Anti-racism vigilantes out white supremacists on social media

If you live in America, you have likely heard about what happened at an alt-right (read: white-supremacist/neo-nazi) rally in Charlottesville, VA.  Sadly, three people lost their lives.  One was a 32-year-old woman who was there in opposition to the alt-right.  She was killed when a driver, seemingly intentionally, rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protestors.  In a separate incident, two police officers died when their helicopter crashed.  They were flying the chopper as part of a patrol monitoring the activties on the ground.

After seeing the hate and violence displayed by the alt-right crowd,  both on Friday night and the following day, a number of people were shocked, hurt and angry.  With emotions running high, some decided to take to social media to fight back against white supremacy.  What was seen was the outing of a number of the rally’s participants, seeking to identify them by name and making it uncomfortable for them to return back to their daily lives.

Leading this effort was the Twitter account, @YesYoureRacist. Based on responses back, they had outed the president of the College Republicans at Washington State University, a University of Nevada-Reno student (made infamous in the viral photo seen above) and an employee of a Berkley, CA hot-dog chain.  The latter was fired after his employer found out about his alt-right activities.

In a separate effort, Gregg Davis, of Missouri, took to his Facebook page to share images of alt-right protestors who surrounded a church on Friday night, while chanting racist slogans.  His post has been shared well over 200,000 times.

I’m actually going to go into a slightly unpopular direction here.  While I certainly have little sympathy for the alt-right (white supremacist/neo-nazi) crowd.  I am concerned about unchecked internet vigilatism.  Currently, there appears to be some doxxing going on here (the releasing of personal information on a mass-scale).  My concern is related to having innocent people caught up in this madness, simply because they looked like one of these protestors. Clearly, in a number of instances, social media has been used to identify the correct people but, there is a high risk of getting it wrong.

In other words, I would encourage people not to let their quest for payback cloud their vision, both figuratively and literally.

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An opinionated technologist, JP launched Death By Social Media when he saw just how easily and how often people's misunderstanding/abuse of social media created personal catastrophes. As a result, he wanted to provide a resource that would provide cautionary tales for those seeking to avoid similar fates.