27 March, 2014

@Yes, you’re racist!: the online watchdog that points to you!

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Category: Activism, Discrimination, European Action Week, Opinion, Racism
Gubaz Koberidze
7 pm

By Sara Serrano

Looking for good practices which combat and counteract hate speech online, I have found @Yes, you’re racist! On Facebook and Twitter, which shows us an interesting story behind its creation and a way to confront hate speech in a quite direct and why not, questioning way.

Sara 1It was 2008 when Obama won the election to become the first black president in the history of the United States. The idea was spread that all racial tensions were somehow evaporated as soon as a black man became the president and mainstream data showed an increase in racial tolerance among younger generations.  And  the same idea was present during the re-election of the president in 2012. But, Logan Smith, a 25-year-old man from Columbia, South Carolina, thought that this feeling was far from the reality and decided to take a step forward on his research.

He was searching for tweets that begin with“I am not racist but…” and the results “weren’t so pretty”. He was shocked. “It’s ridiculous to think that people don’t think they are racist when they say these things,” he says. So he decided to create @YesYou’reRacist account in Twitter, with the main aim“to disabuse people of the myth of a post-racial society one tweet at a time.”

The way of acting of @YesYou’reRacist is to pick different tweets which say“I am not racist but…” and are offensive. Some of them mention dislike of white people, black people, foreigners in general or people from other ethnicities. It’s curious that he set up a search to find these words exactly and found so many tweets. As he said “I found enough tweets in one day to last me for a week, which is quite disturbing”. He even tries to sort through them and weed out the ones that show irony rather than offensive words.

Then, he simply “retweets racist tweets” giving a simple answer: Yes, you’re racist. With a simple retweet he highlights general opinions, thoughts, beliefs… based on stereotypes and often provoking  hate. And usually, he does  not answer all the replies. The strategy is to let other people challenge the racist words and discuss the subject.

Sara 1Some of the people who wrote a “racist statement” complain to Logan saying they are not racist. And it quite often happens that these people become the subject of lots of mentions and tweets accusing them and so they too then can become victims  of counter acting hate speech. Somehow, the account @YesYou’reRacist has create a kind of informal “tweet armed force” who act as a watchdog pointing out racist comments and counteracting them, not always with the desiredresult.

In Smith’s words, “I am depressed for humanity but I have kind of learned that society is what it is and hopefully, publicising some of the awful things people say on Twitter will help bring about a change.”

My question is… Is @YesYou’reRacist a good practice to follow? Is it an effective way to counteract online hate speech and bring about change? Or does this account is incite people to confront other users and create more hate speech? What would you l think if the No Hate Speech Movement activists prepared an action like that?

Anyway, it is an interesting case to analyse and see how it is being developed. It is also a an example to discuss and, why not, adapt the idea for future actions. Or… what do you think?

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