- Nearly a dozen people have spoken out against at least five YouTubers in the Pokémon community, accusing them of sexual assault and harassment.
- The allegations first went viral in a video uploaded by a user named AttackOnSylveon, in which she described being abused by a man who was prominent in the Pokémon community when she was 15-years-old.
AttackOnSylveon’s First Video
Allegations of sexual assault and harassment have shaken the online Pokémon community, where numerous people have accused at least five prominent YouTubers of sexually abusing minors.
These allegations first started going viral after a user named AttackOnSylveon posted a video on March 27, called “Finally coming forward…”
In the video, AttackOnSylveon describes an interaction she had on Twitter when she was 15-years-old with a man who was six years older than her. In the video, she said she does not want to name names or take legal action, but said she felt like she needed to share her story.
AttackOnSylveon said that the interaction started when she posted a picture of herself in a swimsuit by a pool. They talked a lot, and he would often comment on how she looked and what she was wearing. She said that at the time she did not see a problem with that.
Then he started asking her to send him pictures.
One night, he started sending her pictures of himself shirtless and asked her to send pictures of herself in response. She did not send him pictures in return, but he started to get pushy.
“He continued to make me feel like the bad guy because I’ve done all these things to him and made him feel like he was being like left out I guess,” she said, “And I, I really didn’t want to do it.”
AttackOnSylveon then said she sent him a picture of herself covered in a blanket, but he told her she could do better. Again, she told him she did not want to, but he still pushed her.
“I knew it was wrong,” she said, “And I knew I shouldn’t have done it. But anyway, I went on and I sent him the pictures that he wanted.”
After that night, she tried to distance herself from him, but he continued to message her. Eventually, he gave up, and they stopped talking.
Then, about a year later, he messaged her again, wanting to reconnect.
AttackOnSylveon did not want anything to do with him. “He would not let it go.” She said, “He messaged me on twitter, on Snapchat, on Kik, and on Facebook multiple times. Asking if we could pretty much talk the same way we used to talk before.”
She goes on to say she felt like he was taking advantage of her because she was young, but she just wanted him to stop.
Eventually, she finally snapped and told him she did not want to talk anymore, she said, showing screenshots of their conversation where she ended the relationship.
She ends the video by calling for others in the community to speak out, “I just want people to know what happened, and know that if something is happening to them they need to do something about it.”
“For this entire time I’m 15. I was super young and he still took advantage of me,” she said, “He was 21 and he knew what he was doing. He knew it and he was wrong and he didn’t care and that’s the problem is the fact that he didn’t care.”
AttackOnSylveon’s Second Video
The next day, AttackOnSylveon posted a second video where she said that her initial post got a lot more attention than she anticipated, and that people were asking her to use the person’s name.
She said that it was brought to her attention that if she did not name names, they would continue to assault people.
“His name is Josh.” She said in the second video, “And you know the story about that. But what I didn’t mention in that video was the fact that that didn’t happen once with one person. That happened with three people.”
She said the second man was named Enrique, and that he was 21. She said he would send her explicit paragraphs, and did so under the guise of them being in a relationship.
She then said that the last person is named Nathan and that he is incredibly difficult for her to talk about because he had actually threatened her.
“That person’s name is Nate. Well, Nathan, I guess. And I never wanted to speak out because I thought he would hurt me or my family and that he would send out the pictures, but he did it anyway,” she said.
More Allegations & Initial Response
The response to AttackOnSylveon’s videos happened fast and was widespread.
Many of the men she named in her videos are well known in the Pokémon community, so a lot of them were identified.
Specifically, the man she refers to as “Nathan” is Nathan Putnam, known as Dekadurr on Twitter and NintendoEncoder on YouTube.
After AttackOnSylveon shared her story, more women came out and said they had similar interactions with Putnam, some of whom provided evidence.
In an article published in Kotaku, at least three women described similar interactions with Putnam when they were underage or 18.
According to Kotaku: “Two of these women described how Putnam aggressively demanded naked pictures from them even after expressing how uncomfortable they felt. Two more say he hit on them when they were underage.”
One user who was keeping a thread of everything that was going on posted a screenshot of a message allegedly between Putnam and an anonymous source.
In the message, Putnam denies the allegations and says he barely talked to AttackOnSylveon, who he refers to as “Felicity,” which is her name on Twitter. Then he says he’s going to upload a video later.
