The most famous hacktivists may be the Internet group Anonymous, but Woke Twitter is causing a storm of its own. In early January 2016, the group exposed racist remarks made by three prominent individuals. Penny Sparrow, Chris Hart and Justin van Vuuren all had charges leveled against them as a result of this information going public, and Hart was suspended from his job at Standard Bank.
The name of the group has its origins in the slang term “woke”, which gained prominence during the Black Lives Matter and Rhodes Must Fall movements. The word woke signifies someone becoming socially and politically conscious and focusing on the real issues facing the world, but particularly the United States. It is not limited to race, but also tackles issues of sex and gender.
Woke Twitter is a faceless, anonymous group of “twitactivists” that use social media to propagate the offensive, racist or sexist quotes, pictures or new they find. They spread the information and the perpetrators with the hope that, with the truth out in the open, further steps can be taken. They do not believe America is as welcoming and progressive as it might seem. Woke Twitter is convinced only radical measures will transform the nation. However, this sort of virtual activism allowed because of social media can have real repercussions. People have become frightened, not knowing who is attacking them or sharing their personal information. Some believe that the freedom of speech, no matter how offensive, should not be cause for such aggression and anger being taken out on them.
Brenda Wardle, a legal analyst, does not agree. Wardle was born in East London and is note legal commentator. She holds a Master of Law and has published many books and papers relating to prison time, parole and reversing sentences. She works as the Chief Operating Office at the Wardle School of Law. During her studies, she specialized in many areas including medical law, media law, and constitutional law and fundamental rights.
According to Wardle, the right to human dignity is threatened by these racist, sexist or homophobic messages. She is of the opinion that the threat to the basic humanity of all people is greater than the repercussions of attacking a person’s free speech on sites such as Twitter. Wardle asserts that impinging a person’s dignity is a more serious crime than attacking a person’s words, and defends Woke Twitter for its campaigns.
One thing is certain: the age of privacy is over, and anything said or done risks being published (rightfully so or not) on social media and exposed by groups such as Woke Twitter.