Posted on: November 13, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Aidan McGuire, Multimedia Editor & Mohammed Jbara, Freelance Contributor

“All speech has consequences,” Moraine Valley professor and speech coach Krista Appelquist said. “Speech can damage relationships, speech can end relationships, speech can end your employment.”

As students across Moraine Valley checked their daily social media feeds on Oct. 27, something monumental was occurring in the social media world. Billionaire Elon Musk was finalizing his acquisition of Twitter, one of the largest social platforms. Musk envisions Twitter becoming a “free speech haven.” Since that day, the blurry line that forms between freedom of speech and hate speech has created controversy in the online sphere. 

Under the first week of Musk’s leadership at Twitter, hate speech usage actually increased by a large margin, according to a new study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

As Axios reports, based on the center’s study, “One racial slur was used 26,228 times in tweets and retweets in Musk’s first week, which was triple the 2022 average…Another word used to attack transgender people was used 33,926 times in tweets and retweets, which was 53% higher than the 2022 average.”

Photo by CNN
People gather on a Los Angeles overpass to support West’s antisemitic comments.

MV criminal justice major Ethan Lave points out that people feel emboldened online: “We’re not sitting there talking to someone face to face, you’re just looking at a screen. People tend to [spread hate speech] and think they can get away with it, which most of the time they do.”

Popular American rapper Kanye West (who has legally changed his name to Ye) is one such person crossing this blurry line. After making antisemitic remarks during interviews and on Twitter, Ye was dropped by Adidas and was banned on Instagram. Prior to Musk’s takeover of Twitter, he was restricted by the platform.

“The idea of freedom of expression is extremely important, but some people think that means ‘I should be able to express my opinion with no consequence’–to not lose contracts with companies and things like that,” Appelquist said.

Hate is easier to spread online because of two key concepts, according to Appelquist.

“Even if they know your name it’s harder to look someone in the eye and say something hateful,” Appelquist said about the first concept: being anonymous online. “It’s almost like flipping someone off from the inside of your car.”

The second key to spreading hate is the public accessibility of content online.

“In a non-internet type space, you can say something and people might be like ‘Wow, that’s rude!’ and you can correct yourself, but [on the Internet] when you say something it’s to thousands or potentially millions if it goes viral.”

The idea of freedom of expression is extremely important, but some people think that means ‘I should be able to express my opinion with no consequence.”

Krista Appelquist

After Ye’s comments surfaced on social media, several individuals joined on a Los Angeles overpass to spread antisemitic sentiment with a sign saying “Kanye is right about the Jews.”

The ripple effects of Ye’s choice to exercise his freedom of speech in this way have been felt in the sports world as well, trickling down to affect high school athletes.

Ye created sports marketing agency Donda Sports earlier this year, signing well-known athletes such as L.A. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, and controversial wide receiver Antonio Brown. Because of Ye’s actions, Jaylen Brown and Donald have cut ties with the musician.

Ye’s Donda Academy is an unaccredited high school that has been generating controversy online. The school only has one sports team: basketball. The sports section of the school website reads: “One team. One king. We are building the next generation of athletes with an innovative approach to faith and teamwork.”

Introduced to the high school basketball world before the 2021-22 season, Donda Academy was the home of DePaul commit Zion Cruz, as well as Kentucky commit Robert Dillingham, both high-ranking players in the U.S.

But amidst Ye’s comments, on Oct. 27, families with children attending Donda Academy received word the school was going to shut down for the rest of the 2022-23 academic year. This left the high school basketball team hanging out to dry weeks before their season. Dillingham, who was also a Donda Sports athlete, left Donda Sports and Donda Academy as well.

Photo by Hypebeast
Kanye West and members of the Donda Academy basketball team pose for a photo.

Freshman guard for the MV basketball team Malik Kelly thinks Ye acted immaturely: “I think it’s unfair because the decision affected a lot of kids, not just the basketball team. Kanye knows what cancel culture is, yet he didn’t hold his tongue, knowing how his actions could affect others.”

Jaylen Brown couldn’t sit and do nothing when it was announced the school was shut down. He took to Twitter and stood against the school’s closure, saying, “To any HS basketball coaches & event coordinators, these student-athletes can’t be negatively impacted by this. I will sponsor any event existing or new, willing to host Donda Academy We all must ensure they complete their senior year both academically & athletically. Contact me.”

Kelly was impressed by Brown’s actions: “I think [Jaylen Brown] is a real one. He’s a great person for that. He cares about the well-being of those kids. These kids came to school thinking that they had their plan set and then it crumbled in front of their eyes, all because of a man’s words. That’s unfair.”

If Ye’s words cross the line from free speech to hate speech in the future, it’s unclear whether Musk will decide to impose consequences by limiting him on Twitter. The billionaire and the rapper are friends–at least on social media.

“Talked to ye today & expressed my concerns about his recent tweet, which he took to heart,” Musk tweeted after Ye’s initial antisemitic post. But since then, Ye has continued to test the boundaries between free speech and hate speech.

In explaining his free speech approach, Musk has tweeted, “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences.” How the consequences play out remains to be seen.