Big techs like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok have long skated to combat misinformation, hate speech and eliminate toxic content from their networks. We know that the challenge is Herculean and it will not be overnight that social media will become a healthy and safe environment for everyone. But while tech companies don’t improve content moderation and governments don’t set regulations, unique users have revealed a power that can’t be underestimated. Neither for good nor for bad.
The followers of English football players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka are a good example of this. After the England team lost to Italy in the final of the European Cup last month, the three black players were the target of racist attacks on social media. This is not surprising considering the current dynamics on the internet. The surprise came in the quick response and effectiveness of the fight against virtual racism on the part of the athletes’ fans.
According to a report by the journalism website Vox, tens of thousands of Internet users immediately began to respond to racist comments and post positive content on players’ personal accounts. In less than 24 hours, the positive messages far outweighed the negative ones. In addition, there was also a mobilization for racist content to be duly denounced. Although the platforms later removed most of the hate speech, it was the users and not them who were able to respond quickly and stop the toxic slurry that was spreading.
In Brazil, the several twists suffered by DJ Ivis on the internet also show the power of influence of the follower. The musician, now best known for the shocking scenes of aggression against his then-wife Pamella Holanda, had 723,000 followers on his Instagram account when images of violence surfaced on July 10th. Three days after the controversy, DJ Ivis had 984,000 followers. Perhaps driven by morbid curiosity, netizens were somehow rewarding the DJ’s criminal attitudes. It was only when women’s rights activists and a few artists mobilized that the ratings began to drop. The DJ lost 40,000 followers in less than 24 hours. Today, he has 972,000 followers. A mistakenly positive balance for the case that took the musician to jail.
Pressure on sponsors, a flag raised mainly by the Sleeping Giants, also had an effect. The leading paid music streaming services, Spotify and Deezer, pulled all DJ Ivis songs from their editorial playlists. Radio stations from Ceará issued repudiation notes against the singer and informed that they will no longer play the songs with the artist’s participation. The music producer was fired from the Vybbe office and all releases involving him were cancelled.
Even so, on Tuesday (20/07), a track of his authorship reached the number one spot on Spotify’s Top Viral Brasil playlist, as reported by Leo Dias’ column. The song Rolê, by Ivis, was recorded by Marcynho Sensação and registered on Spotify without the DJ’s songwriting and production credits, but it’s his. Rolê’s success comes in the wake of the viralization of songs through choreographies on social networks. In other words, even in prison, the DJ continues to earn with clicks from internet users, many of them probably unaware. It is also true that many people may consider that DJ Ivis’ art should not necessarily be penalized for the artist’s illegal and immoral acts, but it is important that internet users have information to make this judgment.
These are two incidents that make us aware of the growing capacity — and consequent responsibility — of Internet users themselves to influence the outcome of the narratives circulating on social networks. It is still a discussion about responsible consumption, both in the case of contributing to clean racist content networks, such as knowing if someone wants to pay someone associated with violent and misogynistic acts.
Clara Becker** is the founder of Redes Cordiais website, an initiative that combines digital education and fights against false news and hate speech on social networks.
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