US: ‘Racists Getting Fired’ exposes weaknesses of Internet vigilantism, no matter how well-intentioned

At first glance, it seems like a clever bit of Internet Darwinism: If you don’t possess the savvy to privatize your obviously racist social-media activity, then your employer receives a call — or 10 or 20 — about your inappropriate online brain-drippings.

That’s the mission of the new Tumblr blog Racists Getting Fired.” It seems like a natural progression in a world that’s already home to the “Yes, You’re Racist” Twitter account. The account publicly shames Twitter users expressing racist sentiments by retweeting them, especially if their tweets are qualified by “I’m not racist, but …”

Post-at-Racists-getting-firedFound (by me) on the site today

Racists Getting Fired doesn’t just publicly shame — it adds consequences by rounding up those willing to call a business to say they don’t want to patronize a place with an employee who says things like “#Ferguson one less n—– on #foodstamps.”

The Tumblr quickly took off. Racists Getting Fired gained nearly 40,000 followers in a matter of days, with 15,000 submissions in the first eight hours of the blog’s existence, according to its moderator.

But there was a hitch that revealed a problem with Internet blood-lust: Sometimes the torch-wielding throngs get it wrong.

Post-at-Racists-getting-fired2Such was the case with Brianna Rivera, a woman who certainly appeared to have posted racially charged hate speech to her Facebook account. Later, Racists Getting Fired was alerted Rivera was a victim herself; the account was a hoax created by an ex-boyfriend and submitted to the Tumblr with the aim of not just getting Rivera fired from her job at a movie theater, but smeared as well.

This led to new submission guidelines: among them, that users only submit authentic public profiles with links to corroborate screen shots, and of posts that are obviously, explicitly racist. The moderator vowed to vet future posts before publishing them.

Because Racists Getting Fired grew so popular so quickly, the moderator, an anonymous, queer-identified woman, found herself staring down threats from 4chan, she said. Early Tuesday morning, she published a request seeking new moderators to take over Racists Getting Fired, or even create a new blogs with the same goal if hers was shuttered. After soliciting legal advice in an earlier post, she shared this message:

i began this blog much to publicly, with an excess of personal information bc i could not have forseen the skyrocketting of attention this blog has received. i was not prepared for the legal threats, nor for being hunted by 4chan doxxers and other anti-social justice websites. so it is too late for me.

moving forward with the knowledge of my mistakes, i am looking for new moderators to completely take over this blog. for your safety and for the longevity of this movement, you need to be damn well versed in the language of online security, you need to be able to mask your presence and cover your tracks. i will only consider serious inquiries.