It is unclear if he ever did upload a video, because on the same day he deleted his Twitter and Instagram. The then deleted his YouTube account the following day.
While all of this was going on, numerous people took to Twitter to call out Putnam, with many saying they had heard about him preying on young girls in the past. One of Putnam’s friends even said they knew about it and told him to stop.
Others commended AttackOnSylveon on Twitter and in the comments on her videos for coming out and sharing her story
Accusations Against TheKingNappy
One of the people who came out against Putnam was prominent Pokémon Youtuber, Kyle McNeal, who goes by TheKingNappy.
In a now-deleted tweet, McNeal released a statement condemning Putnam. He said that while there were rumors about what he was doing, he never looked into the extent of it or the details.
“So I want to start this off by apologizing for not speaking, publicly, about this situation sooner.” He wrote, “First and foremost, I want to make it absolutely clear that Nathan’s actions are incredibly cruel and unforgivable.”
He then goes on to say he spoke to Putnam about the situation and promptly cut ties with him. He added that he did not “lead the charge against Nathan” because he “didn’t want to dive headfirst into another pool of drama and allow that to consume my Twitter or my Twitch.”
“In hindsight, if I would have just said something from the jump, that wouldn’t have been something I needed to worry about.” He continued, “For those affected by Nathan’s actions, you don’t deserve any of what you’ve gone through.”
Shortly after McNeal posted his statement, a user named Callum posted a statement claiming that McNeal guilted him into being in a relationship when he was 16 and McNeal was 21.
“I initially told him I didn’t feel the same way, and that I couldn’t be in a relationship with him. He gave me an ultimatum. Date him or we’re no longer friends.” Wrote Callum, “I eventually agreed to try dating Nappy. At the time I was very ignorant about relationships, I didn’t take them seriously and I was unsure of my sexuality, I wanted to see if I could form feelings for him.”
He concludes his statement, writing, “This is something I really didn’t want to get involved with, but I felt it was important I came forward and said my piece since it’s been a question on everyone’s mind.”
On the same day, another user named Luke posted screenshots of a conversation he had with McNeal, and said that he would continuously make unwanted advances on him.
McNeal denied the allegations in a live stream which he later deleted. “Callum I hope and pray that any shred of respect left in you, you will tell the truth regarding this.” He said, “There is nothing that went down between Calum and I.”
McNeal also blamed his accusers and said they were the ones responsible.
“Nobody else made those choices but you,” said McNeal, “You chose to show up. You show to be a part. You chose to be quieter about how you actually felt for so fucking long.”
Since then, other accusations from other users have come out against McNeal as well, and other statements have been made on the situation.
On Wednesday, a Twitter user named Gabe said in a Twitlonger that he had a similar relationship with Kyle when he was 16 and Kyle was 25. Gabe also included numerous screenshots of conversations he had with Kyle on Discord and over text.
Unfortunately, that is not where the story ends. Since then, other allegations have come out against more members of the Pokémon community.
According to two people who spoke with Kotaku, a Pokémon YouTuber who goes by Mudkip Mama, also known as VegasJamie “aggressively pursued them when they were either 18 or under 18.”
A woman named Nikki said in a Twitlonger post that MudkipMama became “overly sexual” with her in a DM which she also posted on Twitter, writing: “Mrs. VegasJamie trys to claim she doesn’t hit on kids yet I’m 15”
Nikki also shared a screenshot on Twitter where MudkipMama allegedly admits to “dating” a fan with an “age difference.”
Additionally, over the weekend, other people came out against a YouTuber who goes by Mizumi and who is known for modding Nintendo games.
A woman identified only as Tori said in a Twitlonger post that he asked her for nude pictures when he was 18 and when she was underage. When she sent them, he tried to blackmail her.
Another woman identified as Jenny told Kotaku that he pressured her into sending naked pictures by “talking about wanting to kill himself and self harming behaviors and said things about how getting nudes would ‘help him feel better.’”
In an email to Kotaku, Mizumi did not directly deny the allegations but wrote: “This isn’t entirely my fault. The line is grayer than what everyone thinks and everyone here is a victim in one way or the other.”
Yet another person who is only identified as BiseProductions was also involved in the accusations, with many people on Twitter connecting him to AttackOnSylveon’s videos, though it’s unclear if he is one of the people she names.
