It seems like Public Humiliation has become a rite of passage for women of color.

I didn’t want to begin with such a serious tone of voice about the topic I will go on for 3000 words in Violet Summer Zine Issue 5, but I don’t have a choice. I’m not about to downplay how screwed up social media has become for people who get off on revenge porn, bullying, harassing, acting like assholes to whoever they want. Exposing this type of behavior and offering solutions to go about fixing the problems is why I write and tell stories that are highly suggestive. In Issue 2 of VSZ, Sanity Addiction Part 1 takes the reader on a journey of sex, drugs, and hip-hop and how this emotional climatic ending leaves readers wanting to know more about revenge porn. Since publishing the story in 2016, friends and colleagues have approached me with questions and have even filed their own lawsuits against revengeful exes. So what made this story go viral and attract attention is because it was all true. Fast forward two years later with hundreds of technological updates, those of us who care to do the work are under even more pressure to clean up the internet, create stricter privacy laws and shape legislation. It’s too many maniacs online and everyone knows it. These people are playing themselves if they think they will continue to get away with it without any repercussions.

Annie Seifullah: Our work is focused on Victims Rights. We concentrate on the areas of sexual privacy, gender-based discrimination and gender-based violence. Our firm owner, Carrie Goldberg, was essentially the first lawyer in the country to specialize in helping victims of revenge porn aka cyber sexual assault.

In a womanist perspective, incorporating all identities, we should aspire to live a life beyond the old wounds and create safe spaces to allow ourselves to grow. As we rely more on technology to shape our identity, bullying, harassment, violence are damaging the way we as women, women of color specifically, are able to explore life. As you’ll read my interview with Law Grad Annie Seifullah, there is still work to be done in the process of reporting — we have to believe their story just as fast as the police respond to a burglary or a car thief.

Issue 5 of Violet Summer Zine is on self-care and wellness and meant to contribute to the overall conversation. www.violetsummerzine.com

Wait What’s Going On?

Harassment, bullying, name-calling are actions that have become the new culture vultures of the internet. According to a PEW Study, surveying over 4,000 people, 41% of Americans have been personally subjected to harassing behavior online, and an even larger share (66%) have witnessed these behaviors directed at others. Not surprisingly, people have taken to their phones to react and respond with harmful emotions and its lead to a culture of acceptance for this type of behavior. Yet people who engage in this type of behavior feel comfortable with it because they know that, at the end of the day, nothing will happen to them. What’s even sadder is that the majority of people ( again, 66%) choose to watch the drama unfold. Back in the day, it was distasteful and tacky to air out your dirty laundry on front street and but people seem to think that how you act online has no relation to what happens IRL. Naive people will say, “It’s just the internet.” But depending on your age, it’s a dangerous place that fuels hate, murder, suicide, depression, and FOMO. It’s a place to digitally shout at the wall, cuss out random people, swim in homophobia, explore anti-Semitism, and feed racism with little to no consequences. Serious terms like harassment and bullying have become so entrenched into pop culture, we are immune to it. According to Instagram executives, there are approximately one billion Instagram users. That’s trillions of interactions that can’t all be measured, monitored and accounted for, yet roughly eight-in-ten Americans (79%) feel that online services have a responsibility to step in when harassing behavior occurs on the platforms. But who’s fault is it for letting such divisive language become so normal? The first fact we need to understand is that Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat are commodities. They are platforms that exchange information and are powered by huge advertisement budgets. These are not free spaces and the content that you post is apart of a life cycle of information. By signing up for these social services we are agreeing to participate in this marketplace. It may seem like a venting space, a type of therapy, but the overall goal is to create revenue dollars and with the recent Facebook IPO news, it’s the perfect time to really figure out why these platforms bring out the worst in human interactions.

VSZ: This is major news! When we first covered revenge porn as a topic, there were like 39 states invested in this legislation!

AS: As of May 2019, the Federal revenge porn bill (known as the SHIELD Act, formerly the ENOUGH Act) is being reintroduced for discussion in Congress. It would be so incredible to have a federal statute in place because of all the cases that involve harassment and abuse across state lines. Local police departments are often times not equipped or not willing to help with issues that include anything “cyber” or “digital.” Being able to access federal law enforcement resources could represent a huge improvement for many of our clients.

More internet Drama…

Influencers with bad behavior are the worst. Celebrities who don’t have a filter frankly don’t feel responsible for their bad behavior and it’s such a cop out move. Ahem Cardi B! Yea I’m calling her out because she always says, “ohh I never said I was a role model,” but be the first one on Instagram calling out the Shaderoom for spreading negativity about people on her team. Did she ever stop to think that her whole career is clickbait and the priority of the news is powered by it? Probably not. One tweet or screenshot from an influencer pointing a finger or coming at a user who has 50 followers or 50 thousand followers ignites a war of hate and threats. Earlier this year, Ariana Grande called out a music journalist on Twitter for writing a scathing review of her new album “Thank you, next” and all hell broke loose. Her fans harassed this music journalist for days. And we can’t forget about Model, Entrepreneur and also Will Smith’s niece Jordyn Woods’ public humiliation scandal when she was accused of sleeping with Khloe Kardashian’s baby father. Woods and her family reportedly got death threats from Kardashian stans. She was practically shamed off the internet for a few weeks. Everyone watched like it was just another episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashian’s. How sad and deranged do we all have to be to stoop so low for drama ignited from a few social media posts? I guess there is no room for good and nice girls who sometimes make bad decisions. Sadly, even I have experienced an exe or two who has TRIED to publicly shame me for breaking up with them. At one point, I felt for my safety, second-guessed what I should be posting online just to avoid reputation damage. I got a gang of my friends to report this person’s horrible behavior when he took to his own Instagram page to solicit sex online and harass my friends in their DMs. I was shocked. How many report buttons do we have to hit to delete someone’s account? Asking for a friend. Okay and to be fair, Instagram has rolled out a feature in the comment tool that enables users to block specific words from popping up on one’s feed or comment section. It basically filters out all the negative words and phrases of your choice. It’s a step in the right direction, however, more censorship could either help or drastically water down a platform that was intended to display and feature global creativity.

