Mega social media website Facebook is a great place to hook up with long-lost friends, make new contacts and even catch up on some juicy gossip. But the website does have a bit of a darker side.
It is a lot easier for people to comment on status updates, news articles or social comment when the rest of the world don’t know who they are. It’s the old thought that online people can say and do what they want, and while it can’t be done entirely anonymously, there is still a degree of the unknown when you post a comment.
In general, most comments and status updates posted to Facebook are nothing more than regular conversation and banter with a picture here and there, but a small amount of people enjoy spewing hate or posting racially-charged comments and status updates.
If you had to review your status updates or comments, would you be completely comfortable with them all being plastered on a billboard near your home? Would you be comfortable to read your status updates and comments out loud in public?
That is exactly what the Virtual Racism campaign in Brazil has done. Criola, a group that works to defend the rights of black women in the country, had a look at some of the racist comments posted on Facebook and decided to post them up on billboards close to the homes of those who posted them.
Ironically, a flurry of racial comments were flung towards weather presenter Maria Julia Coutinho on Brazil’s National Day to Combat Racial Discrimination; those comments and inflammatory statements were the ones Criola posted up.
“We wanted to provoke reflection. Does a comment on the internet cause less damage than a direct offense? For those who comment, maybe. But for those who suffer it, the prejudice is the same,” the group explains on its website.
Criola had no intention of naming and shaming the posters, but instead wanted to raise awareness, and so erected the billboards in such a way that the original poster’s identity was concealed. “This way people can think about the consequences before posting this kind of comment on the internet.”
All comments made were in Portuguese, but the group has translated some of them into English. Below are only three of the billboards, courtesy of Criola.