The day after her second video was uploaded, BiseProductions posted an apology on Twitter, though his account has since been deleted.
In the apology, which was re-posted by another user, he writes, “I am truly sorry for my actions,” continuing, “I was very aware, after the fact, that this was not ok in the slightest.”
It will be interesting to see how this community responds. It seems like they are largely in favor of holding people accountable, but if more accusations come out, it might become difficult to keep the community unified.
See what others are saying: (Kotaku) (Newsweek) (Pedestrian)
Chinese State Media Calls TikTok-Oracle Deal “Reasonable” as Trump Signals Approval
- On Friday, the United States Commerce Department issued an order that would ban U.S. downloads of TikTok and WeChat starting Sunday night.
- The order for TikTok was delayed for one week on Saturday after President Donald Trump gave his preliminary approval on a deal between TikTok and the software company Oracle.
- A federal judge also issued a temporary injunction Sunday against the WeChat ban, which would have largely destroyed the app’s functionality.
- Oracle and Walmart have since released more details of the deal, including that TikTok Global will likely pay $5 billion in U.S. taxes. This does not seem to be the same as a commission from the deal, even though Trump suggested such.
- On Monday, Chinese state media called the deal “unfair” on ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. However, it also described it as “reasonable,” suggesting the Chinese government may approve the deal.
U.S. and China Signal Support for Deal
What began as a tumultuous weekend for TikTok ended with both the U.S. and Chinese governments potentially signaling approval of its deal with Oracle.
Last week, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, struck a deal with Oracle to avoid a U.S. ban. On Monday, Chinese state media called the deal “more reasonable to ByteDance,” and said it’s less costly than a shutdown.
“The plan shows that ByteDance’s moves to defend its legitimate rights have, to some extent, worked,” it added.
While not officially confirmed, this seems to suggest that the Chinese government may approve the deal.
It also came off the heels of Saturday, when President Donald Trump, after having suggested unhappiness with the deal last week, said he has given his approval “in concept.” He will still need to officially sign off on it before the deal is set into motion.
Because of that, the U.S. Commerce Department staved off a download ban that was set for Sunday, now pushing it back to this coming Sunday, Sept. 27.
Some Republicans, such as Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), have still expressed concern because ByteDance won’t be handing over its secretive algorithm as part of the deal.
What’s in the Deal?
On Saturday, Oracle released more details of its deal with TikTok. Under it, Oracle and Walmart would take a combined 20% stake in TikTok Global.
Still, there’s been much back and forth over how much control ByteDance, will have under the agreement. For his part, Trump has claimed that TikTok Global will “be a brand new company… It will have nothing to do with China.”
However, ByteDance has maintained that it will retain 80% of the stake. The discrepancy here seems to be because 40% of ByteDance is owned by U.S. venture capital firms. Therefore, Trump could technically claim that TikTok Global will be majority-owned by U.S. money.
Trump doubled down Monday and said that he would not approve the deal if ByteDance retained ownership. He added that the Chinese-owned company will “have nothing to do with it, and if they do, we just won’t make the deal.”
Later, Oracle announced that ByteDance will not have any stake in TikTok Global, though this statement heavily conflicts with what is being reported in China.
“Upon creation of TikTok Global, Oracle/Walmart will make their investment and the TikTok Global shares will be distributed to their owners, Americans will be the majority and ByteDance will have no ownership in TikTok Global,” the company said.
According to Walmart and Oracle, if this deal goes through, TikTok Global will pay $5 billion in new tax dollars to the U.S. Treasury over the next few years. As both companies noted, this is just a projection of future corporate taxes, and that estimate could change.
The water around that $5 billion figure was later muddied as Trump claimed that TikTok Global would be donating “$5 billion into a fund for education so we can educate people as to [the] real history of our country — the real history, not the fake history.”
To be clear, Trump is referring to his plans to establish a “patriotic education” commission.
On Sunday, ByteDance said in a statement that this was the first it had heard about a $5 billion education fund.
In fact, TikTok Global never promised to start an education fund. Instead, it promised to create an “educational initiative to develop and deliver an AI-driven online video curriculum to teach children from inner cities to the suburbs a variety of courses from basic reading and math to science, history and computer engineering.”
