Social Activism: Shifting online to offline

As the world is brought closer together, individuals are exposed to so many cultures that it can sometimes be overwhelming. In a sense, discrimination and prejudice are ways of separating what we understand from what we do not understand. When cultural minorities permeate into new cultural spaces, it is a natural reaction to attempt to isolate them. In the same way this is applicable to our physical environment, this can be applied to our internet space as well.

We have to consider that the internet started off as being dominated by white males. Today, the dynamics have changed and, because the internet is such a valuable resource, it has become a place for people to promote cultures and suggest cultural and social change.

Youtube, in particular, has opened up the doorways for people to express their opinions about cultural and social issues. In most cases, these video rants are particularly harmless, but on the rare chance that the video goes viral, it becomes an issue that extends beyond the personal opinion to an act of social activism.

A recent example of this would be the Youtube video by a user that was insulting Asian culture, mostly due to the fact that she was uncomfortable with it. It started off as a harmless vlog, but as more people gained access to it, it sparked an enormous response. The most common response was that the girl should have kept her opinions to herself. People who were very rattled by the video began to promote the importance of Asian culture, in an effort to give society a greater understanding.

Because of it’s crazy response, the original video has been taken off of Youtube, but in this article, the author outlines what was said in the video.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/14/alexandra-wallace-racist-video_n_835505.html

The following article shows the immediate response that occurred within the community.

http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-ucla-asian-racist-rant,0,3389859.story

Evidently, people had taken initiative to screen out what was posted on the internet because it was seen as a bad reflection on third parties. So the question becomes whether or not we should be allowed to block out acts on the internet that do not adhere to the societal norms.

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3 Comments

  1. The video and the resulting events demonstrate a lot of the pitfalls–and benefits–of social media. Without modern technology, the user’s rant would never have reached so many people, which in turn lead to its condemnation and some larger social awareness. At the same time, Wallace probably would never have made and released the video if current technology didn’t make doing it so easy. She’s had to learn a very harsh lesson about managing the messages one sends out over a digital medium.
    Q: Does Youtube bear any responsibility for either Wallace’s actions or the subsequent threats on her life? They have a process in place for users to flag any inappropriate material for removal, but should they be responsible for allowing that material in the first place?
    –MH

  2. A question worth exploring is whether or not online social activism is hindered by Internet censorship. As you brought up in your post, the video was removed because of its content, which simply goes to remind us how carefully monitored many Internet platforms are. This seems to create a few contradictions when we look at Olsen’s essay. It repeatedly calls for the government to not only enforce minority rights, but also to promote minority group expression. Olsen’s essay seemingly promotes uncensored expression, even if it is shocking or scandalous. Particularly, the essay seems to be giving minority groups exclusive permission to unabashed Internet expression. This creates many discrepancies. For instance, is it entailing that only minority groups should be granted this right? In general, should Internet users be condemned for their online exercise of free speech? I am not at all condoning the content of the video, but its viral impact asks us to examine the ‘freedom’ of the online world. How does the Internet magnify the response of controversial speech, and in the frame of Olsen’s essay, perpetuate minority discrimination and ignorance rather than protect their rights?

  3. Answering the question offered by nealgibson, I think that Youtube cannot be proactive in situations like this. They are far too systematized and automatically run. In order to have the instantaneous and mass loading of media onto Youtube, I don’t think that it is possible to moderate all incoming information. They certainly have rules and regulations as to what can be posted, and violations to these will be dealt with when found. Since Youtube cannot be proactive, I think they do an adequate job of being reactive. Once there is a complaint or two of abusive content, there will be a moderator to investigate and remove any offensive material.

    I think that Youtube is just the setting or environment where a wrong was committed. Wallace used Youtube as a means to get a point across. And the commenters used Youtube as a means to get their response across. It is a very unfortunate and ugly situation, but I do not think that Youtube should be at fault. It is not fair that they be held responsible for the situation, though Youtube should be responsible for cleaning it up. It is like a shop owner unknowingly letting a shoplifter into his store. The shop owner will assume the thief will be just a regular customer. The shoplifter does not use a store as it rightfully should be, and the owner, upon noticing the violation, must react by calling security and removing the issue (hopefully without losses). In this way, Youtube had removed the offending material, and perhaps banned some of the accounts.


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