#ReformForRonnie – A Call For Change

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JustUs Geeks was started in 2012 to do one thing: connect with the millions of geeks and pop culture nerds all across the globe, and to bring you insights into a category of things trending in our community and world. Even though the podcast is on hiatus we’ve still been monitoring all things geek, through our Facebook Group JUGheads Inc., and this past week has been no different.

Yes, we lost a member of our JustUs Geeks family a little over a week ago. Yes, it was tragic in ways that Ronnie’s friends and family could only truly know. Yes, we’ve spent the past few days doing what a lot of you have done: dodging autoplaying videos, memes, and images of violence of our friend.

I’ve also spent that time trying to grieve the loss of our friend, while at the same time watching his Facebook account be overrun by trolls, and our JUG accounts (and my personal accounts) targeted as well for mourning the loss of our friend.

Things happened last Monday that I tried to prevent, and would love to change, but the honest truth is I can’t. No one can. And that’s no one’s fault, not even Ronnie’s.

To be clear, I’m writing this piece right now because of the way those events unfolded, and that series of events is what leads me to give life back to the JustUs Geeks by announcing our initiative: #ReformForRonnie – a call for change.

We have seen catastrophic breakdowns of terms of service and sets of standards from every single major social media platform over the past week: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and TikTok. After being alerted to some of these failures, Heavy.com reached out to me to discuss what I thought these failures were. Give the article a read to find out more about the specifics of these failures, with the ultimate breakdown of support by Facebook. Once these images of our friend began being inserted and hidden into TikTok videos, I knew that JUG needed to take action.

The relationship that you have with your favorite social media channel is unique, and it is indeed a relationship. These platforms depend on you for your data, so that they can do whatever it is they choose to do with it, to make revenue off of it through advertising and other avenues. At the same time we are growing more and more dependent on the social avenues to get our daily news, conduct business, and safely communicate with friends and loved ones during this time when we should still be socially distancing to stop the spread of COVID. But in this relationship, what do we, the user, actually get out of it while the companies make actual money off our usage? We get videos and images of violence, misinformation, misleading advice, and often times confusion. And why? Because we allow it.

That stops today.

We need social media reform immediately; any action other than immediate action is far too late. We need your help to bring about this immediate change.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Reddit, and Snapchat – we demand immediate changes to your current business model:

  • Accept responsibility for all content created, posted, and distributed on your platforms. Your software is actively being utilized to spread not only horrific videos of violence, but threats of violence, hate, and disinformation. You must immediately stop passing the blame on to the users when content you distribute actively harms them. It’s past time for you to accept this responsibility.
  • Respond efficiently when terms of service and standards violations occur. Efficiently doesn’t mean hours later; the standards by which you currently measure your support response time is not efficient. I have circulated my screenshot of the Facebook support response I received at 11:51 PM the night of Ronnie’s live stream; this was from a report I made when Ronnie was alive and well before his death. If Facebook had responded efficiently, the stream could have been terminated, his account suspended, and law enforcement could have been notified directly from Facebook. We know you are actively monitoring these situations, Facebook, so don’t continue to blame your response on COVID-19 or the user. Facebook: your current net worth is $805.45 BILLION DOLLARS – you have the financial capacity to respond to ANY terms of service violation in real time. As does every single other named social network. Responding to users efficiently is the least you could in return for the data that is harvested from every account and device you have access to. The only thing stopping real-time responses is the ability to care about the user. Change this immediately.
  • You must begin to uphold consequences at every single level when users and accounts violate, and repeatedly violate, your terms of services. It doesn’t matter if you are a troll reposting suicide videos, or the President of the United States, if you violate the Terms of Service there should be consequences. If it is a repeated offense, no matter the offense, there should be permanent consequences. Account suspensions, IP bans, and account deletions should not just be idle threats, but should occur across the board, no matter who the user is. If social media platforms took this hard stance, continual spread of violence, self harm, harassment, and misinformation would occur far less. Let’s be quite real: it’s hypocritical for Facebook to ban an image with a bare nipple, which we all have, and also ban the user for a variety of days, but refused multiple times to ban accounts continuing to share images, screenshots, and links to videos featuring acts of violence or groups that encourage violence.

Let me be clear: I am not saying the internet or social media should be censored. Not at all. Our acts of freedom take a variety of shapes and forms, but, if a social media platform has a standard list of rules to operate by, and you violate them, you should suffer consequences no matter who you are. If you continually spread disinformation about our a global pandemic on a social network, you should face the consequences. If you continually harass a victim’s family on social media, you should face consequences. If you post a suicide video for children to find hidden in cute cat videos, there should be consequences, legal and otherwise. There is no grey area here at all. The damage being done to our citizens, and others around the world, is something that we cannot measure yet, because not everyone will exhibit the same reaction.

This is not a request; it is a demand. Far too long people have just said, “Well, if you don’t like it than close your accounts.” That is simply not possible in today’s world by and large. These companies have spent YEARS suckering us in, replacing our traditional forms of communication and information, all while sucking every bit of sellable information out of us that they can. You think it’s a coincidence bot campaigns picked up and ARE STILL TODAY POSTING VIDEOS AND LINKS OF RONNIE’S DEATH ON FACEBOOK? NO! You click, they make a nominal fee; it’s all about profit.

Our journey starts today. This isn’t a political issue: all major party candidates for elected office on the upcoming November ballot should help us hold these companies responsible. We’ll work with Republicans, rednecks, Democrats, and Dungeon Masters to make sure this change happens.

You can help us, too. Help by reporting accounts and posts that violate a social media platforms Terms of Service. You can also help share our story about Ronnie, including our featured news articles on social platforms – this one especially.

You can help us the most by sharing a link to this article, along with the attached image, and by using the hashtag #ReformForRonnie so that we can spread this demand for change across all major social media platforms. Change only happens here with your help, and by fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves.

Do yourself a favor: go back and listen to episodes featuring Ronnie, starting with Episode 34. Don’t just remember his name – hear his voice, and then fight with us to make sure others that are hurting like our friend have the respect and dignity they deserve.

Demand #ReformForRonnie today.

 

About author

Josh Steen

Josh Steen is the founder of the JustUs Geeks, and is the host of the JustUs Geeks Podcast. Josh is also a dad, husband, and graphic designer. He geeks out over sports, video games, music, and Transformers. Have an idea for a story or podcast topic? Let him know via social media or email!

6 comments

  1. LS 14 September, 2020 at 00:34 Reply

    The Social Dilemma – watch it – the best answer is not regulating content – but regulating the manner in which money is being made by getting the echo chamber spinning as fast as possible

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