icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm

If you use social media to threaten to 'stab' someone, it’s not down to Facebook, Twitter or TikTok to save you from yourself

Damian Wilson
Damian Wilson
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
If you use social media to threaten to 'stab' someone, it’s not down to Facebook, Twitter or TikTok to save you from yourself
Corporate giants are boycotting advertising on Facebook because of “hate speech”. But can social-media platforms really be held responsible for the deluded rantings of those who’ve simply never been taught how to behave online?

Facebook, Google, Twitter, TikTok and all those other tech behemoths hosting social-media platforms are facing an existential crisis, the outcome of which could shape how they work for years to come… if they’re still around, that is.

External efforts to tackle “hate speech’’ online, particularly at Facebook – led largely by advertisers boycotting the platform, but also attracting the attention of their royal wokenesses, Harry and Meghan – will fail. And they will do so because of the nature of the individuals using social media,

not because of weaknesses in the platform itself. We need to be promoting personal accountability, not corporate accountability.

While the self-appointed guardians of global morality – such as Coca-Cola, Ford, LEGO and, erm, Dunkin’ Donuts – push for social media to police their platforms, hunt down those saying harmful things and block their accounts, Twitter, TikTok and Facebook users will continue to choose the libertarian route and say whatever the hell they want, offence be damned.

There is some irony in producers of unhealthy sugary food products, fossil-fuel burning automobiles and microplastics using a boycotting campaign as a woke badge of honour, attempting to distract us from the harm they themselves are causing elsewhere. But that’s a separate issue.

The pressure is building on the tech companies, and there is some mawkish pleasure to be had from the awkward squirming of geeks like Mark Zuckerberg as he faces US Senate inquiries, or from his underlings dispatched around the globe, to explain Facebook’s dealings to various governmental committees.

Their behaviour shows exactly how ill-equipped the pioneers of social media are in dealing with anything that’s, well, truly social. Give them an algorithm and they’ll make you a fortune. Give them two warring woke keyboard warriors and they’ll make a total hash of it. The geek class are not social educators. 

And Zuckerberg, for one, has declared that, despite the boycott, “nothing’s gonna change” at Facebook. Maybe he’s right. Maybe we’re all looking in the wrong place for any sort of help in combating “hate speech” – which, it must be said, is something of a subjective label on social media. Instead of trying to squeeze behavioral diktats out of Zuckerberg, et al, surely it’s time that those most determined to get to grips with social media choose a different route?

Let’s start at the very beginning. If an elementary-school pupil is using a computer in class, they will have been told the fundamentals of staying safe online. So, while the teachers have their attention, surely it would make sense to give them some sound, practical advice and skills in online behaviour as well?

In countless media-training sessions, I’ve made it perfectly clear to attendees that you should say nothing online to another user that you wouldn’t say to their face. Simple. But no one listens, because everyone’s an expert after midnight with a bottle of Malbec and a smartphone. And they fear no reprisal. Oh no, not they, the speakers of truth unto power, the occupants of a higher plane. They can say what they want, and you can just SHUT THE F**K UP!

But for kids, whose online behaviour is – mostly – not complicated by drugs or alcohol, their drive is more likely to be an urge to explore social boundaries. Can they call someone a bitch online when if they said that to their sister in the family home, there would be hell to pay? Can they bully? Can they swear? Can they be cruel without reprisal? Can they just overwhelm and shut down anyone who disagrees with them?

Spend some time watching over your gaming kid’s shoulder, and you’ll be amazed how many times the gamers threaten to “kill” one another, and at the casual cruelty they use in their play. From gaming, it moves into messaging, and from messaging into social-media platforms, all largely unfiltered.

So, I can understand how we arrive at Claira Janover, an airhead Gen Z Harvard graduate recently featured making a fool of herself on TikTok, so socially unaware, so absorbed in her own entitlement and her ill-formed, half-baked view of the world.

Janover was sacked from her job at Deloitte, following a video she posted in which she announced she would “stab” anyone who thinks “all lives matter”. Actually, for a Harvard graduate, her, “I’ma stab you” threat was incredulously “street.”

She followed this up with another TikTok post of her sobbing over the very real rape and death threats she’d received online – from “Trump supporters,” apparently – who’d called her out on her claim.

This is the sort of reaction you’d expect from someone who has spent a lot of time immersed in the Mean Girls-style realm of online gaming and digital interaction, where young people threaten violence and abuse one another as part of their engagement.

The thing is, when they look away from the screen, they continue that behavior, posting madly inappropriate videos, stream-of-consciousness musings and “hate speech” as if their reality is inseparable from the game.

Spend five minutes looking at Janover’s TikTok clips and you’ll see how social media mixed with a left-leaning college education brings out the very worst in some people. Her “reflections” are dogmatic drivel masked as political comment and brook no disagreement. In true TikTok style, she argues with herself. Kinda social schizophrenia.

Even now, having lost her job, when she cries about how unfairly she’s been treated, disappointingly, there are those as dumb as she is out there defending her “metaphor” as an “analogy” or a “joke”. So, in some small sub-group of the online community, she’s being validated for her opinions. And that is all that matters to people like Janover. Because that approval will encourage others to emulate her with similar behavior, and anyone who dares to call them “unhinged” will be attacked for offending people with mental-health problems.

Also on rt.com As another pro-Trump activist gets banned from Twitter, here’s how Big Tech intends to sway the 2020 election for the Democrats

See how it goes? This is how the left perpetuates bad online behaviour, encourages its use and attempts to punish those who try to shut it down.

As most users of social media hail from the younger demographic, their natural left-leaning tendencies are nurtured not just as one way, but as the only way.

So, before the new generation of social-media users becomes the next generation of hateful, bilious, intolerant online citizens, let’s educate them about consequences, about critical thinking, about looking for truth and differentiating the real thing from the imposter quickly and confidently.

Let’s teach them how to stand their ground. What morality is. What empathy is. And how all these things should be at the forefront of their mind when interacting with others online.

Because if we drop the ball on this, then, when some crazy like Claira Janover, who is somebody’s daughter, does actually carry out their online threat to stab anyone who disagrees with them, we’ll have only ourselves to blame. But if we act now, maybe we can prevent it. Complacency is not an option.

Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Podcasts