A woman throws out a racist rant at a Montgomery County pizza parlor.TikTok vigilantes track down three innocent accountants. – morning Call

Candace Boger changed her name because she didn’t want to be called Karen, but that hasn’t stopped the internet from doing so.

Boger, who legally changed her name in 2021, didn’t want to be associated with a stereotypical name for someone perceived as a privileged white woman. And yet, since she was mistaken for a xenophobic vitriol-spitting woman by a Hutboro pizzeria owner last month, the only person she’s been called out on the internet for is that disdainful, bigoted.

“This was the most hate I’ve ever experienced,” said Boger, 55, president of Boger & Associates, an accounting firm in Jenkintown.

The internet went after Rita Bellew after a video of a racist rant of a woman inside Amy’s Family Pizzeria went viral on Reddit and TikTok in February. Rita Bellew called her owner Omar Quiñones “ignorant” of the non-Americans who ran Spanish-language television in her home. shop. Bellew, 55, was later charged with ethnic intimidation and harassment.

However, several Twitter and TikTok accounts exposed Boger, then Sally Poppert and Tracy Gaida, before Hatboro police publicly identified Bellew and TikTok discovered her Facebook page.

With their phone numbers and home and work addresses published, these women were exposed to threatening phone calls and emails that threatened their jobs and their personal safety. After identifying Bellew and before releasing her name, the Hatboro Police Department issued two warnings to her to stop harassing exposed women.

Amy’s Family Pizzeria also released a since-deleted statement, asking people to “stop blaming innocent people” for racism.

The Bellew search and its unintended consequences reveal the instability of digital vigilanteism. There, content creators must balance disenchantment with power systems and the desire for accountability on the Internet.

Bogar, Poppert, and Gaida’s misadventures take on new significance as the U.S. Supreme Court decides two lawsuits that could hold platforms liable for user-generated content. And, even with low trust in authority, is the ever-messy Internet a viable accountability mechanism?

For Boger, Poppert, and Gaida, the answer is no.

But for internet sleuths, negative Google reviews and shameful account deletions may be the only form of accountability they experience. And then there’s the influence that comes from being a Karen Chaser.

“It was like the Salem witch trials.”

Bogar started receiving calls after 4am on February 24th. This was hours after a now-deleted viral video was posted from TikToker user @therelsizzle. The video included Boger’s work address, email and phone number.

From there, her answering machine and email inbox were filled with messages that had one thing in common. Boger was racist and she deserved to be fired.

Bogar’s Google and Facebook pages related to her accounting firm received more than 500 reviews from people she had never taken on as a client.

“It was the worst day of my life,” Boger said. While her defamatory comments have been deleted and Bogar & Associates’ reviews on her Google and her Facebook pages have been disabled, she remains open about her personal safety and ability to take on clients during tax season. I am still worried.

Boger, on the advice of her son Tyler Stampone, an attorney at the Stampone O’Brien Dilsheimer Law Firm, reported to the FBI and police departments in Abington Township, where she lives, and Jenkintown, where she works. submitted the letter. Jenkintown police raided her office last week at the request of Boger, who feared a possible break-in for her.

Boger believes @theeelsizzle has settled on Poppert, Gaida, and her. She believes the account searched accounting firms in the Hatboro area, checking employee lists for a middle-aged blonde woman. When one woman didn’t make it, the account encouraged followers to jump on the next one.

Boger and Stampone said they had not yet heard from investigators. The FBI said it would not comment on the existence of an open investigation, but the local police department corroborated Boger’s report.

TikTok account @therelsizzle was blocked from messaging The Inquirer after asking for comment.

Sally Poppert and Tracey Gaida, who work for Abington-based Poppert & Co. LLC, share similar experiences. Thanks to a reply from Stampone after @thereelsizzle found out the woman in the video wasn’t Bogar, the account posted a video exposing her Poppert and Gaida.

Gaida, who moved to North Carolina from Warrington in 2020, said her work phone was “ringing off the hook” on the morning of Feb. 24. Soon after, Gaida began receiving Facebook messages that “only replied with the word racist.” -return. ” Meanwhile, Poppert & Co.’s Facebook rating has dropped to 1.8 stars.

“It was like the Salem witch trials. We were being accused without any basis,” Poppert, 60, said.[Bellew’s behavior] Stayed as far away from me as possible.

