Why now is the time to strengthen filters against social media abuse - Laura Collins, YEP Editor

Words are among the most powerful tools in our lives.

Monday, 17th August 2020, 6:00 am

They can create profound happiness, whether it’s that long-awaited proposal, a job offer you worked incredibly hard to achieve or a family member saying three of the most simple words: “I love you”.

Words, be they written or spoken, have the ability to evoke some of our most cherished memories and create many more for the future. Their reach is significant.

They can influence and shape our behaviours as well as creating societal change. Just take the speeches from the Prime Minister and the Queen only a few months ago as the country headed into lockdown. They stirred the nation’s collective spirit to come together in a time of great crisis.

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Despite having profanity filters on our Facebook page set to the highest level, our reporters have still had to compile a shocking list of almost 200 additional swear words and offensive phrases on top of this. Picture: Shutterstock

Words carry enormous weight, but they can be so very potent and toxic when used as weapons against others.

Campaign

That is why, just a few weeks ago, the Yorkshire Evening Post launched its Call It Out campaign to tackle the scourge of online abuse.

Our campaign is asking readers to help play their part in making social media platforms into a better place for us all by reporting abusive online behaviour.

The YEP recently launched its Call It Out campaign to tackle abuse on social media.

And as part of this, the team at the YEP – as a responsible publisher – has started the arduous task of cleaning up our own social media pages by strengthening our language filters to stop offensive comments in the first place.

Despite having profanity filters on our Facebook page set to the highest level, our reporters have still had to compile a shocking list of almost 200 additional swear words and offensive phrases on top of this. And to say there have been some creative choices of words would be nothing short of an understatement.

It’s disgusting to see the blatant attempts to work around the filters with the use of symbols as well as some disturbing memes.

Some of the most upsetting comments have described graphic violent acts that nobody should be forced to read. Our reporting team has the unenviable job of trawling through these comments to hide or delete them and ban the worst offenders.

You can help us in this significant task by flagging inappropriate comments to the admins or Facebook itself.

Challenges

There is a real challenge in balancing everyone’s freedom of speech with protecting people from hate. It is so disappointing to see the number of people who choose to use that freedom not to properly debate issues, but to hurl abuse and make personal attacks when they disagree with someone’s views.

There’s a real danger that social channels will become more and more toxic if we don’t all take responsibility.

We all recognise social media can do so much good – there are by far more positives than negatives. It can be a real force for positive change.

But abusive words can create a real ripple effect that is long-felt by those on the receiving end.

Ultimately, the buck stops with each and every one of us to check our own moral compasses as we type.

We should all think carefully about our choice of words and their impact before we send them out into the public arena.

A message from the Editor:

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