Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

Month: April 2009 (page 1 of 2)

What is Hate Speech?

I call myself, sometimes with tongue firmly placed in cheek, a “combatant of censorship.” My country (the United States for those of you playing along at home) has a long and sordid history of censorship to rival any other: From Puritan New England to the banning of books as varied as Huckleberry Finn and Mein Kampf, the U.S. has long led the so-called “free world” in censorship. And now, this insidious little thing called “hate speech” threatens to plague us again.

For those of you who think I’m kidding – I’m not. Though I am no proponent of using such speech, and I recognize the right of a blogger, newspaper, school, or company to curtail it on its own grounds, I stand firm in my position that legislating against “hate speech” is a very slippery slope. Part of the problem, of course, is the definition itself:

Hate speech is a term for speech intended to degrade person or group of people based on their race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, language ability, ideology, social class, occupation, appearance (height, weight, hair color, etc.), mental capacity, and any other distinction that might be considered by some as a liability.

Rather inclusive, no? There are many points and opinions of my own that I could offer here, but instead, I’ll present three examples from popular culture and society. Do with them what you will, but by all means, discuss!

Just a warning before you click: I have taken some images of specific Facebook groups and online situations, and used a variety of words that are considered highly offensive to some people.  I’ve tried to present a wide variety as not to seem as though I’m picking on any one group…click at your own risk.

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LinkedIn: Doing the Right Thing

By now you’ve probably heard about the continuing saga of #amazonfail. Even if you’re not a Twitter user, or couldn’t care less about LGBT books and their Amazon.com rankings, the term has no doubt entered your lexicon.

What you probably haven’t heard about, however, is the short-lived #linkedinfail that happened when business-themed social networking service LinkedIn accidentally cut off their thousands of Syrian users in an effort to enforce U.S. sanctions on proprietary software. The brief debacle was covered on Global Voices Advocacy, The Huffington Post (by yours truly), and in a number of Syrian blogs. Twitter users tweeted the heck of out #linkedinfail and #boycottlinkedin for a few hours, until kluo, who happens to be Kay Luo, Senior Director of Corporate Communications for LinkedIn (or as she refers to herself, LinkedIn employee #99) contacted me and others on Twitter to find out what was going on. After a few short back-and-forths, she announced that the deletion of Syrian user accounts was in fact an error and would be fixed. She asked me to email her.

You can imagine my surprise when, five minutes after emailing her, my phone rang (at 12:30 am). It was indeed Ms. Luo herself, calling to personally apologize for the error and let me know that LinkedIn would be issuing a statement shortly. Contained in this Global Voices Advocacy post, the statement reads:

“Some changes made to our site recently resulted in Syrian users being unable to access LinkedIn. In looking into this matter, it has come to our attention that human error led to over compliance with respect to export controls. This issue is being addressed tonight and service to our Syrian users should be restored shortly.”

I was of course quite pleased, but then Ms. Luo took it a step further and reached out to a few Syrian bloggers who were affected by the error. She also gave me a pretty cool shoutout on Twitter, which I am not too cool to reproduce here:


So while Amazon.com is languishing in their customer care, LinkedIn has proven that it is the better company; not only did it fix the problem in a timely manner, but it used good old-fashioned common sense and kindness to resolve the issue in a way that makes (nearly) everyone happy.

Kudos to LinkedIn, for doing the right thing.

Is Twitter Hurting “Real-Life” Relationships?

I’ve talked a lot about Twitter here lately.  Everyone is talking about Twitter, even people who don’t use it.  The fact is, Twitter has invaded our lives; not just the lives of the digerati, but those of students, moms, television personalities…even cats.  Rather than texting, we’re tweeting.  Instead of blogging, we’re tweeting.  Sometimes we’re even tweeting about blogging.

Tweeting about blogging?

Tweeting about blogging?

But when is tweeting too much?  A coworker, who is not on Twitter or Facebook and basically seems to eschew all technology except her laptop, is a bit skeeved out by the communication that happens on Twitter, mainly the fact that we are using Twitter to communicate with people we’d normally have regular conversations with.

I admit, I too have moments of frustration, such as when someone direct messages me to invite me somewhere (rather than sending an SMS or giving a phone call), but on the other hand, some of the ordinary communication that happens on Twitter is the best.  For example, this morning, I sent out a tweet exclaiming my excitement over a particular download:

(it's true, it pleases me muchly)

(it's true, it pleases me muchly)

_My mother, rather than waiting until our next phone call or visit, then sent me a direct message which read, “Are you serious about Joan Baez? I have many old albums, I had no idea you even knew her.” (hope you don’t mind my sharing that, Mom!)

What’s interesting here is that, in my narcissistic use of Twitter, my mom discovered something about me she didn’t know before.  I’ve heard the same thing from my dad before about my blogging, incidentally.  In other words, rather than having a negative effect on my communication with my parents, the Internet has actually improved it – teaching my mother how to use Twitter gave us something fun we could share together; when my dad – who learned how to use the Internet last summer – calls me, we always have something new we read online to share with each other.

So, no.  I don’t think Twitter, or any other social networking, is detrimental to my “real-life” relationships.  While I could do with a little less tweeting from bars (especially on Tuesday nights), I’m glad to have this type of communication throughout the day with my friends and loved ones that was just never available before.

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