Hate speech gains acceptance

Dawn: A SMALL-SCALE survey conducted by the online freedom of expression group Bytes for All of hate speech in social media used and frequented by Pakistanis has produced some disturbing, though not unexpected, results.

Over 91pc of nearly 600 respondents surveyed claimed to have come across hate speech online and a partial analysis of 30 popular Facebook and Twitter pages and accounts has shown how user comments are usually peppered with some form of hate speech. The names of the targeted groups will also cause little surprise: Shias, Ahmadis, Indians/Hindus, atheists/unbelievers, state institutions, women, gender minorities, Jews and local ethnicities.

To be sure, views expressed online do not automatically reflect the views of wider society, especially in a country where roughly 10pc of the population is believed to be online. Yet, with the 3G/4G telecommunications revolution now just a matter of weeks or perhaps months, the number of Pakistanis online will certainly climb dramatically and soon. Hate speech online will be disseminated even further as a result. Also while the anonymity of sitting behind a screen tends to coarsen public comments and discourse in the online world internationally, there is a case to be made that the younger, tech-savvy Pakistanis online are taking their cultural, and hate, cues, from a society where such talk is increasingly acceptable currency.

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