There was a time when being in the public eye meant having your picture in the newspapers. Nowadays, we expose most of our lives online and therefore can be subject to insults, abuse and trolling – so much so, that sometimes the internet seems like a troll's kingdom. It doesn't matter if you're a teenager at high school or the wealthiest celebrity – no one is safe from the cursor.
Black Mirror is a satirical, sci-fi series that depicts a different, technological dystopia in each episode. Season 3 debuted on Netflix this week and the epic finale, "Hated in the Nation," brings to life a future where the trolls have even more power. Not only can they target any notorious personality, but also set the anger of the online masses upon them, giving them the power to decide who lives and who dies. A dangerous idea that we're not far off from in reality.
Check out the amazing trailer below:
When trolling culture first started it was seen as a bit of harmless fun and was allowed to grow into something more violent and ugly. Inspired by Black Mirror, we're going to take a look at some famous examples of trolling gone-too-far and what the phenomenon says about us as a society.
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1. Taylor Swift
The ubiquitous pop star has an army of lawyers and PR reps that manage her image and protect her personal brand. If anyone is impervious to petty trolls it should be Swift. However when she started sparring with Kim Kardashian online, the trolls came out of their caves to attack her in her moment of weakness.
Swift was bombarded with the hashtag #snake and emojis on her posts as a punishment for her duplicity in 'betraying' Kanye. Here's an example:
As we saw in the Black Mirror finale, normally the big tech companies claim to be powerless in the face of abuse. In the case of Swift, Instagram stepped in and introduced a new algorithm for her and a few select, elite users. Yet, although some social media platforms may introduce harsher sanctions, most tech companies are often scared to intervene for fear of desecrating the principle of free speech.
However, the question remains – when the freedom of speech is used to harass everyone, do we have a right to step in and say it's wrong?
2. Milo Yiannopoulous
Self-described as the "most fabulous super-villain on the internet," Milo Yiannopolous is a contrarian writer for Breitbart and a spokesperson for the 'alt-right.' The young writer enjoys using the internet as a punishment-free zone where he can target whoever he wants with his reactionary criticisms. One time he pushed too far and was accused of fanning the flames of hate onto Leslie Jones during the release to the Ghostbusters reboot.
Twitter responded by permanently suspending the right-wing provocateur.
Black Mirror questions the absolute freedom of speech that allows us to spew hate-speech but it also highlights the fact that we have no way of stopping troll-culture. Sadly, Yiannopoulos' suspension only gave him more support from his right-wing peers and caused a backlash against Twitter. Fellow young conservatives even started #freemilo and pushed it to become a trending hashtag.
3. Martin Shkreli
In the fairytale land of the internet, there are heroes and there are villains. We saw with Taylor Swift that some people can be a hero one day and a villain the next. When news broke out that a young pharmaceutical tycoon had bought the rights to the HIV treatment drug and hiked the price up 400%, it was clear that the internet had a new villain.
Watch Colbert take a swing at the human punch-bag that is Martin Shkreli:
Shkreli tried to fight the trolls by being an even bigger troll but was quickly lost in a vortex of abuse, investigation and insults both online and in the real world. Shkreli reported attacks on his home, threats on the streets and the growing feeling that nowhere was safe.
What the greedy CEO did was deplorable but it happens all the time in the pharmaceutical industry – ultimately, his biggest crime was becoming a viral news story. His actions inspired such animosity that the abuse spilled out of the online world and into reality. Just like shown in the finale of this season's Black Mirror.
4. Anita Sarkeesian
When the internet first became popular, many dreamed of a place where all opinions could be heard equally and rational arguments could take place in a vibrant forum. Black Mirror shows us the sordid battlefield it has become. On her video channel, Feminist Frequency, Anita Sarkeesian had been deconstructing and analyzing pop-culture from a feminist point of view for years but made the mistake of crossing into game culture. Standing strong amidst waves of misogynistic abuse, she only proved her feminist theories.
She was plagued by death, rape and bomb threats at symposiums she was scheduled to speak at. The trolls even went a step further and created an online game that would allow you to beat her up.
In conclusion, some trolls exist to take celebrities down a notch and some do it for fun, but Black Mirror and this particular case reveals a dangerous and uncontrollable anger festering beneath the surface of these online interactions. One wrong move and the pitchforks could be coming for you.
Watch a sample of the disgusting game 'Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian:'
Do you have any other examples of trolling gone too far?
(Source: The Guardian)