That initiative doesn’t seem to have anything to do with that $5 billion tax figure. Since he began pursuing a ban, Trump has vowed that the U.S. will receive some form of commission from a deal with TikTok. As far as it is known, this $5 billion figure is also not that commission.
As previously reported, this deal will allow Oracle to host TikTok’s user data on its cloud service and review TikTok’s code for security. According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, it would also shift TikTok’s global headquarters from China to the U.S.
On top of that, TikTok’s board members would reportedly have to be approved by the U.S. government, with one being an expert in data security. That person would also hold a top-secret security clearance.
Commerce Department Announces Download Ban
Friday seemed like the beginning of the end for TikTok. That morning, the Commerce Department issued an order that would ban U.S. downloads of not only TikTok but also WeChat starting Sunday night.
Both bans were a result of concerns the Trump administration has that ByteDance and WeChat’s parent company, Tencent, are either already giving or could give U.S. user data to the Chinese government.
The Trump administration has repeatedly said that both apps pose a national security threat.
TikTok and ByteDance have consistently denied these claims, saying that U.S. user data is stored domestically with a backup in Singapore. WeChat, for its part, has also made similar statements.
The download ban was announced in response to two Aug. 6 executive orders from Trump. Those orders ban any U.S.-based transactions with TikTok and WeChat starting on Sept. 20, which is why the Commerce Department set the deadline for this past Sunday.
While this ban would have been much more restrictive for WeChat because a large part of its functionality relies heavily on in-app transactions, for TikTok at least, it would only affect new downloads and updates to the app.
“So if that were to continue over a long period of time, there might be a gradual degradation of services, but the basic TikTok will stay intact until Nov. 12,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business on Friday.
“If there’s not a deal by Nov. 12, under the provisions of the old order, then TikTok would also be, for all practical purposes, shut down.”
What Happens on Nov. 12?
Ross is referring to another executive order, this one signed on Aug. 14. Notably, it gives ByteDance 90 days to divest from its American assets and any data that TikTok had gathered in the U.S. As Ross pointed out, that requirement could be satisfied if a deal is reached before the deadline.
If that doesn’t happen, the TikTok app could begin to see lags, lack of functionality, and sporadic outages.
However, it’s not just the U.S. One of the big questions that loomed after Oracle and ByteDance confirmed their deal last week was whether or not China would also need to approve it. ByteDance later confirmed that it will need the confirmation of the Chinese government, despite the deal not involving a technology transfer.
Downloads Soar and TikTok Sues
On Friday, downloads for both apps soared. TikTok was downloaded nearly a quarter of a million times that day, up 12% from the previous day. WeChat was downloaded 10,000 times, up 150%.
The same Friday, TikTok as a company criticized the Commerce Department order, saying it had already committed to “unprecedented levels of additional transparency.”
TikTok added that the order “threatens to deprive the American people and small businesses across the US of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods.”
Later Friday, TikTok sued the Trump Administration to stop the download ban.
On Sunday, a federal judge also halted the download ban for WeChat with a preliminary injunction. The injunction additionally blocks the Commerce Department’s attempt to bar transactions on the app.
The Commerce Department responded by saying that it’s preparing for a long legal battle.
TikTokers: “Scared, angry, and confused”
“I’ve mostly just been feeling scared, angry, and confused,” TikToker Isabella Avila, known online as onlyjayus, told Rogue Rocket on Monday. “Those are just the main things.”
Avila has amassed a following of 8.7 million followers on TikTok in a relatively short amount of time. She’s also gained about half a million followers on YouTube and Instagram each.
A couple of months ago, Avila said she thought a potential ban was all just talk; however, as the situation progressed, she said she became more worried.
While she said that she personally thought her career could survive a TikTok ban (thanks in part to a Netflix podcast deal), she added, “The people in-between a 100,000 to a million [followers], they have a platform right now, and if TikTok’s were to be gone, their platform’s pretty much gone if they haven’t built an audience on anything else.
“This is where we go to express ourselves,” she said. “This is where we go to make videos. I don’t know, TikTok gave everybody a chance to kind of get famous and have a following. That’s what people liked about it. YouTube, it’s really hard to get followers and subscribers. TikTok was a lot easier.”
Avila also expressed that a ban wouldn’t just be detrimental to creators.
