How Sidechat Fanned the Flames of University Campus Protests | Technology

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In the months following Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel, conversation on college campuses has been defined by a palpable tension. Increased antisemitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric embroiled numerous universities in free-speech debates. In late April, as the Israel-Hamas War moved into its fifth month, students at Columbia University and other institutions across the US began protesting, calling for a ceasefire. Amid all of this, one platform has served as a locus: Sidechat, a social media app that’s become both a place for dialog about the protests and a breeding ground for hate speech.

Over the past few weeks, as demonstrations erupted at Columbia, NYU, Yale, Princeton, the University of Texas, and elsewhere, students took to the app to share memes and express dismay at their administrators’ responses.

On April 22, following a weekend of arrests at Columbia, Colin Roedl, editorial page editor at the student-run Columbia Daily Spectator, told Slate that students were seeing “calls for solidarity” on the app. The following day, some 3,000 Columbia staff, students, and community members signed a letter to university president Minouche Shafik, the board of trustees, and the…

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