Sean Larson is a jerk. Well, he wouldn’t call himself that. He’d call himself a pick-up artist. For weeks he systematically harassed female students at Ohio State University. Finally ,one frequent harassee had enough. So she went to Reddit.
Reddit might not be the most obvious choice of an activist platform. Though President Obama participated on an ask me anything (AMA) forum on the site in 2012 and it is owned by old media behemoth Condé Nast, it is also a bit of a free-for-all, with subreddits (forums) dedicated to a wide range of topics, from atheism to rape fantasies. There is also an Ohio State subreddit.
Three weeks ago, a woman posted the following message on the OSU subreddit:
Using this semi-anonymous pseudonymous platform the poster was able to come forward while protecting her own identity. Other women did the same. 400 comments later, the perpetrator was identified as “Sean Larson” (a pseudonym used by a man allegedly named [redacted]).
Sean runs a site called The Underground Player, where he spews creepy idiocy and misogynistic tips on securing sexual favors from women. He also posts videos of women, apparently without their consent. (I won’t link to the site, but you can Google it.)
Sean showed up on the Reddit thread, spouting misogyny, but no one took his side. Male students also stepped forward to mock and troll him, in a heartening show of feminist solidarity by college bros.
Though Sean claimed not to be fazed (#PlayersAreUnstoppable), he did admit that he had been functionally ejected from campus on the OSU Facebook page (more on BroBible).
The lesson here is that the right technology is the one the works. The OSU subreddit was heavily trafficked by students, so the original poster knew she could get attention on her issue. Also, because of the username system, she could share her story of abuse without revealing her own identity, a critical features she would not have had on a platform like Facebook.
There is no single best technology for activism. There are different technologies that are appropriate for different contexts. Who do you need to engage in order to achieve your goal? What media do they use? What additional concerns (like anonymity) might influence your media choice? These are the kinds of questions to ask when selection the best media platform for your activist cause.
Image: Flickr/ European Parliament, altered