Recently, while listening to a CBC podcast on the use of the Internet as a tool to fight social injustice, I found my own well established views of what constitutes good and evil blurring ever so slightly around the edges. The episode, “Anonymous and the Rehtaeh Parsons Case: Online Avengers or an Online Lynch Mob?”, recounted the actions taken by anonymous activists, self-titled “online avengers” to seek justice on behalf of Retaeh Parsons, the 17 year old Dartmouth teen who was allegedly cyberbullied for years and died following a suicide attempt.
Also known as “hacktivists” or “white knights”, online avengers use digital technology to increase awareness, fight social injustice, and advocate for political change. While activism and civil disobedience, are not necessarily new (think Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi) they can be incredibly powerful tools to initiate change. In the same vein, many would agree that the Internet is often used in our modern world as a highly effective platform to wage wars against social injustice.
While contemplating this idea, I was struck with the overwhelming task of trying to draw a line in the sand about the difference between online activism and online vigilantism. In vain, I tried to find answers to challenging questions such as when does the fight for social justice in the digital sphere turn into something destructive and counterproductive? Further, are people who take up causes in the name of social justice actually using technology to create meaningful, positive change or are they simply using the power of anonymity to bully, spread hate, and intimidate?
Where do you weigh in on this topic?
Catch the CBC original podcast at: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2014/02/11/anonymous-the-rehteah-parsons-case-online-avengers-or-an-online-lynch-mob/
To see the original article, “The Online Avengers: Are antibullying activists the saviors of the Internet — or just a different kind of curse?” written by Emily Bazelonjan, Jan. 15, 2014 and posted on nytimes.com visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/magazine/the-online-avengers.html?_r=0
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