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America’s Bigotry and Hate Speech Problem Can’t Be Ignored

America’s Bigotry and Hate Speech Problem Can’t Be Ignored

In an age where being politically correct and standing up for social justice are seen as weaknesses, those that are victims of social injustice are often berated with slurs, insults, and threats through social media. Twitter, which considers itself the “free speech wing of the free speech party,” has come under fire from both ends of the political spectrum (for simultaneously doing too much and too little to police hate speech on its platform).

This summer, conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos’ attacks on SNL and Ghostbusters 2016 star Leslie Jones were well documented. While Twitter decided to permanently ban Yiannopoulos for his racist and sexist comments against Jones, this response did little to slow down the hateful army of the “alt-right” - an aggressive group of conservative racist nationalists. Those informed on the incident regardless of political leaning will tell you that removing abusers and instigators like Yiannopoulos is not enough to stop hate speech. While the alt-right rally behind those like Yiannopoulos - decrying that Twitter is no longer a beacon of free speech - most decent human beings plead with Twitter to do more to combat the pervasive and overtly racist and misogynistic hate speech that runs rampant on its platform.

Hashtag Activism – Turning Whispers into Shouts and Fighting Stigma with Story

Hashtag Activism – Turning Whispers into Shouts and Fighting Stigma with Story

The concept of hashtag activism is nothing new. The term, coined by media outlets to refer to the use of Twitter hashtags for social movements and activism, first appeared in September of 2011 in an opinion piece published by The Guardian, where it was used to describe the role social media played in the Occupy Wall Street protests. Utilizing hashtags on social media sites, which originated on Twitter as a means of coordinating conversations, activists in the Occupy Wall Street Movement were able to coordinate and organize spontaneous protests. Since then, hashtag activism has taken a variety of forms and is used to describe an umbrella of online activity – moving on from simply raising awareness and coordinating marches and protests to connecting communities, fostering discussion, sharing stories, and ultimately driving social change. While there is no shortage of opinions on the effectiveness of hashtag activism – with thinkpieces abound decrying it “vanity activism, in which narcissistic pronouncements substitute for actual engagement” – there is no question that social media puts the power of narrative in the hands of anyone and everyone, giving voice to those who’ve been silenced, story to those who’ve endured erasure, and a welcoming community to those who’ve been isolated by shame and stigma.

Calculated PR Move or Embarrassing Blunder?

Calculated PR Move or Embarrassing Blunder?

Last week, Tinder threw what is generally being described as a very public, cringe-inducing Twitter tantrum — deemed the Tinder Meltdown. Tinder’s rant, in the form of a series of “bizarre, defensive tweets,” was directed at Nancy Jo Sales, who wrote a recent Vanity Fair story detailing what she terms the “Dating Apocalypse” — that is, the hook-up culture centered around mobile dating apps like Tinder. Tinder apparently felt spurned by the piece and a resulting epic tweetstorm ensued. Tinder’s 30-tweet trainwreck garnered far more attention than the article that initially set it in motion, leading many to speculate that a trigger-happy social media intern would soon be taking the fall.

Interestingly enough — particularly to myself, having made a career out of managing crises and PR disasters — much of the conversation around the incident has circled around the PR implications of Tinder’s reaction. Some have called Tinder’s response a mindfully calculated and even successful PR stunt, while others describe the bizarre ramblings as a perfect example of “how not to PR.” The only real consensus seems to be that the tirade was both entertaining and captivating in its cringe-worthiness.

Unsurprisingly, it did eventually come to light that what initially appeared to be an emotionally driven, heat-of-the moment reaction of an individual Tinder employee on the warpath, was actually an intentionally planned-out PR move, albeit an incredibly misguided one. Yes, Tinder’s Twitter rant got a lot of people talking about Tinder — one need not be in PR or particularly astute to realize that the resulting press was essentially a free ad for the dating app — but in what manner and at what cost? It also had the effect of bringing a lot more attention to the original story that Tinder found so slighting in the first place. To be clear though, the actual harm goes far beyond airing their dirty laundry in public and thrusting one Vanity Fair writer’s criticism into the limelight.