly.

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The groups, which include the Center for American Progress, Color of Change, Free Press, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the National Hispanic Media Coalition and the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that they plan to release report cards next year for how social media firms are handling the recommendations.

“It is not enough for companies to apologize after incidents like last year’s Charlottesville rally and last week’s Proud Boys attacks,” said Brandi Collins, senior campaign director at Color of Change. “They must quickly, assertively, and proactively remove the forces who threaten our democracy by adopting and implementing these policies.”

Major technology companies have fumbled for solutions as white supremacists and other extremist groups have organized and grown in numbers on their platforms.

Facebook attempted to purge its platform of white nationalist and white supremacist groups last year in the wake of the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va., leading to a wave of other tech platforms making similar removals.

Platforms like Twitter and Reddit held on to being bastions of unbridled free speech until hateful content became too pervasive to ignore.

Many, especially those against platforms tightening their speech standards, have painted the matter as a conflict between free speech and censorship, but the organizations argued in their report that the lines between the two values are more nuanced than that.

They argued that hate speech and coordinated hate against specific groups forms its own censorship.

“Online tools have been used to coordinate attacks, including violence against people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, LGBTQIA people, women and people with disabilities,” the report reads. This chills the online speech of the targeted groups, curbs democratic participation, and threatens people’s safety and freedom in real life.”