Guest Viewpoint: WEAR 3 Feeds the FB Trolls

By C. Jibril Sulaiman II

WEAR 3 reports the news and doesn’t make it. When a newsworthy story happens, local media outlets (and their supporting Facebook pages) disseminate this information to the public. I get it! However, I don’t understand the selective reporting or posting of news stories by WEAR 3’s social media staff for the purpose of feeding the “trolls” and creating dissension.

As an avid Facebook user, I’ve made the choice to keep up with current events by subscribing to the Facebook fan pages of our local media outlets. By doing so, I’m constantly updated through my newsfeed on local and national events. For quite some time, I’ve noticed many stories on the WEAR 3 Facebook page seem to aim for shock value over responsible journalism.

Commenters frequent the page to express their bigoted, hateful and discriminatory opinions about a religion, race, social class, and sexual orientation . These people are also known as “Trolls.” Trolls comment for the likes and for the excitement of seeing others react to their outlandish opinions. They do so with the comfort of anonymity and knowing their statements are protected as “Free Speech.”

Trolls are notorious throughout all of social media, but I’m more concerned with my back yard. Too often, I’ve found myself on the defending against culture based generalizations, stereotypes and outright hateful language, while viewing the news content on the WEAR 3 FB page. This seems to because of a serious, trend in WEAR’s reporting and posting as it relates to criminal activity committed by African Americans.

WEAR’s posts tend to highlight the crimes of African Americans more than it reports crimes of other ethnic groups. Crime has no race; people do. But when you disproportionately report Black criminal activity, the concept of race is assigned to what criminals look like, and racial stereotypes are reinforced. Currently, I can visit the Pensacola News Journal’s Facebook page and view postings that highlight various crimes with a balanced selection. Yet WEAR 3 seems to have a disturbing trend of cherry picking criminal activity primarily defined by race which in effect allows Internet trolls to demean, belittle, use coded language and accost entire groups of people. This is tolerated and unchecked by the WEAR 3 Facebook page administrators.

The rhetoric spewed from the keyboards of these trolls is so severe, that normal news stories become propaganda tools for hate and ridicule. Shocked Facebook users, from all walks of life, who visit your page to read the news are often forced to defend the targets of the troll’s statements. Some users decide to unsubscribe from the fan page altogether.

I don’t blame the Trolls, as they will never go away. I do blame media organizations and their poorly picked, often skewed reports and post selections. Long before Facebook changed their algorithms to decrease free advertising, media outlets used inflammatory reporting to create turmoil on its postings to increase their social media popularity. Ultimately, this user activity translated into a larger advertising reach for the organization. Because of a change in Facebook’s user engagement algorithms, organizations must do more to create engaging content for its fans to comment on and share, otherwise its posts are never read. Also page administrators are under pressure to report positive user statistics back to their bosses. What better way to accomplish this than by making sure the Trolls are constantly fed?

WEAR 3, are you indeed allowing this activity to occur for higher stats? In my opinion, to refuse to be responsible administrators of your page, suggests that like the trolls, you as administrators are anonymous individuals who secretly gain pleasure from watching your fan page users “stir the pot” and are quietly condoning their awful comments.