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Parler: Is The Line Between Freedom of Speech And Hate Speech Online Clear?


The first time I heard of Parler I assumed it was something different from what it actually was. Firstly I created an account of my own so that I could get a deeper understanding of Parler's purpose. The idea seemed good.

A non-biased, free speech social media network focused on protecting user's rights.

Parler is a Twitter-style social media platform that first launched in 2018. As with Twitter, it's built around a newsfeed of accounts you can choose to follow, and users can upload images in addition to creating posts of up to 1,000 characters (Twitter caps posts at 280). In addition to being available by Web, Parler has both iOS and Android apps available.

The service takes its name from the French verb Parler, meaning "to speak" (or sometimes, "to talk") as in the examples "Parlez-vous français?" or "Je veux parler avec ton gérant." However, the app does not take the French pronunciation of the word—par-lay—and is instead pronounced "parlor", as in a sitting room where you greet your 19th-century visitors. Posts and messages made on the platform are called "parleys."

Parler is not the only microblogging /social network that tried to base its service on non-biased, free speech. We have Gab, which was founded in 2016 as a “free speech” platform with limited censorship rules. The site says it is a "social network for creators who believe in free speech, individual liberty, and the free flow of information online." Founder Andrew Torba said he created Gab as an alternative to existing social media platforms - like Facebook and Twitter - which he said were “too liberal” and “biased” during the 2016 presidential election.

What seems to happen is that all these social networks that allow free speech and are non-biased, become the place for US conservatives, conspiracy theorists, and right-wing extremists. Posts on the service often contain far-right content, antisemitism, and conspiracy theories such as QAnon, a wide-ranging, completely unfounded theory that says that President Trump is waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping pedophiles in government, business and the media.

Let’s leave this topic for a moment and let’s talk about the basics.

I personally wouldn’t like to own a social network where people can write their own thoughts, opinions and beliefs. No way!

I think that due to different cultures, ideas and beliefs, it is hard to say to the worldwide user base networks, where the line is and I am not defending any of them. Some people feel that social media is limiting free speech, but it is hard to draw the line when we talk about free speech.

Many believe that fighting for free speech and hate speech online is a battle we will fight for many years to come, because while many people and governments argue with Twitter about not taking Trump’s account offline faster, European countries like France and Germany attacked Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. objecting to that decision, saying on Monday that lawmakers should set the rules governing free speech and not private technology companies.

Is there any truth in that statement? Should lawmakers decide that? 
Who should decide - governments, corporations or the public?


Can we (the population across the world) agree on where the line is? I wonder because we need to remember these social networks have users from all around the world.

The German leader’s stance is echoed by the French government. Junior Minister for European Union Affairs Clement Beaune said he was “shocked” to see a private company make such an important decision. “This should be decided by citizens, not by a CEO,” he told Bloomberg TV on Monday. “There needs to be public regulation of big online platforms.” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire earlier said that the state should be responsible for regulations, rather than “the digital oligarchy,” and called big tech “one of the threats” to democracy.

How many times has someone posted something on social media which received supporting comments from some and upset comments from others because of different interpretations of what was said? 

Another example is something as simple as, what is the right thing to say, in a simple conversation like this:

“ Hello, my colleague told me you are Peruvian? How exciting! And a minute later she said: “Oh, I didn’t mean to offend you when I said Peruvian, sorry I didn’t mean to be discriminative”

Why would I be offended to be called Peruvian when I am proud of it and I keep telling everyone I am Peruvian? And if I didn't feel she offended me, should she still think that is not the correct thing to say? Would other people get offended and should we obsess about who gets offended and who doesn't? Where should we draw the line?

I feel that nowadays, we are pushing in so many different ways, without agreeing what is right and wrong, calling someone Chinese or African is offensive to some, but I have African friends that when you meet them, they tell you they are African and they are proud of it, the same happens with most or all Chinese. 

Are we too focused on what is right and wrong, instead of agreeing on what free speech, hate speech or discrimination is? Do we have to agree about something as simple as, what is offensive and what is not as well?

Are we going to get to the point where we worry about everything we say or write, in case someone gets offended or we get abused on social media for what we said? Will we will end up avoiding saying anything at all or sharing our opinions with others? Do we always have to agree, because disagreeing means getting abused on social media? 

I asked my mother the other day how it used to be when she was younger, maybe when she was 30 years old, she is now 71. She said that at that time there were discriminative people and hate speech too, but it was much clearer what was the wrong thing to say and what was acceptable to say, so it was not something they worried about when having a conversation with someone, she says.

Are we trying to fight hate speech and discrimination but at the same time making people more susceptive, always looking for the wrong meaning in everything people say or write?

I am in no way supporting hate speech or discrimination, I want to make that clear (I have suffered discrimination in many countries I lived or visited because I am Latino American) but don’t you feel that the biggest challenge is to agree what is right and what is wrong? I am not sure it will be ever possible, but if it is not possible, how do we expect Twitter or Facebook to get it right?

If you were the owner of Twitter or Facebook and you had to train a team of people or set up an Artificial Intelligence system to decide what hate speech, free speech or discrimination is, would you know clearly what the parameters are? And do you think all the people you know will agree exactly with those parameters you chose when deciding what should be filtered as free speech, discrimination or hate speech?

I think that to improve the way we communicate freely on Global Channels like Twitter or Facebook, we will need to agree on where to draw the line? I am not sure if that can be achieved though.

Are the companies responsible to regulate or decide that?

Is regulating and creating rules restricting free speech? So if it is regulated, it is no longer free speech?

Amnesty.org says: "The right to freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which sets out in broad terms the human rights that each of us has."

"Your voice matters. You have the right to say what you think"

"You also have the right to agree or disagree with those in power, and to express these opinions in peaceful protests."
"Exercising these rights - without fear or unlawful interference - is central to living in an open and fair society; one in which people can access justice and enjoy their human rights."

"Defending freedom of expression has always been a core part of Amnesty International’s work and is vital in holding the powerful to account. Freedom of expression also underpins other human rights such as the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and allows them to flourish."

But it says as well: "Governments have a duty to prohibit hateful, inciteful speech"

At the moment everybody has a different view of where the line should be drawn, and this battle is a battle we need to take more seriously. It potentially can get people killed, it can affect mental health and it can divide communities and countries.

I would love to know your opinions about this, so please leave a comment if you can.

I think it is time to look for solutions instead of fighting about it.

Mili Ponce

Former Computer Engineer, Entrepreneur, Keynote Speaker on Digital Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Social Media Strategist, eCommerce Business Mentor, Trainer, Writer, Blogger, Mother, Daughter, Dreamer.

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Parler: Is The Line Between Freedom of Speech And Hate Speech Online Clear? Reviewed by Mili Ponce on Thursday, February 04, 2021 Rating: 5
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