Freedom of Speech in Black Mirror: Hated in the Nation
The topic of Freedom of Speech is heavily critiqued in this episode of the British anthology series, Black Mirror. The crux of this episode revolves around a social media hashtag #deathto. The original intent of this hashtag was for every day users of this social media site to express their feelings towards a particular individual. This seems harmless at first - in the United States of America, the First Amendment protects the citizens’ right to freedom of speech. This means that, in theory, any citizen can say anything without government punishment. This concept revolves around the idea that word are just words – they are meant to express feelings, but do not have any physical consequences. The antagonist of the episode challenges this idea by creating consequences himself. Rather than the hashtag simply living online, the hashtag leads to the top “hated” person (based on number of people using the hashtag against that person), being murdered via Autonomous Drone Insects, which come in the form of bees that can burrow into the target’s brain.
This episode brings light to a very serious topic - cyberbullying/cyberharrassment. While social media is meant to connect people in a positive way, often times people abuse the anonymity and protection that the screen gives them. Rather than confronting issues face-to-face, where there is little to no time to think about your actions, social media offers two “flavors” of interaction:
- The safety of social media sites mean that people can specifically craft their posts to hit hard.
- The speed of social media posting means that people can share their first reaction thoughts within seconds, to all of the users of that site.
Because of this, social media has become a breeding ground for harassment and hate. The real issue is, how do these social media sites regulate what is said?
The First Amendment protects the rights of citizens to say what they want, but do these companies hold responsibility for the content shared on their platforms?
This episode targets that question by showing the audience an extreme example of the true power of social media.