In the aftermath of the violent protests in Charlottesville over the weekend, internet vigilantes have taken it upon themselves to unmask the personal identities of those who attended the march with the intent of ruining their lives. However, when getting swept up in the quest for swift justice against those deemed racist, mistakes can have devastating consequences.
According to the New York Times, University of Arkansas assistant professor Kyle Quinn was one such case of mistaken identity. The New York Times reports the internet quickly pegged Quinn as the man in a photo seen marching while wearing an Arkansas Engineering shirt (since Quinn works at the Engineering Research Center). Soon after, keyboard warriors posted Quinn's personal information, including his address, and demanded he be fired over his participating in a rally he didn’t attend.
Except the man in the photo wasn't Quinn.
Quinn told the New York Times the mob that threatened him on social media as a result of the witch-hunt made him fear for his life, leading him and his wife to stay with a colleague.
He told the New York Times, “You have celebrities and hundreds of people doing no research online, not checking facts.”
“I’ve dedicated my life to helping all people, trying to improve health care and train the next generation of scientists, and this is potentially throwing a wrench in that,” he continued.
“There’s ostensibly a very quick jump into the first detail that emerges,” he explained.
Attempts to try to correct the record were unsuccessful. Mark Popejoy, an art director in Arkansas, and the University of Arkansas itself, confirmed to social media users that Quinn was not the man in the photo. Despite pleas to delete the tweets with Quinn’s personal information, many users refused to comply, and some even clung to their belief that Quinn had, in fact, marched in the rally.
Popejoy said, “I think it’s dangerous just to go out accusing people without any kind of confirmation of who they are, adding, “It can ruin people’s lives.”
Ruining people’s lives is, indeed, the point of the many social media accounts dedicating to “outing” people who are reportedly racist. One Twitter account in specific, “YesYoureRacist,” is spearheading the movement of outing people and posting their personal information in hopes of ruining Charlottesville participants' lives.
Despite the reported success of “outing” people as racists, it’s important to remember that making mistakes can ruin innocent people’s lives.
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