Even on the Internet, mob lynching can have devastating effects on the life of a person.
In case you don’t remember, a public relations executive at a powerful tech firm was fired last year in December after she posted a seemingly racist tweet about the African community before boarding a flight to – get this – Africa.
By the time Justine Sacco got off the plane, she found out she was “trending” on Twitter – for all the wrong reasons. Although she apologized upon realizing her mistake, the woman was shamed, criticized and even humiliated online, all of which resulted in her immediate termination from a job she loved.
In an upcoming book – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson – the disgraced executive gives her first interview since the incident in which she explains how self-righteous online lynching destroyed her life.
“I had a great career and I loved my job and it was taken away from me and there was a lot of glory in that,” Sacco told Ronson. “I cried out my body weight in the first 24 hours,” she added, addressing the infamous hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet, which went viral within minutes of her tweet.
Defending her controversial tweet she said, “It was a joke about a dire situation that does exist in post-apartheid South Africa that we don’t pay attention to. It was completely outrageous commentary on the disproportionate AIDS statistics. Unfortunately, I am not a character on South Park or a comedian, so I had no business commenting on the epidemic in such a politically incorrect manner on a public platform.”
While Sacco’s "needless and careless tweet" is a lesson in itself, there’s no denying the fact that the way she was treated was way too unfair.
It all started when Sacco’s comment was posted by Valleywag – a gossip media column operated by Gawker – and from there it was picked up by other mainstream organizations such as The New York Times and CNN. Not just that, some brands even tried to cash in on her misery. It was absurd – but it happened.
Sacco’s story is a good lesson for the impulsive Internet lynch mob. Let’s not jump to hasty conclusions and destroy people’s lives and livelihoods.