“I feel like my generation needed an app,” Avila said. “There was Instagram and Twitter, but it was kind of like for the millennials. Gen Z didn’t really have an app, and TikTok kind of fit that spot, so if TikTok’s gone, I don’t know, I feel like Gen Z isn’t really going to have a place.”
Avila now says she is largely hopeful that TikTok will not be banned in the U.S.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NBC News) (Axios)
Spotify CEO Defends Keeping Joe Rogan Podcast Episodes That Some Employees Slammed as Transphobic
- Spotify reportedly held a company-wide meeting Wednesday where several employees expressed disdain for the fact that the platform carries certain episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience which they say include “transphobic” remarks.
- “You realize that people are not looking at this objectively,” Rogan said in a July podcast. “They are activists. they have this agenda, and the agenda is very ideologically driven that anybody who even thinks they might be trans should be trans, are trans, and the more trans people the better. And the more kids that transition, the better.”
- In another episode, Rogan deadnamed and misgendered Caitlin Jenner when describing a joke he performed in 2016 that suggested Jenner had been “[talked] into” becoming a woman by the Kardashian-Jenner’s.
- According to Vice’s Motherboard, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said the company heard its staff’s concerns but has decided that the content in question will not be removed. A spokesperson later said that the content did not violate the platform’s policies.
Spotify Employees Want Certain JRE Podcasts Pulled
At an internal company-wide meeting on Wednesday, Spotify employees reportedly voiced concerns about the platform carrying episodes of Joe Rogan’s podcast which include comments they found“transphobic.”
Vice’s Motherboard first reported on the news, citing three sources who provided details of the meeting. All remained anonymous because they aren’t authorized to discuss internal Spotify issues with the press.
According to these sources, several employees reportedly asked CEO Daniel Ek why these episodes remained on the platform, with one employee saying LGBTQ+ employees “feel unwelcome and alienated because of leadership’s response in JRE conversations.”
“Why has Spotify chosen to ignore Spectrum [Employee Resource Group’s] guidance about transphobic content in the [Joe Rogan Experience] catalog?” another employee allegedly asked Ek.
One of the moments the employees are referring to stems from a podcast in July. In it, Rogan spoke with Abigail Shrier, author of the book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.
“And by the resistance to your book and the resistance to these conversations, we realize that people are not looking at this objectively,” Rogan said of transgender issues. “This is not something that everyone’s looking at all sides of it. They are activists. They have this agenda, and the agenda is very ideologically driven that anybody who even thinks they might be trans should be trans, are trans, and the more trans people the better. And the more kids that transition, the better.”
Ek Defends Keeping Controversial Podcasts
For now, Spotify has taken the stance that this episode can remain on the platform.
“In the case of Joe Rogan, a total of 10 meetings have been held with various groups and individuals to hear their respective concerns,” Ek said at the meeting, according to Motherboard’s sources. “And some of them want Rogan removed because of things he’s said in the past.”
“Others have concerns specifically over a recent episode,” Ek reportedly added in reference to Rogan’s July podcast with Shrier. “And Joe Rogan and the episode in question have been reviewed extensively. The fact that we aren’t changing our position doesn’t mean we aren’t listening. It just means we made a different judgment call.”
Notably, those three internal sources also told Motherboard that Ek instructed employees not to leak this discussion to the media, reportedly saying “If we can’t have open, confidential debates, we will have to move those discussions to closed doors.”
Once this story did reach the media, however, a Spotify spokesperson told Motherboard: “At Spotify, we are strongly committed to the LGBTQ+ community and diversity in all of its forms. All employees are respected and we believe that everyone has a right to be heard.”
“All content on Spotify is subject to our long-standing content guidelines. Our diverse team of experts reviewed the content in question and determined that it did not meet the criteria for removal from our platform.”
Rogan’s Comments About Caitlyn Jenner
In addition to Rogan’s podcast featuring Shrier, Rogan has also come under fire for a Sept. 11 podcast with mixed martial artist Tim Kennedy. In that episode, Rogan deadnames and misgenders Caitlyn Jenner.
He also Rogan breaks down his writing process for a joke he made about Jenner in his 2016 Netflix special, “Triggered.”
“I wanted to get to, people are saying, ‘He was born a woman. He’s always been a woman,’” Rogan said of Jenner. “I was like, ‘Maybe, or maybe if you live with crazy bitches long enough, they fucking turn you into one.’ Maybe you go crazy. Maybe that, too.”
