Canadians may be stereotypically polite, and that we may be, in person. But online, Canadians are just as hateful as our American counterparts.
Numbers provided by a recent study in hate speech-related posting by Canadians on social media prove it.
Cision, a global public relations and media software company, looked into the frequency of Canadian social media postings that included some form of hate speech.
In the span of a year (November 2015 to 2016) there was a 600% increase of “intolerant and hate speech in social media postings by Canadians,” says CBC.
For example, someone on Twitter may use hashtags like #banmuslims and #whitepower, paired with some intolerant 140-character message. If you’ve ever been on Twitter, you know the social media space is rife with hate.
Cultural critics are calling it the “Trump Effect.”
Basically, with a rather blatantly intolerant person like Donal Trump in a position of power like the President of the United States, racists and white nationalists feel justified in making intolerant statements.
Whereas before, racists would fear reprisal for voicing their hate-filled opinions, now they’re empowered.
Canadian media outlets may be to blame, too, points out Nadia Naffi writing for The Conversation.
Citing a study from Ryerson University where it was found that reporting on the Syrian refugees crisis by Canadian media outlets was distinctly biased and problematic, Naffi suggests journalists also play a role in the “othering” of visible minorities.
Whether or not existing legislation to prohibit hate speech is discussed by Naffi, especially in the context of social media.
For the most part, social media/digital spaces are in a legal grey zone. There’s not formal legislation saying hate speech online is punishable by law and someone making a racist statement can cry “free speech” and get off scot-free.
Canada may need to enact some sort of bill that specifically forces social media sites to limit the amount of hate speech that proliferates online, says Naffi.
In the meantime, however, individual Canadians can make a difference.
Stand up to racists, white nationalists, and xenophobes who preach hate online. Show them that, just because they’re hiding behind the veil of a computer screen, that it doesn’t mean their safe from reprisals.
Speak out against hatred, online and in-person, because obviously Canadians need to do more.