Hate Speech is Not Free Speech: Statement on the Oxfess’s Now-Deleted Post #Oxfess831

Trigger Warnings: hate speech including genocide and euthanasia, ableism, valuing individuals only by their productivity







On the evening of 11th May 2017, the public Facebook community, Oxfess, published an anonymous confession in which the confessor admitted to partly desiring the genocide of those with disabilities unable to ‘contribute’ to society. A mass of negative responses and reports immediately and throughout the night addressed the major distress such a post was causing and demanded for the post to be taken down. Oxfess initially responded that they had hoped that posting the confession and having commenters ‘comment on how despicable these views are might be more effective than […] refusing to post it.’ They then added an inadequate content warning of ‘SEVERE ableism’ but did not take down the post until the morning, then issuing a vague public apology.

We do not tolerate the platforming of hate speech.

We do not tolerate people with disabilities being made to feel unsafe, and especially not for the sake of educating non-disabled individuals.

We do not tolerate the view that people should be valued only by how productive they can be calculated and measured to be – such a view removes our humanity, reducing us to machines.

It was deeply irresponsible and harmful for Oxfess to provide a platform for hate speech, and specifically for hate speech which called for genocide. Genocide should never be debated, and public groups have a responsibility to censor this. The education of the non-disabled who call for genocide should not come at the price of harm to the disabled, which Oxfess’s initial comment and actions seemed to suggest it should. The education of the non-disabled should not include having to debate why genocide is wrong. Publishing the post gravely affected the well-being and safety of students with disabilities and members of the public who saw the post, many feeling terrified by the incident.

It was deeply irresponsible and harmful for Oxfess to initially publish such a post with no content warnings or trigger warnings, and when later editing these in to inadequately label this post as containing ‘SEVERE ableism’ with no reference to genocide or euthanasia. Such things are significantly worse that what can be labelled ‘severe ableism,’ and require a warning of their own.  

It was deeply irresponsible and harmful for Oxfess to ignore the repeated calls for the post’s removals until the morning, despite their reply to comments showing that they had seen the public outcry to this post during the evening. The leaving up of such a post exposed it to many more people than the number who would have been exposed to it had the post been taken down promptly.

The apology which was then issued does not adequately address the severity of what occurred, apologising for ‘a certain post’ and instating the rule that no post ‘calling for harm to any specific group’ will be allowed from now on.

Despite the post’s deletion, its presence on social media means that screenshots are now being spread on Twitter and possibly other social media platforms. Although tweets witnessed thus far have been condemnatory, they also expose the post without consent to anyone on social media, as the images are in plain view, not hidden. This is damaging to students affected by the post, no matter how well-intentioned. We suggest that those mentioning this post do not share images of it publicly unless it is hidden in comments (or hidden using an equivalent method) so that social media users can choose whether to see it.

This statement does not address the wider trend of social media platforms such as Oxfess consistently allowing other worrying content, including other ableist posts, but also queerphobia and racism among others, to be voiced anonymously, most often without warnings. We will be issuing a further statement on this shortly.

Thank you.
The Oxford Students’ Disability Community, OUSU’s Disabled Students’ Campaign