BLM movement faces controversy from all fronts

Racial and social injustices broadcasted through TikTok and Twitter

As an avenue for posting vacation pics, funny dog memes, and Kardashians filtering  their entire family, social media has also become instrumental in spreading social injustices and cultural awareness.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have given birth to such social movements as #Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and  numerous others covering a wide-range of social unrest from the LGBTQIA+ community to animal rights activitists.  As these gain supporters, social media has become a prime source of spreading awareness and being an outlet for any news on the matter. However, social media platforms have also been used as a counter movement platform for those against the groups’ ideologies.

Starting off with ending slavery after the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement in 1954-1968, Black Lives Matter was organize in 2013 by three women, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi when they created the hashtag and a call for action against oppression.  According to the Black Lives Matter website, the movement “was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman.”  Martin was a 17-year-old student who was shot by Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida in 2012.  Zimmerman entered a plea of “not guilty due to self-defense” and the charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence to prove otherwise. 

Although the subject of racial injustices has been a major part of American history, the death of a man named George Floyd is what re-ignited the Black Lives Matter movement in recent months.

On May 25,  46-year-old black man George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis when a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. Whilst paying for his items, a grocery store employee called the police because they suspected Floyd was using a counterfeit $20.  Although George Floyd did not attempt to struggle while he was handcuffed, police persisted in keeping him on the ground with their knee on his neck.

“I can’t breathe,” said George Floyd while the police officer was kneeling on his neck. 

This phrase that George Floyd said multiple times during the nine minutes before he ultimately died has been used as one of the main rallying cries for the BLM protestors. 

Minneapolis took to the headlines but this issue did not just remain in Minneapolis, it spread all across the world. Protests sprang up in every state, including Florida, bringing all those who support the BLM movement together to stop these racial injustices. 

While the protests were happening left and right, those who were not able to go or felt that their voices were not being heard used social media as their outlet. TikTok and Twitter were the two main sources for information on the Black Lives Matter movement during the coming times after George Floyd’s death.

“I have definitely noticed how my generation has taken to social media in regards to topics such as the BLM movement, because of how effective it is,” said senior Talia Pondiscio.  “Spreading the word through social media is one of the most efficient ways of relaying information, which allowed me to learn more about the current issue.”

This source of information has allowed millions of people to learn something that they otherwise wouldn’t have known or had much thought about.

Unfortunately, when using apps such as TikTok and Twitter, the person using the app has to rely on that social media platform to approve their content. This means that tweets from Twitter and videos from TikTok about the Black Lives Matter movement have been, and can be, taken down if they do not correlate with the guidelines of the app. 

An example of this is when a YouTuber with over 400,000 subscribers, Meghan Hughes, posted a video on June 5 about the Black Lives Matter movement which was subsequently taken down because she violated one of the platform’s policies. YouTube deleted the video because she was violating their donation policy by encouraging her viewers to watch advertisements when they otherwise wouldn’t.  According to YouTube, her video was also encouraging her viewers to donate to the BLM movement and giving them ideas on how to donate, therefore further violating the guidelines.

People who are not in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement can also find a way to oppress the movement through social media, because, on any form of social media, it allows viewers to report content. After a video on TikTok has been reported (which could be by just one person), it is then examined by TikTok headquarters to see if it violates community guidelines or terms of service.

The problem with this is if a group of non-supporters all began reporting informational videos of the BLM movement, then the videos will just be taken down without further investigation. This is ultimately oppressing the movement and preventing more people from being informed of what is going on in the world.

“Yes, I have heard about BLM videos being taken down,” noted senior Daniela Curto. “In my opinion, lots of times companies shy away from something controversial, even if said thing is a worthy cause for monetary gain.”

Blackout Tuesday took place on June 2, 2020. This day was a collective action for anyone to be able to protest from home against racism and police brutality. The purpose of this day was to go to your social media platforms and post a black screen in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement, with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter and #blackouttuesday.

Millions of people, including high profile celebrities, participated in this day to show support for the growing movement. Sadly, white supremacists thought of the idea as a joke and participated, so that when someone clicked on the #blacklivesmatter hashtag, they would only see black screens instead of actual information. However, through quick thinking, activists throughout social media fixed this problem by using #blackouttuesday instead to ensure that viewers would be able to see more information on how to help around the nation.

Social media movements can spread their messages around the world to audiences that might not have been aware of the injustices, but with a worldwide platform, there is always going to be audiences on both sides of the fence. 

For more information on #BLM