As you would expect, Mencap takes a hard line against learning disability hate crime. Everyone should be able to live their lives free from bullying and hate.
With the anonymity that some social media platforms allow, it is easy for people to ‘joke’ about issues that they wouldn’t dare say out loud on public transport, in front of their mums, on national TV etc.
Just last week we were involved in the removal of a very nasty group on Facebook. No need for specific details, but if I tell you the title of the group was “Keep downs sufferers away from society” I’m sure you get the idea.
We managed to get a really good momentum going on Twitter about removing the group. Other charities retweeted it and we received messages of support and encouragement from our followers.
The group was removed by Facebook only to appear again an hour later. This second group was removed but once again reappeared within a few hours. What is surprising is that it is the same admin person each time – does Facebook not take this into consideration and ban their profile too?
We don’t usually engage in this kind of work. I’ve worked on a large online community before and I know only too well how much time it takes – and that was on a platform we owned and had strict guidelines for! Last week's Twitter campaign was a bit of a knee jerk reaction to what was a nasty and uneducated attack.
However, our supporters expect us to fight to have content like this taken down and in some ways we need to show we are doing this, but when platforms like Facebook don’t seem to have any kind of protection in place (apart from the report function) it feels like a losing battle.
Search any social media platform and you’ll find all kinds of attacks on many sections of society. As a charity, should we feel responsible for the removal of this content to protect the people we support, or should we just be concentrating on educating the people we can?
My feeling is that we should be tackling hate speech on social media platforms but not through engaging with the people doing it. These people don’t care and actually enjoy the chase.
I think the best solution is to work with social media providers to tackle hate speech and to also guide our supporters in how to take appropriate action. I’d be interested to hear what other charities are doing or what their views are on this.