Arthur Christory / Gavel Media

Hiding Behind Herrd: How Anonymity Emboldens Hate Speech

This past weekend, hateful and racist comments directed at South Asian students were posted on Herrd, an anonymous social media app for only Boston College students. The comments used hateful stereotypes surrounding South Asians’ appearances, as well as pitting other minorities against each other by comparing different races. In addition, a specific individual was targeted by name in the comments.  

A member of BC’s South Asian Student Association (SASA) described being in a state of shock for ten minutes after seeing the hateful comments, as they thought people did not have it within them to say such things so directly racist. They referenced that some of the most hurtful aspects of the comments were specific people being called out and the attempts to turn minority groups against each other as this was particularly unsettling. 

The comments also contained hateful messages stating that it was South Asians’ turn, insinuating that there should be a pattern of hate crimes and hate speech against minority groups. This disturbing comment highlights the cyclical nature of racism on BC’s campus and the lack of adequate response from BC’s administration to clearly show that hate speech and hate crimes are not tolerated and those who perpetrate these offenses should face the consequences of their actions.

Some comments in response questioned why South Asians were a topic of conversation on Herrd, insinuating that South Asians should not be acknowledged or paid attention to in any way. Although they appear to not echo the direct hate speech of the original comments, they demonstrate the same incredibly prevalent biases surrounding South Asians.  

After SASA posted a response to the comments on their Instagram, Herrd responded to the post stating that they intended for the app to be “a safe and fun space for students to share content” and that they took this incident, as well as others of this nature, “very seriously.” Their comment continued, stating that they have been in direct contact with the BC administration and are hopeful that “a proper solution will come from BC.” Despite the good intentions and quick reactionary actions from Herrd’s administrators, the anonymous nature of the app creates a space for BC students to hide behind their screens and spew hateful speech they may not be willing to say directly to other students. 

As Herrd is a platform that revolves solely around the BC community, the people discussed on Herrd are people we see every day: our friends, classmates, and other fellow eagles. As members of the BC community, it is our responsibility to use platforms like Herrd to build a supportive community instead of hiding behind anonymity to spew hate speech. 

In addition to the response from Herrd administrators, the reactions from students and faculty have been overall supportive and condemning the comments. The SASA member highlighted how the voices of the few “may appear to outweigh those [in] the majority” and that almost all of the reactions to the post were dislikes that pushed the post down in the feed. In addition to the online and in-person support, going forward BC students should be more conscious of how their words impact those around them no matter the apparent severity. The SASA member stated that they have experienced jokes about race and stereotypes that are dismissed as just being jokes and they urged people to “eliminate that idea” and be aware of the impact of racial stereotypes regardless of how insignificant it may feel to you. 

In order to have this awareness about racial stereotypes and be supportive in the wake of hateful and racist events such as the Herrd comments, it is vital that BC students become better informed and educated about what is happening in the BC community, especially when racial prejudice is involved. Going forward, there must be a stronger response on behalf of the administration and continued support from students to counteract the allowance of continued hate speech and hate crimes against marginalized populations at BC.

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