And that’s just it, these social media companies didn’t take into account the way people treat other people, only how much money they would make. Instagram is trying to protect free speech by avoiding policing the platform. Yet, this free marketplace needs some sort of structure because people are wildin’ on it. Let me recite a phrase from my Political Science geek days, a document called “The wealth of nations” by Adam Smith defined the free market of our modern economic place. It’s to say that we can do what we want with little government control, that an “invisible hand” will always be watching our every move, so let’s play nicely. These platform creators expect its users to operate under the notion that the regulations from the top — down are overseeing how we exchange our content on the platform. Hashtags like #sponsoredcontent were created by federal pressures to stop false advertisement. Certain “pornographic” hashtags are blocked from surfacing into the conversations on Instagram/Facebook. The Daily Beast has written about how inconsistent the platform has been on censoring “sensitive content” for surfacing on the explore page back in 2013. But, it’s still a joke.

We were all excited about the internet in the 90s and the alluring days of dial-up and screen names, but these days are long gone. 2018 was a disaster for data breaches, Facebook’s role in the 2016 Presidential election, Instagram’s connection to Russia spies. Literally, the digital space has backfired on us. Remember how ridiculous our elected officials looked during the Facebook Trials, questioning Mark Zuckerberg on things like the poke button? LOL Ma’am that button been gone!

And just where is the social invisible hand for acts of revenge porn and harassment? Here I am again, two years later to remind you, writing about the dangers of revenge porn. Preaching at a coffee shop to a magazine editor who had no idea what that was until I told her. It can’t just be a report button that’s signaled to god knows where and trusted to be considered by god knows who! Social media has managed to heighten how cruel humans can be without any laws associated. Social media is a lawless place where anything can happen. Where the black market is thriving. Where women are treated as second class citizens; sold, trafficked, lured into cyber traps to be raped and brainwashed. There are still 100+ chibok girls missing in Nigeria since Michelle Obama ignited the #SaveOurGirls hashtag in 2014. The problem also lies within the company hierarchy and the lack of women not only in leadership but in crafting these super technie platforms. If there is a lack of female and non binary coders on these teams, there’s going to be a lot of features and opinions left out of the structure. There is such a thing as racist technology. Let me remind you that in Issue 2, I was inspired to write Sanity Addiction, Part 1 after I discovered how revenge porn can live freely in our society without any repercussions. Women and most specifically black women in hip-hop are affected by acts of revenge porn the most. Nasty guys still do it to hurt women, exposing their bodies on social media to evoke a sense of shame and unworthiness. R&B Singer Teairra Marí, who is also a cast member on VH1’s Love & Hip Hop, was publicly humiliated when she decided to break up with a boyfriend on the show and coincidentally, the very next day their sextape surfaced on the internet. To be shady, Rapper 50 Cent retweeted this sextape that made it reach viral status. As this working entertainer told her story on The Breakfast Club radio show in May of 2019, I could feel her holding back the tears and hurt but she had to tell her truth. Even after thousands of dollars of legal fees Mari has paid to send Cease and Desist letters to sites like Pornhub, she had nothing else left to lose. Let me not make this about dating because this is really about the disgusting nature of social media.

VSZ: It’s also sad that people’s negative opinions come from fear and disregard of human sexual tendencies.

AS: The reason there is a lack of support for victims of revenge porn is tough to pinpoint but is, sadly, predictable and highly intersectional. When a crime primarily affects women and involves sexuality, then women are traditionally blamed. And when you add elements of race, class, sexual orientation or gender expression — folks become even more marginalized. That marginalization shows up in a variety of ways, including lack of support from law enforcement, lack of support from church or family, and even loss of employment opportunities.

This type of trauma can take a mental toll on someone that requires a niche therapist to understand. I know this because my therapist who was not social media savvy had no idea how to respond to my worries about exes abusing their right to post me on their own social media pages. When you get that uncomfortable feeling that someone is too pressed but don’t know if it’s even worth exploring… dealing with crazy people on social media can be a mess!! I’m all for technology but the free will of the internet is damaging our culture’s communication skills as a society. Moreover, do these social networks really care about us? Queue the digital detox. We become so hypnotized with scrolling through our phones, liking, commenting that it has become a part of how we deal with anger, hurt, and betrayal. As a black creative, we have to own our spaces to get through to these big companies that we do have a right to at least have the option to petition to remove unwanted information on the platform. A tech reporter proposed that Facebook create a “reset” button to delete unwanted parts of your life on the internet. I agree. We the people matter when it comes to protecting our information, our privacy and our lives in general.

READ THE DIGITAL RIGHTS DOCKET HERE: https://issuu.com/violetsummerzine/docs/_vsz5_/40

Sources:

https://www.pewinternet.org/2017/07/11/online-harassment-2017/

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An international lifestyle journalist and businesswoman publishing content about urban experiences & beyond. This is her HEELS IN THE FAST LANE column.

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Violet Summer

Violet Summer

An international lifestyle journalist and businesswoman publishing content about urban experiences & beyond. This is her HEELS IN THE FAST LANE column.

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