There’s no shortage of stupidity on the Internet, whether you’re reading racist, sexist and xenophobic messages on Twitter, charged political diatribes on Facebook, or even plain stupid videos posted on YouTube. It happens more often than we’d like to think, and while it can lead to hostile reactions and comments, sometimes the response is more serious.
Twitter banned mud-stirring Milo Yiannopoulos from its service after he repeatedly harassed and encouraged others to harass actress Leslie Jones. He’s not alone in getting banned from Twitter, however. Tila Tequila, Poison Ivy, Jane Oranika, George Zimmerman and Chuck Jones have also been kicked off Twitter for hate posts and other digital stupidity. Photo sharing app Instagram has its share of banned users too, including actress Scout Willis, Grace Coddington, Anja Rubik and photographer Daniel Arnold.
But sometimes the consequences of posting something online involve more than just being banned. Sometimes the law steps in because you’ve not only done something stupid and illegal, you’ve compounded the idiocy by sharing it on a social network. Shannon D. Jackson was arrested for violating a protection order for “poking” someone on Facebook, teen Anthony Stanci was arrested after trying to trick classmates into sending him naked photos on Facebook in a complex blackmailing scheme, and UK fugitive Craig Lynch was arrested after taunting cops about being on the lam, to name just a few such examples.
What’s most surprising is that this sort of thing goes on all the time. Because of the relative anonymity of the Web, some people believe that they can do whatever they want online without consequences.
Remember when Youtuber Evalion was kicked off the hugely popular video sharing site after posting a series of racist videos? And who can forget Pewdiepie, who had over 50 million followers and earned more than $15 million from his channel but was kicked off YouTube this year for posting a series of anti-Semitic videos? (Huge props to Google for doing the right thing, by the way).
Postings that are hateful, stupid or taunting are dumb. When other people get hurt in the process, however, it’s another story. Consider the four black Chicago teens who kidnapped a disabled white man, then tortured him live on Facebook while shouting anti-white invective at him. Their live-streamed assault had real-world consequences: They were arrested and are now facing hate crime charges.
The latest chapter in our culture’s real life social media horror story is a series of YouTube “vlog” videos posted by a user calling himself DaddyOFive, whose real name is Mike Martin. His channel featured posts that show the deliberate and repeated taunting, physical, and mental abuse of his young children for the purposes of comedy. Mike and his wife (the children’s stepmother) Heather claim that their pranks were faked, but enough people were upset by seeing the children regularly bursting into tears on camera that it came to the attention of the authorities. In one video, for example, one child, Cody, “was accused by the parents for a range of bad behavior and they then punished him physically and emotionally for it.” The good news is that the law stepped in and removed the two children (Cody and his sister Emma) from their father’s home and returned them to the custody of their biological mother.
These sort of incidents make it hard to have faith in the essential goodness of humanity. Maybe it’s only a tiny fraction of people that have such bad judgment and who demonstrate such hate and cruelty, but the fact that they are willing to put everything else aside in the quest for likes, follows and subscribers is deeply disturbing. Let’s hope that social media channels like YouTube and Facebook will improve their efforts to flag such content and remove it, because otherwise the online world is going to become increasingly populated with the evidence of human nature’s more appalling expressions of behavior.