Internet can be a weapon for good and bad


Several recent events have shone a spotlight on the Internet’s ability to enable sexism, racism and general negativity. The UCLA “Asians in the Library” video, the Kappa Sigma email, the campaign to make CollegeACB anonymous — chances are, this list is familiar.

Many young adults know how to slap content on a webpage. Our ability to foresee the consequences of what we post, however, hasn’t quite caught up with our ability to use the Internet.

Part of the problem is the Internet promotes intolerance.

At USC, being bluntly racist isn’t socially acceptable. Still, with a little eavesdropping, one can hear plenty of borderline racist comments. They’re usually just racist enough to be offensive, but just mild enough to allow speakers to call them “jokes.”

It’s easy to avoid admitting that our campus has a problem. Where’s the proof?

Nowadays, it’s online. It takes one look at CollegeACB to figure out not all Trojans embrace diversity. Uploading is so easy it can be impulsive, especially if no one knows who you are.

But words on a forum, however trivial, are more permanent than words mumbled in a hallway. More importantly, they’re harder to ignore.

Although the aptly titled “It’s time to take the ‘anonymous’ out of CollegeACB” campaign has good intentions, it doesn’t solve any problems. The problem isn’t that we can’t attach names to the sexists and racists. The problem is the fact they exist in the first place.

Since people clearly think offensive thoughts, it’s better to know exactly what those thoughts are. The challenge is figuring out what to do with it. Unless the United States wants to follow Iran’s lead and start censoring the internet, no one can stop hateful comments from spreading like wildfire.

The best option is to take advantage of the very quality that makes the Internet so effective for haters: its egalitarian nature.

In the past, society’s privileged groups had wildly disproportionate control over which messages got sent and which did not.

Now, with the Internet, traditionally disadvantaged groups have the  opportunity to point out intolerance whenever they want. The key is to make the protests as loud as the hate — and with style.

No one likes to be preached at, but most people can appreciate a fiery debate, and everyone loves a good joke. That’s why articles mocking the Kappa Sigma email are easier to find than the email itself; that’s why videos satirizing the UCLA “Asians in the Library” rant keep getting so many hits.

Thus, the Internet is a fantastic place to let the world know that yes, you’re aware of racism in your community, and no, you’re not going to let it go unnoticed.

The amount of hate on the Internet is scary, but censorship of any kind is not the answer.

Beyond First Amendment implications, censorship allows problems like latent bigotry to be covered up and ignored. The process of unveiling it might be uncomfortable, but no group in the United States is condemned to just sitting and listening. Find a computer and respond.

 

Maya Itah is a junior majoring in communication.

  • Ras

    The author seems to imply only disadvantaged people can ne victims of intolerance – I have met plenty of students that come from poor families who are very racist *gasp*! let’s not play into the cliche only rich WASPs can be the intolerant ones who have the power to squash their intolerance from the public psyche. How many times have we seen the evil, rich white intolerant middle aged man versus the poor but honest person of color?