Hate speech on social media

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COLUMBIA - Since the killing of Trayvon Martin, Darneisha Coleman said she has used her social media platforms to fight against inequalities and hate speech. 

Coleman is an African-American queer woman who experiences hate speech on social media.

The MU student said she experienced the most hate speech during the #ConcernedStudent1950 movement on MU's campus in 2015.

"I have been called all sorts of things, sexual slurs, etcetera," Coleman said. "There's a lot of anger, a lot of resentment, from people who can't quite understand sometime what I say, or where I'm coming from."

Coleman said she doesn't like hate speech, but she doesn't allow it to steal her joy. 

"Honestly, I just have to pray about it," Coleman said. "I can't let it get to me. I can't dwell on it because if you let those words sink in to you; they become you."

The 22-year-old activist said she doesn't want hate speech censored, but she does hope people experience the consequences of their actions. 

"When you limit free speech you can create a lot of problems, but I do think there should be some penalties for using certain particular phrases," Coleman said. "There are some phrases that are so obscene that just the utterance of them perpetuates systemic violence."

MU journalism professor Brett Johnson studies extreme speech on social media. According to the MU News Bureau, Johnson released a study that said most people dislike hate speech, but they don't agree with complete censorship on social media platforms. 

Sandy Davidson is a lawyer and a professor at MU's journalism school. She said hate speech is legally allowed.

"The courts allow offensive speech," Davidson said. "But there are limits."

Davidson said people need to educate themselves on the harm hate speech does and how to communicate effectively on social media. 

"I do believe in communicating with people that are communicating things that we don't want to hear," said Davidson. "But outlawing and banning people from expressing these ideas might have a downside."

At this time, Coleman said she uses her social media platforms to educate others on hate speech. 

"I've reached so many people and inspired so many people, so I can't get upset about hate speech," Coleman said.