Theres no easy fix of course, but it would help if internet companies faced up to their responsibilities as publishers, and tried the human approach
In preparation for an article I am writing, I spent much of the other day researching neo-Nazi music. I explored the music of skinhead bands such as Skrewdriver and Bound for Glory, national socialist black metal groups such as Graveland, and some of the more bizarre manifestations of white power music (German neo-Nazi hip-hop is apparently a thing).
And how did I do this research? Did I skulk in dodgy pubs with bull-necked men with shaved heads and bulldogs? No, I used YouTube and Google.
Im aware, though, that users of social media platforms are not confined to Jewish sociologists such as myself. And so throughout my research I was acutely conscious that the ease of access to hateful music and other forms of hate speech is an incredible boon to certain groups.
At the same time as I was both exploiting and worrying about openly available far-right material on the internet, the Commons home affairs committee was criticising internet giants, including representatives of Facebook, Twitter and Google, for not taking tough enough action on such material. The MPs pointed to the failure of YouTube to take down videos, including one of David Duke accusing Jews of white genocide, and criticised Facebook pages calling for a ban on Islam. It was a tense exchange, with Yvette Cooper accusing the companies of commercial prostitution and the Facebook representative tying himself in knots attempting to explain why a page called Ban Islam constitutes criticism of a religion rather than an attack on Muslims.
The problem is that these companies vacillate between positioning themselves as content-agnostic platforms and as publishers. They certainly have the financial benefits of publishers, but the openness of their platforms also gives them plausible deniability of responsibility for what users publish should they need it. It is striking how successful YouTube has been in ensuring that it is not awash with porn, and how quick it is to take down copyrighted material, compared with how unsuccessful social media companies have been (insofar as they have tried) in limiting the availability of racist material and other kinds of hate speech.