People often say things they shouldn’t on social media. Some mean every word, while others are just making a bad joke or a play for attention. There are those who have cyberbullying down to a science, and those who let their anger or frustration get the best of them.
There’s no question that even the very best people can be driven to post something they’ll later regret. Trouble is, the internet has a long memory and it’s about to get longer and more precise.
The people behind Social Autopsy think it’s time we held everyone accountable for what they say online. The new app asks people to take screenshots of offensive posts, then upload them under the poster’s real name. Once the database goes live, you and I will be able to search by name to find out if the person we’re dating, who is teaching our child or stands at the front of our church, is using the internet to spread hateful messages. No more hiding behind an anonymous Twitter account or fake Facebook page.
In their intro video, Social Autopsy makes some valid points about cyberbullying and how the “age of technology and social media has slowly disintegrated individual accountability.” I think we can all agree that hate speech on social media is a real problem. But are we comfortable letting the anonymous folks behind Social Autopsy decide who should be held accountable and who shouldn’t?
Let’s look at the FAQs:
How do you discover users real names?
Screenshots are submitted anonymously by online friends of that user. Their “friends” of course, know their full names and details.
So I could submit a screenshot from “AngryDuck3432” and say that the account is owned by my boss. If the account is anonymous, how can Social Autopsy be sure I’m not lying to get someone in trouble?
How do you prevent people from using this information to harm others?
We do not allow any commenting on our database, and we have disabled the ability to search our database by keywords (e.g homophobia, racism, etc). In other words, you would have to know the individual by first and last name in order to discover them.
Since there’s no commenting, there’s no way for the accused to defend himself or even deny the allegations. The fact that you have to type in a person’s full name means we have to go into this assuming the worst about people we know. Why not include a police check while you’re at it.
Do these profiles last forever?
Subject to change, each profile that is created remains public for 1 year. It is our hope that in that time frame, the user will consider carefully what they share.
If the person’s intention is to hurt others, seeing their name on a site like this will only fuel the fire. If it was a mistake, do they deserve to be branded with a scarlet letter?
Are all submissions accepted?
Absolutely not. Each and every submission goes through a process in which our team determines whether or not the user is just expressing an opinion or exercising harmful speech. There is a big difference between “F*** the Patriots. Go Giants! ” and “I hope Tom Brady dies, and his wife is raped”.
We all know the difference.
Between those two examples, sure, but what about everything in between? A man calls his female boss a slut in a post after she berates him at work. Does that go into the Social Autopsy morgue? What about the man who leaves an angry, foul-mouthed rant on Facebook because he had a bad experience at a restaurant?
And what about the teenagers who use social media to cyberbully other students? These incidents have had horrible consequences, but is publicly shaming the bully the answer?
Social Autopsy says they’ll go live when they have 100,000 profiles in their database. Finding that many angry people on the internet is easy – what’s hard, is convincing John and Jane Public that cataloging the worst social media has to offer is a good idea. We’d all like to make social channels a safer, more enjoyable place to play but are we ready to give up our anonymity and our right to free speech to do it?
Would you upload a screenshot if someone you knew was posting hateful messages on social? And how would you feel if the angry rant you deleted an hour later was already captured and cataloged for posterity?
If Social Autopsy succeeds, it could change how colleges, employers and future spouses make a decision about a potential candidate.