News24 Wire
3 minute read
4 Sep 2019
3:37 pm

Twitter users name and shame alleged rapists, but experts issue stern warning

News24 Wire

Twitter accounts have surfaced in reaction to the #AmINext hashtag to 'expose' alleged rapists.

Picture: Stock image.

Twitter users are outing alleged rapists on the social media platform following the brutal rape and murder of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana, allegedly by a post office employee.

But media experts have warned against this.

Twitter accounts have surfaced in reaction to the #AmINext hashtag to “expose” alleged rapists.

Accounts such as @AmINext_sa, @HSurvivers3 and @helpsurvivers have received messages from women outing their partners. These pages then “expose” the men, posting their names and pictures.

Some of the pages also share posts of missing people, as well as unconfirmed kidnappings in South Africa.

The administrator of the account @AmINext_sa spoke to News24 about why it was created.

“I decided to start this page because of the hashtag #AmINext which came with Uyinene’s death. A lot of women were wondering whether they are going to be next or it’s going to be them AGAIN because of the rape that’s been going on in our country,” the administrator said.

“So far, a lot of women have been triggered because of the rape cases that we’re going on (sic) and they needed someone to speak to, that’s when this page came alive.”

But the administrator allegedly wants nothing else out of it, except that survivors find healing.

However, William Bird, director of Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), told News24 that these pages could spell bad news for survivors and administrators.

“Your rights and your legal obligations don’t change just because you go onto a social media page,” he said.

“It might be harder to track some of the people there but certainly, if the police have the interest, they could pursue that,” Bird added.

He added that the accused people have every right to pursue charges of criminal defamation.

In addition, he said that while people were outraged at the levels of gender-based violence in the country, and justifiably so, “these kinds of responses aren’t going to deal with the problem”, especially in terms of prosecuting alleged rapists.

Bird added that it wouldn’t just be the social media accounts that were implicated.

“If the purpose [of this] is to simply expose them and defame them, they need to be very careful about doing those things precisely because that person may very well bring legal action against that account and anyone else that retweets it, that posts it, that comments on it may equally be liable legally speaking,” he said.

This was regardless of whether or not they were guilty, he said.

Bird added that he was unsure of how exposing people dealt with the wider problem of gender-based violence in the country.

Going through the judicial process can be extremely traumatising, he said, but alleged perpetrators would likely know who accused them should their names pop up on social media.

“Unless they’re guilty of raping a number of women, they will probably know who it is that put their name there and that won’t result in a positive outcome,” Bird said.

He added that it was unlikely to have a positive effect on those accused, who were most likely already violent, to change their ways.

He added that the accounts should be wary of spreading information before checking its authenticity and accuracy, saying “it’s a very risky thing to be doing”.

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