We ask the experts on how to talk to teens about online hate speech and how to understand the fine line between freedom of expression and potentially criminal behaviour.
If you haven’t heard of him, the teenagers in your life certainly will be familiar with his name: Andrew Tate. He’s a British American kickboxer turned TikTok megastar who was banned from TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Twitch in August 2022. Why?
He suggested that female victims of assault “bear some responsibility”; called women “property”; and claimed that if a girlfriend accused him of cheating “it’s bang out the machete, boom in her face and grip her by the neck. Shut up b***h”.
Tate has argued that he was simply “playing a comedic character”, but his message spread far and wide. In July, his name was Googled more times than Kim Kardashian’s and on TikTok he had accumulated over 11 billion views. So the ban was welcomed by parents, teachers and domestic abuse charities, all concerned that Tate’s extremely misogynistic persona was influencing the language and behaviour of teenage boys across the world.
But did the bans protect children from Tate’s extreme views?
Headteachers actually noted that the reverse was happening. The ban made Tate a cult figure among some boys, they warned, while fan accounts continued to spread and celebrate his views.
So if it is impossible to shield children entirely from hate speech online, how can we protect them?