Oct 10 2017

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Social Media Efforts to Identify Charlottesville Marchers

Posted at 10:20 am under Uncategorized

On August 12, 2017, there were approximately 500 self-described “white nationalists” – where some of them held signs and flags with KKK and Nazi symbols, with the attempt of holding a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. A smaller group with the same ideas in mind marched through the campus of the University of Virginia the evening before. Marching with lit torches and chanting slogans such as “Jews will not replace us!” Blood and soil!” and “You will not replace us!” 

Both the march and the attempted rally terribly ended in violence as the white nationalist protesters clashed with counter protesters. While all of this going on, a driver rammed his vehicle into a group of counter protesters – with one being killed and about 19 others injured. To act upon this, an activist began to tweet out images and video clips from the events, asking other Twitter users to help identify the participants: “If you recognize any of the Nazis marching in #Charlottesville, send me their names/profiles and I will make them famous #GoodNightAltRight.” People all over started to share similar calls on both Twitter and on Facebook, and responded.

A number of marchers were identified rapidly. In the matter of just a day, at least one lost his job. For another, they were publicly rebuked by his own family members.  With at least two cases, people who had not been at the events were mistakenly identified by social media users, having them being demanded to lose his job, accusing him of racism and post of his home address on social networks. Also mentioning to New York Times that he “was quickly flooded with vulgar messages on Twitter and Instagram…”

With all this in mind, the activist behind the @YesYoureRacist Twitter account, who first suggested the effort, was then quoted as stating, “I’m not trying to get anybody fired… I’m not contacting anybody’s employers. But you know, if someone goes to a white supremacists’ rally and their employer sees them, …that’s something they probably should have thought about.” I honestly agree with this statement 100%. Just like @YesYoureRacist mentioned, if someone is willing to put themselves out there and label themselves the way they act upon at such events, they should be willing to endure the consequences. Some may argue otherwise, yet who are we fooling by circulating the concept whether it is right or wrong.

The main argument that is being debated about is: was it ethical for social media users to play a part in identifying the white nationalist protesters and highlighting their involvement in the Charlottesville events? Would the answer depend on the particular actions taken, such as: sharing the images of a “public event different from posting individuals’ personal information online, or from contacting their employers? How, ethically speaking, can we perceive these decisions and considerations through the prisms of utilitarianism, rights, justice, and the common good?

In this case, we are dealing with a dilemma that affects the community, employers, and the environment. The community would most definitely not feel safe nor comfortable. Employers will be affected by dealing with the difficult decision of whether or not to dismissed/fired the individuals from their occupations for taking part in such actions. As for the environment, once violence comes to an outbreak, much destruction can be caused – fires, bombs, physical fights, killing, and much more.

Considering all the lines that would fall into place with considering the ideas of which ethical principle should be analytically approached. It is pretty difficult deciding and others may not agree, but maybe the utilitarian approach could be the best option.

As a citizen, just like any other, one would most definitely appreciate some respect accompanied with consideration and dignity. “We are all created equally.” “One must treat others the way they wish to be treated.” “If you show me no respect, how do you expect me to do so to you?” These statements are simply some principles we are taught as children to prepare for the future as respectful citizens. Where did things go wrong?

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