How Facebook made my hairdresser a media star

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Boyko Boev

03 May 2012

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You may try to ignore racist slurs out of courtesy. If they come from the mouth of your hairdresser you better remain silent otherwise you risk getting home with an ugly haircut.

The story of a gossipy hairdresser who made racist comments on Facebook gave people of Bulgaria a lesson that social media is not a hairdresser’s saloon.

I got an unexpected phone call from the anchor of a popular morning show of the Bulgarian National Radio. She wanted to hear my reaction toward the virtual war between supporters of a hairdresser who said that Roma (Gipsy) are “lazy parasites” and opponents of the use of Facebook for racist expressions.

I learned that for several hours the racist comments had been repeated many times online. New and uglier comments against the Roma followed. This expression drew up the attention of many citizens and human rights groups who had managed to convince the Prosecutor General to promise that he is going to order an investigation into the case and prosecution of the hairdresser.

I told the journalist that we cannot be tolerant to online racism of hairdressers in the same way we ignore out of courtesy racist remarks in their saloons. “So the place does matter”, the journalist said. “Yes, everything we say on the Internet can reach millions of people in contrast to our private conversations. Therefore even seemingly innocuous expressions can hurt and offend if they are made online.”

“But I hate political correctness,” said the journalist. “You have a right of opinion of what you call political correctness,” I replied. “However, you cannot ignore the fact that the racist comments by the hairdresser had a snowball effect and that we are talking this morning because of the virtual war between racists and human rights activists. Some of the commentators are quite aggressive. People are afraid that the tension can escalate and get onto the streets”

“Should we punish the hairdresser?”, was the journalist’s final question. “Well, if I were to advise the public prosecutor, I would tell him to grab the opportunity to denounce hate speech and instead of making the hairdresser a martyr or a media star as a result of the criminal action against her, he should stop the hatred by inquiring the Facebook’s policy on hate speech. In fact, Facebook does not tolerate hate speech.” 

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