Poppert & Co.’s Facebook rating remains low, with some negative reviews still popping up.

Beyond the damage to her employer, Gaida is concerned about reputational damage. Gaida told her The Inquirer that internet vigilantes contacted her aunt, daughter, her ex-husband and her brother-in-law after the @thellelsizzle video surfaced.

“Do not respond to messages on social media platforms. Do not respond to phone calls. This will only continue to cause confusion and hurt,” Gaida wrote in a Facebook post to “friends, family and colleagues.” Read the post and posted on February 25th.

“I didn’t hurt or threaten someone like this. I was open to the world, but now I’m closing the door.”

Omar Quinones, owner of Amy’s Family Pizzeria.

It’s hard to sue users, it’s hard to sue social platforms

Boger’s son, Stampone, is considering taking legal action on his mother’s behalf, but he’s unsure if he’s just putting the blame on individual posters and social platforms.

This distinction is at the heart of two Supreme Court decisions (Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh) that can determine who can be held liable for illegal or harmful content posted on the internet.

“There are all kinds of options on the table,” Mr. Stampone said of the lawsuit. However, “this is just an example of how irresponsible behavior online affects everyday Americans.”

Here’s how it currently works: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act exempts technology companies from liability if harmful user-generated content is posted on their platforms. It was written this way to help the Internet flourish in its early stages, but it’s not well suited for managing an algorithm-dependent web.

If the Supreme Court rules against Big Tech during this session, its practices could be severely regulated. Platforms can share responsibility with users if they advertise

That is unlikely, according to Amy L. Landers, associate dean of Drexel Law, which specializes in technology and intellectual property law.

“I don’t think the court can completely obliterate Section 230,” Landers said. because it is not unconstitutional.

Additionally, Landers explained that it is difficult enough to sue individual Tweeters and TikTokers.

Stampone and Boger can sue for defamation and willful emotional distress, but “the problem with tracking individual tweeters is that they often don’t know who they are,” Landers said. said Mr.

You can also file a lawsuit and submit a subpoena to the platform to determine the identity of the poster, but this comes at a cost. This works against the interests of technology platforms already plagued by privacy concerns.

When Misinformation and Disillusionment Mix

Gaida, Poppert, and Bogar face a dilemma: how to acknowledge the harm of doxing without diverting attention from Bellew’s racism?

“We are not going to divert attention from the horrific racism that the Quiñones family experienced,” said Bogar. However, she said, “All of this developed because of the reckless behavior of someone who felt she needed to become a vigilante.”

Quiñonez did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but Bellew’s rant is replaced by a dichotomy.

“I feel sick, angry, sad. …and the more I think about it now, the worse it gets,” Quiñones told WHYY.

According to Erick Louis, a 22-year-old Black content creator known for his social commentary and for igniting the Black TikTok strike, so-called Karen Hunting is a way for most people of color to see justice or It’s the only way to feel right about weathering racism.

“We are forced to survive in a system that is not built to serve us or is built to work against us,” said Louis, adding that police, education, He cited racial disparities in urban planning.“Social media has become a tool to empower the marginalized. ”

Still, internet vigilantes have a mixed track record. Exposing the riotist culture of casual racism in a Philadelphia high school and putting the blame on Rachel Dolezal, a white NAACP leader posing as black. But it also sets the internet after the wrong people, like when internet sleuths inadvertently shut down a black-owned hair salon or mistook a well-meaning engineering professor for a right-wing unity protester.

Lewis said this has something to do with the nature of the internet. A desperate desire for justice is mingled with people who know how to turn misinformation into influence and take advantage of their short attention spans.

“Media literacy is at an all-time low. People no longer critically engage with information on the internet,” says Louis. “So when you combine all of this with a zeal for justice and reparations, there is no question that cases like this matter.”

Louis is quick to distinguish between online activists and those profiting from their online activity. Some of the TikTokers who have posted about Bellew’s rants or attempted to expose her, including @therelsizzle and @tizzyent, who have more than 5 million followers, are white people with little real discussion of anti-racism. Dedicated to posting bad behavior rage bait videos.

“People are just trying to use anti-BIPOC violence as a way to build social currency,” Lewis said. “Everybody is familiar with Karen, so we need a conversation about what was captured and why it happened.”


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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. A woman throws out a racist rant at a Montgomery County pizza parlor.TikTok vigilantes track down three innocent accountants. – morning Call

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