After calling the Kardashian-Jenner family “crazy bitches,” Rogan proceeded to continue breaking down his joke.
“And so I came up with this thing where they’re demons and they whisper in his ear in the middle of the night, and they talk him into being a woman, but it took forever to figure out a way — but it worked.”
“Like, it worked, and people didn’t even get mad at me for it. I just had to figure out a way to do it, where first of all, I belittle myself, and then, I explain it in a way where it’s not dehumanizing trans people. It’s just like saying, ‘Are we sure?’”
However, a number of people have now criticized those comments, including Jenner herself, who told TMZ Wednesday, “This is not the first time he’s said things like this.”
“He’s a homophobic, transphobic ass.”
“Joe Rogan has absolutely no idea when it comes to trans issues,” she continued. “He says maybe because I was around all these ‘crazy bitches’ that I, you know, transitioned. It’s not even close. I’ve had these — I’ve been gender dysphoric my entire life.”
Some have pushed back on the idea that Rogan’s comments about Jenner were deliberately malicious, arguing that they began and ended as a joke.
“Being gender dysphoric, transitioning, all of that is not a joke,” Jenner said in response to such defense of Rogan. “It’s very serious stuff. You’re concerning family, friends, society, all of these types of things, and I just feel like Joe Rogan has a lot to learn.”
In 2018, Twitter banned the misgendering or deadnaming transgender people — a move Rogan has been critical of.
Previous Accusations of Censorship
At the beginning of the month, Rogan’s exclusive streaming deal with Spotify officially began. Almost immediately after the platform started hosting his old podcasts, users noticed that some old episodes didn’t appear. That’s despite the fact that Rogan had said that his entire library would be available to stream.
Notably, at the time, it also seemed like the missing podcasts had a common link: they all featured controversial figures such as Alex Jones, Chris D’Elia, Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnes.
However, people later began to notice that several other missing episodes featured far less controversial figures such as actor Tommy Chong and comedian Nick Kroll.
Nonetheless, many accused Spotify of censoring controversial voices, especially since Rogan is known for talking to people across the political spectrum.
Later, Alex Jones, who said he spoke with Rogan about the matter, claimed Spotify needed to migrate over 1,500+ files, some of which were corrupted. He also said that Spotify wanted a second rollout of episodes.
“Here’s the key,” Jones added. “Joe Rogan’s favorite 100 episodes of the last 10 years or so will be left on YouTube starting December 31 when he goes exclusively to Spotify. For this couple months no man’s land the content will be on both platforms and will be migrating over.”
“And so that’s why the Alex Jones interview is not there. That’s why some of the other interviews aren’t there. Because those are going to be the exclusive interviews that are left on YouTube where, in Joe’s words, they’ll probably get more views than if they were on Spotify.”
See what others are saying: (Vice Motherboard) (Insider) (Fox News)
Celebs Quit Instagram for a Day To Protest Facebook’s “Failures” in Stopping Hate Speech and Misinformation, Critics Call It Performative
- On Monday and Tuesday, a host of celebrities said they would be joining the Stop Hate for Profit campaign by freezing their Instagram accounts for 24 hours on Wednesday.
- The move is an attempt to pressure Facebook to better combat misinformation and hate speech on the platform, which owns Instagram.
- The list of celebrities involved includes Kim Kardashian West, Mark Ruffalo, Demi Lovato, Jennifer Lawrence, Katy Perry, Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael B. Jordan, and Rosario Dawson, among others.
- Many online have criticized this movement as simply performative, saying such as short freeze won’t actually accomplish anything.
- Jim Steyer, the chief executive of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that’s part of the campaign, has said the freeze is only the first part of a larger round of messaging.
Stars Join Stop Hate for Profit Campaign
A host of celebrities paused their Instagram accounts for 24 hours starting Wednesday to demand that Facebook take better action against misinformation and hate speech.
Though the protest is mainly taking place on Instagram, Facebook is the main focus of the movement because it owns the photo-sharing platform.
On Monday, celebrities such as Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Lawrence, and Sasha Baron Cohen announced that they would be taking part in the campaign known as Stop Hate for Profit.
“Facebook claims they address hate, yet they continue to look the other way as racist, violent groups and posts sow division and split America apart – only taking steps after people are killed,” Ruffalo said.
