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How Internet Hate Causes Change


In insight / By Ellen Bowers / 21 October 2016

The internet is a public medium, it allows everyone a voice, giving a mouthpiece to everyone with a secure Wi-Fi connection.

The internet is a ground-breaking interactive marketplace of ideas, but what happens when the internet turns on you when you become the target of the internet’s rage what exactly are the consequences of this?

Thanks to Twitter if you screw up these days or voice an unpopular opinion, you’re going to hear about it. Twitter and social media allows hate to become increasingly more and more visible and successful at gaining a large following.

Recently Lily Allen spent a lot of her time defending herself on Twitter after “speaking for the country” while talking about the plight of the refugees in Calais. The internet did not react well to this, Allen was viciously trolled as a result of her statements and despite her best efforts, her Twitter feed was flooded with abuse.

There seems to be a set cycle for internet hate: news coverage, petitions, online shaming, and harassment but then the chain fizzles out, and the internet’s attention is focused on someone new to demonise.

You would expect that a large amount of people reacting negatively to something online would have drastic consequences but this is not necessarily always the case, we decided to take a look at some examples of when internet hate was a catalyst for change and the effects that this has.

The Vanishing Snakes

The internet tends to respond en masse with hatred, in the aftermath of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s feud with Taylor Swift, a curious thing began to happen, thousands of green snake emoji’s descended on the comment section of Swift’s Instagram pictures, implying that Swift was not being truthful in her claims against West.

As quickly as these snakes appeared, they vanished. Due to the onslaught of hate aimed at Swift, Instagram implemented a new anti-abuse tool for Swift to debut, this tool allows Swift and other high profile celebrities to delete negative or abusive comments all at once.

The backlash against Swift had the power to force Instagram to introduce a new tool, albeit only available to a select few.

The Reddit Revenge

Ellen Pao lost her job as interim CEO of Reddit as a result of internet hate, Pao closed three subreddits for violating the websites anti-harassment policies, while this was an unusual act for Reddit and it’s “anything goes” attitude it was not entirely unheard of.

While there were users that agreed with the closure of the threads in question, thousands of others began demonising Pao due to her attempts to clean up Reddit. Pao claimed that she was banning behaviors and not ideas however the harassment of Pao, which included having her home address publicised online and death threats is seen as one of the largest trolling attacks in history.

A petition demanding Pao’s resignation gained more than 210,000 signatures. Subsequently, Pao resigned as CEO of Reddit, again showing the power of internet hate. Pao released a statement that claimed she had seen “the good, the bad and the ugly on Reddit. The good has been off-the-wall inspiring, and the ugly made me doubt humanity.”

Curing Cancer?

Belle Gibson rose to fame by stating that a lifestyle consisting of a healthy diet and alternative medicine has cured her terminal brain tumor. Cracks began to appear in Gibson’s story with Facebook pages like ‘Belle Gibson Uncovered’ analysing Gibson’s every statement and claims made. Ultimately it came to light the Gibson’s illness was completely fabricated, the internet as I’m sure you can imagine did not react kindly.

Gibson had created a career from her claim that she had miraculously cured her cancer, and to further her downfall it came to light that a portion of her profit was not as she claimed being donated to charity but were going directly to Gibson herself.

As Gibson’s lies unraveled her former fans and outside observers demanded explanations. Due to the internet’s vocal outing of Gibson, she has been under investigation by a regional Consumer Affairs department, her cookbook has been withdrawn and her hugely successful app removed from the app store.

People Against Peeple

Tech entrepreneur Julia Cordray upset the internet by developing an app called ‘Peeple’ the so-called ‘Yelp for people’ which allows users to public rate anyone on a one to five-star scale – charming right?

The majority of the internet was quite rightly opposed to people being rated like a product on Amazon with Twitter accounts popping up such as ‘PeopleAgainstPeeple.’

People started to point out the problem with Peeple flagging several issues with the apps concepts – including the inability to opt-out and a complete lack of planning around harassments and moderation.

News of the app went viral and thousands signed petitions demanding Cordray to remove the app.

Ironically, Cordray became distressed by people passing judgment on her and began deleting any negative comment on the Peeple Facebook page.

Reports state that Cordray is still working on the Peeple app, however, she has decided to overhaul the app, deciding to focus personal endorsements for the purpose of recruitment rather than a simple 5-star rating.

From unearthing false claims, an entire career is based around to causing the implementation of new anti-abuse tool on a social media site, internet hate can cause a change for good, that is often overlooked.

However, the vast majority of internet hate campaigns have hugely negative effects for those targeted, that is untill the next target of outrage is decided on…

Ellen Bowers

Ellen Bowers

Ellen is a freelancer writers for various British technology companies, she writes regularly for The Nasstarian on a wide range of subjects.

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