Social media outs attendees of Charlottesville rally

President Trump isn't the only one under fire in the wake of the Charlottesville violence. A social media campaign is "outing" people who attended the right-wing rally, including a WSU student who was forced to resign as leader of the College Republicans.

Editor’s Note: The original headline of this story was changed because it did not adequately reflect the substance of the article.

The point of the piece was never to defend the expression of racist or other hate speech online. The story, which was based in part on an interview with University of Washington communications instructor Hanson Hosein, looked at the impact of social media outrage. The text of the story as it first appeared is below, with some editing for flow and the addition of information.

Original story:

Public shaming Neo-Nazis or the KKK may feel good to the masses, but it also may have unintended and unwanted consequences, according to a Seattle expert who studies communications in the digital era.

The expert’s comments come in the wake of a social media campaign "outing" people who attended the right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend, including a WSU student who was forced to step down as leader of the school's College Republicans. 

With his own Youtube channel and 14,000 Twitter followers, 21-year-old James Allsup of Bothell outed himself as a member of the far right long ago.

"I consider myself to be a paleo conservative. A right wing libertarian," he said in a phone conversation with KING 5 last weekend.

Allsup said he went to Charlottesville to cover it for his Youtube Channel. But on Saturday, he became one of a handful of attendees identified in the "YesYoureRacist" Twitter feed, re-tweeted 20,000 times. 

In the fallout, both his school and the College Republicans, for which he led the local chapter, acted quickly to distance themselves and denounce the rally.

The next day Allsup tweeted his resignation, saying he "would expedite the pres. transition process."

"I wouldn't call this social justice; it's almost frontier justice. It's very wild west," said Hanson Hosein, UW's director of Communications Leadership Program.

He advises against such campaigns.

"That is the beauty of social media, and the challenge is that it gives us an immediate release, but also we do it without thinking. And it reaches the world. It's not like we do it in our neighborhood and we do something bad and gossip. This is actually something that radiates outwards and has exponential impact," Hosein said.

Hosein pointed out that in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, Reddit wrongly identified two men as the suspects. 

Right or wrong, he said, this type of outing can mean losing face, losing jobs or even friends and family members.

"What happens to them after that might be worst than the cure we somehow enforced on social media. They may become even more disenfranchised to the point they become more extremist," Hosein said, noting that social media campaigns attacking a conservative today will only spur similar attacks on a liberal individual or organization (and in fact already are).

Responding to the social media attacks on him following the weekend’s violence, Allsup said: "They're retaliating by trying to ruin peoples lives. I may completely disagree with Antifa or these other groups. But I think it's reprehensible and sub-human to go after someone or their family because of their political views."

Allsup said he disavows the KKK and Nazism.

He is well-known on the WSU-Pullman campus as an outspoken conservative. Last year during the presidential campaign, he led a student group in the construction of a mock wall in support of then-candidate Trump’s call for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Allsup’s own social media postings from shortly before the Charlottesville violence also show that he was not there simply to cover the nationalist rally, but was actively sympathetic to its message.

© 2017 KING-TV


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