“While they share empty talk about voting, they continue allowing blatant lies and misinformation on election to spread–undermining our democracy. That’s why this Wednesday, I am “freezing” my Instagram account to tell Facebook to #StopHateForProfit.”
On Tuesday, a host of other celebrities joined the boycott, including Kim Kardashian West, who made a very similar statement to that of Ruffalo’s. In addition to Instagram, Kardashian West said she would also be freezing her Facebook page for 24 hours.
What is Stop Hate for Profit?
According to Stop Hate for Profit’s website, it is a campaign aimed at holding “social media companies accountable for hate on their platforms.”
“Social media must prioritize people over profit, and they must do it now,” the campaign added.
Notably, the campaign is made up of several civil rights organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP.
On its website, the campaign cites several recent controversies on Facebook, including one involving a militia event for counterprotests in Kenosha, Washington. That event was flagged by users for promoting violence after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. When the page originally vanished, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the platform had removed the event; however, BuzzFeed News later reported that the militia group itself had taken down the event first.
As for why this campaign is targetting Facebook and Instagram specifically, it said, “Other social media companies have heard our message and started to step up.”
It then went on to list examples of how it believes Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube have addressed misinformation and hate speech, adding, “While these steps are not sufficient, they show a commitment toward real progress.”
“More importantly, these companies are sitting at the table with us and actively working to take additional steps to protect the civil rights of their users, tackle hate and harassment on their platforms, and safeguard our democracy.”
Social Media Rips into Celeb-Driven Campaign
The Instagram freeze has been met with a hefty amount of criticism and sarcasm from social media users online.
For instance, below Mark Ruffalo’s Monday tweet, many were skeptical that the protest’s short time frame would ever result in lasting change.
Wow. A whole day. That’ll show ‘em. 🙄— 😷 Elle Chestnut 🦆🏒 (@CopperSorrel) September 15, 2020
I’d rather see a “freeze” for an entire month. I don’t think a day will accomplish much, if anything.— AJ Strong (@aj_strong) September 15, 2020
In a similar post Ruffalo made to Facebook Thursday morning, one user said:
“How about you make some really big statement and just delete and get off of these social media platforms all together! They’re making billions of dollars and if you think boycotting for a 24 hour period is going to make even the slightest dent, I think you’re sadly mistaken. I’m in the process of deleting all my social media accounts even though I have a Business and it will hurt. Doing it anyway because there has to be a better and more responsible way to promote my business.”
Stop Hate for Profit’s July Campaign
Encouraging businesses to pull out of Facebook is actually an effort the Stop Hate for Profit campaign has already engaged in.
In July, the campaign persuaded more than 1,000 advertisers to pause their ad spending on the platform. Notably, that included big names like Adidas, Reebok, Best Buy, Chipotle, Coca-Cola, Target; however, a later report showed that even between boycotters and other reduced spenders, Facebook’s ad revenue in July didn’t really suffer all that much.
Because of that, some have continued to question how a single-day Instagram boycott will pressure Facebook. Some have also drawn parallels between this movement and June’s one-day #BlackoutTuesday Instagram trend, which was understood as a way to show solidarity with Black victims of police brutality and racism. During that event, some on social media accused others of simply engaging in a “performative” stunt. Others argued that such posts could actually hurt the Black Lives Matter movement by silencing critical hashtags and Black voices behind the initial campaign.
Now, people like Jenna Golden, the head of a consulting firm in Washington, have denounced the Stop Hate for Profit campaign as “worthless if temporary and short-lived (which they always are.)”
“If anything, they shine a light on the fact that we cannot live without these platforms since everyone always comes back (brands included.),” she added.
While there has been serious concern from many, others have been supportive of celebrities taking part in the campaign.
“I’m in!! Facebook is destroying minds, friendships, families, businesses,” one person tweeted in reply to Sasha Baron Cohen. “The false information that is being believed by previously rational people is destructive beyond belief. It has to stop.”
Jim Steyer, the chief executive of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group that has joined the campaign, told The New York Times on Tuesday that the Instagram freeze is just the beginning of a larger awareness campaign.
Steyer added that once the 24-hour expires on Thursday, celebrities will begin sharing educational messages aimed specifically at their younger followers. He said those messages will promote democracy and will offer explanations into how social media platforms spread misinformation, broadcast hate speech, and allow far-right groups to form online.