If you’ve spent more than 5 minutes perusing Twitter, it’s safe to say that you’re familiar with the hostile nature of the social media site. The combination of relative anonymity and the immediacy of the medium, it has unfortunately become a hotbed for racism and online abuse. You would think with such a rampant issue, Twitter would have worked out a way to ensure that abusive users face some kind of retribution, at the very least deleting the offending tweets.
However, this is simply not the case, and most reports go unanswered, despite Twitter policy stating that users “may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.”
Israeli comedian living in Berlin, Shahak Shapira decided to make a point of this disconnect in a way that Twitter couldn’t easily ignore. In a YouTube video, Shapira explained, “The statements I reported weren’t just plain insults or jokes, but absolutely serious threats of violence, homophobia, xenophobia or Holocaust denial. Things that nobody should say and nobody should read.” Shapira reported over 300 offensive tweets, but only received responses from Twitter for nine of them.
Instead of sitting on his hands and doing nothing, Shapira took to the streets and spray painted graffiti of the tweets in front of the Berlin Twitter offices, essentially forcing the employees located at the office to stare the discrimination right in the face. One can’t help but think that the effort is slightly fruitless, as these everyday employees probably have no say in policy, but this is hardly the first time that street art has been used to make a point. Shapira did a similar project with YOLOCAUST, which combined pictures of Holocaust victims with Instagram images to shame people who took selfies at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial.
While people may question the efficacy of his methods, it’s undeniable that this is a conversation that needs to be had.