'Ok Boomer!' Let's Sort Out Hate Speech

The Government is facing a real challenge at the moment, and it's not just coronavirus and Wednesday's budget. At some stage it has to consider exactly what it is binding online publishers to when the new duty of care is decided upon.

A final decision is probably several months away because there will likely be a far-reaching public consultation on what, in particular, the social media giants will be expected to protect users against.

It's easy to see where the obvious harm lies. Instructions on how to hurt oneself or starve oneself are very easy starting points. So too are comments that spread racial hatred or any form of intolerance. 

After that, we can begin to get into some real grey areas. The Telegraph today features a call for body shaming to be included in the new duty of care. You can see where this comes from, but then the article goes on to talk about how many people are facing what they term as body shaming, even during visits to the NHS. 

This is where my Gen X common-sense gene kicks in and wonders whether people being told to lose weight to make themselves feel better or before surgery is considered an option believe they are the victim of body shaming, even though they may have been given good advice.

It's a really tough call because while we all know that it's awful to mock someone for being overweight, or underweight, is it a hate crime to suggest on social that a friend should lose a few pounds before they blame all and sundry for their sore knees?

Speaking of Gen X, my kids will be relieved to know that while Twitter will crack down on ageism in comments, it's still allowing users to say "Ok, Boomer!" For anyone who does not have school-age kids, this is basically the stock retort that a child feels empowered to offer when being given advice by someone older whom they feel doesn't know what they're going through.

Apparently, ripping into someone because of their age is now against Twitter's rules, but doing the online equivalent of an eye roll and typing "Ok, Boomer!" is fine.

It's a fine line, isn't it? I think we have all felt that same annoyance at someone of retired age telling young people to just save for a house and stop moaning when they clearly don't realise that is virtually impossible now for young people, now that houses are way more than the traditional three times an annual salary that mortgages have been calculated on. We've all felt it, but how do you counter it productively?

Trevor Phillips will be feeling this quandary today. The head of the British equalities watchdog (EHRC) has been suspended from the Labour Party over allegations of being anti-muslim. He defends himself in The Times today, but cannot reference the exact accusation against him because it is now a legal matter.

However, reading between the lines of what he writes in his defence, he is accused of being anti-muslim for pointing out that it is a religion, not a race, and it is practised by many people from different backgrounds.

He has also drawn attention for writing about how there has been a problem with grooming gangs whose members have tended to be from of Pakistani heritage. He calls his comments responsible journalism while opponents have alleged islamophobia.

It's worth mentioning this because it brings into sharp focus the nightmare of upholding the duty of care the Government is due to place on social media companies.

We can all agree on the big obvious hate we want to see banished, but where that ends and free speech predicated on facts begins is a really tricky issue. It becomes even more tricky when you consider that our Prime Minister stands accused by many of being racist or an islamophobe for comments that have included likening muslim headdresses with letter boxes.

With all that to consider, all one is left to say is, over to you, Boris -- this will be very interesting to see you talk your way out of.

2 comments about "'Ok Boomer!' Let's Sort Out Hate Speech".
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  1. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, March 11, 2020 at 9:48 p.m.

    Being from Oklahoma, I thought your choice of your title was a very poor choice of words. "OK" is our two letter initial for our state. "Boomer", along with "Sooner" is part of our history as well as the Oklahoma University of nickname and rally chant. Then you put the work "HATE" in this mix, I found it distasteful at best. Words and combinations of them do have meaning.

  2. Sean Hargrave from Sean Hargrave, March 12, 2020 at 4:48 a.m.

    Hi Craig, No offence meant. The phrase "ok boomer" is common parlance here in the UK and I"m sure it's the same in the US? The irony being it came amid calls to ban hate speech, hence showing the difficulty that 'ok boomer' is allowed but other phrases will not.
    That was the point being made here, no offence intended.

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