The Swift Hand of Social Media Justice

It’s often been repeated that anything you post online can live forever. Never post anything on social media that could embarrass you at a job interview or at your next family reunion. But people often fail to recognize that it goes further than that – anyone can post anything about you on social media. Anyone can snap a photo with you in the background, and you can be caught in something you never intended to end up online. We truly live in the age where the world is watching.

This was definitely the case this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia – the site of a white nationalist, KKK, Nazi gathering that turned deadly when a car slammed into a crowd of civil rights protestors. The power of social media was harnessed to identify attendees at the rally and call them out for their racist and hateful views.

Photos with faces clearly visible were posted online. A Twitter user going by the handle @YesYoureRacist promised that if he was sent the names and profiles of alt-right rally-goers he would “make them famous.” And people delivered.

Identities of the men who were there quickly became public. Some of lost their jobs, and some of have been disowned by their families. And based on their extracurricular activities, there’s nothing wrong with that. When people demonstrate in public they can – and should – be called out if their views are hateful and repugnant.

But – what if social media gets it wrong?

In 2013, after the Boston Marathon bombing, social media users incorrectly identified a university student as a suspect, based on an image of the finish line. He was innocent of any wrongdoing, but his family quickly started receiving death threats and racist messages.

What’s the lesson here? Maybe that social media can be used to stand up to bigotry and hate. These platforms can be used to call out discrimination and make people accountable for it. But it’s not without risks. And it’s certainly not foolproof. People power social media and people make mistakes. But when people do get it right, social media can be an undeniable force for good in the world.

Just remember: even if you don’t use Twitter or Facebook, someone you know does. Someone out there can identify you and in an instant the world can know your name.

There’s no such thing as anonymity anymore.

Twitter:

After #Charlottesville social media delivers justice to white supremacist attendees. Read more: http://bit.ly/2watEum

Facebook:

After the events in Charlottesville, social media users took to Facebook and Twitter to call out white supremacists by name. Are these platforms the new foundation for delivering social justice? Read more here: http://bit.ly/2watEum

4 thoughts on “The Swift Hand of Social Media Justice

  1. You’re absolutely right. The platforms we have access to along with devices we use to allow us to snap and post media almost instantly. Mobile phones are now the weapon of choice…information moves faster than a bullet and can do more damage. Crazy!
    Excellent post Amanda! Very thought provoking.

  2. That Twitter account was actually how I found out about the Charlottesville riots. I had been unplugged for most of the day, hopped on Twitter before bed, and kept seeing the @YesYoureRacist account keep popping up, so I checked it out (and fell down the rabbit hole of Charlottesville stories). That’s one of the biggest positives of social media.

    But you make a good point about the rush to judge on social media. In my opinion, I find that we as a society (generally speaking, of course) are less likely to give second chances or hear people out anymore. There’s such an urgency to crucify people and to jump on the bandwagon that the accused often can’t even get a word in (sometimes they don’t deserve to, but other times they’re unfairly shut out).

  3. Thanks for the great read Amanda. I think that Twitter account really demonstrates how social media can be used for the good! However, you are right, we must be careful and we cannot afford to jump to conclusions too quickly. This is true both when you post something and when you see something on social media. We must take the time to take a step back a find out the facts, because once something is out there, we never really know how big of a reach it can get.

  4. Nice post Amanda! This is a great point. Social media is can totally take on the role of judge, jury and executioner, which can be very beneficial but it is dangerous territory. I’d like to think that as a society we are going to become more scrutinous of serious allegations on social and the mistakes that we have made in the past will become fewer and farther between. Hopefully we end up at a place where the innocent are not being blamed and people who make poor choices will be the one’s left accountable.

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