In the past week, we’ve talked a lot about internet bullies. We’ve discussed where they can be found, how they operate, and what you can do to stop them, but let’s take a step back. The internet isn’t populated exclusively by jerks. In fact, there are plenty of examples of times when the good people of the internet have risen up to take a bully down a peg. The web has its own conscience, and every so often we get to see it swing into action. Here are five examples.
PR professional Justine Sacco was allegedly trying to be ironic when she tweeted “”Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Before boarding a flight to Johannesburg. The tweet, whatever its intentions, was picked up by a number of blogs and media outlets as an example blatant racism on the part of someone who really ought to have known better. By the time Sacco’s plane touched down in South Africa the internet had trended the hashtag #WhenJustineLands worldwide and pressured her employer into sacking her immediately.
When goth-pop starlet Natalia Kills decided to take out her personal frustrations on a hapless contestant on X-Factor New Zealand, the only thing she killed was her own career. Kills blasted contestant Joe Irvine for “copying” the style of her husband, New Zealand pop singer Willy Moon. Kills verbal assault on Irvine was so harsh it nearly reduced the hopeful to tears and that was enough to make the internet show its claws. Branded a bully on Twitter and Facebook, Kills and Moon quickly became the subject of a campaign to have them removed from their spots on the X-Factor judging panel. Kills and her husband were both quickly dropped from the program and have been on a seemingly endless apology tour ever since, but it seems like the internet just isn’t having it.
When Sean O’Brien was spotted by some club goers trying to have a dance in an LA nightclub he was photographed and mocked for his weight. A redditor posted the photo below along with the comment “Spotted this specimen trying to dance the other week. He stopped when he saw us laughing.” Why someone would take so much pleasure in preventing another person from enjoying life is difficult to say. Twitter user Cassandra Fairbanks (@CassandraRules) didn’t think it was very funny either, so she tweeted out in an effort to find “The Dancing Man.” The internet was able to locate Sean, who got the last laugh with his own dance party and a host of new internet fans and supporters.
The ALS Ice Bucket “Pranksters”
Remember the Ice Bucket challenge? A well-meaning meme designed to draw attention, as well as donations, to ALS? The meme caught fire last year with millions of internet users participating along with celebrities, YouTube stars, and business leaders. The campaign was a bona fide success, but of course, someone had to take it to a dark place. A group of bullies tricked an autistic teen into doing an Ice Bucket challenge, only they filled the bucket with human waste. They even filmed the whole thing with his own cell phone. The video went viral but the internet wasn’t as amused as the perpetrators and a campaign was quickly launched to identify the jerks responsible. Celebrities even jumped on board with Price Is Right host Drew Carey and lady who is afraid of childhood vaccines Jenny McCarthy each contributing $10,000 to a bounty for the bullies’ names. The perpetrators were quickly identified and punished.
Never doubt the power of a motivated mom with a Facebook account. Melissa Camus was understandably heartbroken when no one RSVP’d for her son Odin’s 13th birthday. Odin has Aspergers and has suffered bullying from peers at school. Not wanting to see her son disappointed Melissa took to Facebook with a simple request. She asked a local Facebook group to send her son birthday wishes or texts. The internet decided to do her one better. The campaign went viral and Odin received more than 5,000 birthday texts and nearly 11,000 birthday wishes via Twitter. Among those were personalized messages from his local team the Toronto Raptors, and messages from actor Elijah Wood and Property Brother Jonathan Scott. The city of Toronto even turned out hundreds of well wishers for Odin’s upgraded birthday bash at the Lakeview Bowling alley.
The internet can be a rough neighborhood. The ease of being annonymous allows people to give in to some of their worst impulses. However, the power of crowds and the innate good intentions of strangers can be just as powerful as the act of a single bully. It’s comforting to know that when push comes to shove, the internet community will stand up and do what’s right.