Viral Hate: The Thin Line between a Tweet and a Threat

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Viral Hate: The Thin Line between a Tweet and a Threat

We live in an extraordinary era—one in which the Internet, and what we can find there, plays an integral part. If you’re reading this, chances are, you have access to the vast virtual landscape known as the Internet. You can do almost anything online; its many virtues and its potential are astounding. People have used it as a way to jumpstart their careers (hello, Bieber) or make a quick buck. Jason Sandler got rich by merely putting on a shirt every day. Others have used sites like Facebook, YouTube and Blogger to connect with others and create resources where there were none. The Internet has been used to spark social movements, elect presidents, and even topple regimes.

Two of the Web’s most useful attributes are the ability to reach a wide audience almost instantaneously, and the ability to remain anonymous—an essential part since the early days of the World Wide Web. However, those qualities can be a double-edged sword. The same service that provides safety in anonymity, affords a public forum for bullying and harassment with little or no consequences. In the past, bullying victims could generally count on sanctuary once they left school grounds. Today the taunts follow them onto Facebook and Twitter, and it’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing an increase harassment-induced suicides. If you can get millions of people to watch a video of your cat chasing a laser pointer, chances are, you can find a substantial audience for vitriol, as well. Even the most innocuous post or trend can get out of hand, at an alarmingly rapid pace.

Such was the case this week when Twitter users began sending tweets to their future children. The hashtag, #ToMyUnbornChild, began trending shortly after its appearance. It began innocently enough, with Tweets promising love and support, but it quickly went sour when homophobes saw the trend as an opening to publicize their bigotry. It didn’t take long before tweets promising death, beatings, or abandonment to a child who “turned out to be gay” were overshadowing their more harmless counterparts. If you feel like being sickened, you can find a collection of 100 of those Tweets on the Homophobes page on Storify. 

Now, unfortunately, the homophobic Tweets don’t go against Twitter guidelines, since they weren’t made toward living people; however, public shaming can go a long way. The trend has attracted the attention of LGBTQI-friendly sites like The Huffington Post, the previously mentioned Homophobes page, and the blogger at Raising My Rainbow whose eloquent response—a type of love letter to the future children of the Twitter users—sends a clear message without ceding the high ground. I definitely recommend checking it out.

Other things you can do include following or bookmarking the Homophobes Twitter page and sending any homophobic Tweets you find their way. On my end, I intend to start a countermovement (similar to the support system that developed for Ellen when “One Million Moms” threatened to boycott JC Penney) by helping another hashtag start trending. So, if you’re on Twitter and you want to respond to the homophobes out there, Tweet your own message to tommorow’s children using the hashtag #LoveIsUnconditional, and be sure to include the #ToMyUnbornChild hashtag, too.

Comments [4]

Tiff's picture

This video has been making

This video has been making the rounds: It definitely makes it more real for those anyone who doesn't think the tweets were a big deal. Share it.

Conlite's picture

The link to the Homophobes

The link to the Homophobes Storify page is messed up, but when I found my way there via the Twitter link, I was sorry I had made the effort.  Ugly what some people use the internet megaphone to shout.  Thanks for bringing this to our attention though.

Tiff's picture

Yeah, sorry. Not sure why,

Yeah, sorry. Not sure why, but I can't even find that page now. Maybe they got in trouble for posting people's photos and usernames publicly.

Tiff's picture

Hmmm. Some parts stayed bold.

Hmmm. Some parts stayed bold. :-/