It was a good week in the media for K-pop fans. After days of pushing for social media support for the Black Lives Matter movement, fans around the world went viral and won mainstream media coverage for their use of K-pop fan cams to block police apps.
The K-pop fandom is just one of the online groups that ingeniously use social platforms to aid in the ongoing wave of protests against police brutality following the murder of George Floyd. Across the Internet, Black Lives Matter supporters arm tweets, messages, and hashtags to spread information, protect protesters, and derail racist rhetoric.
Here are a few examples of internet and social media tools that play unexpected roles in the protests.
K-pop fan cams
For those new to K-pop fandom, a fancam is a video close-up shot by a spectator during a live performance by a K-pop idol group. (Fan-made edits to pre-existing K-pop images are also increasingly covered by the umbrella term “fancam,” and while many fans go to great lengths to distinguish between fancams and edits, the average outsider is unlikely to spot a difference. Fancams usually target a single specific member of the group as they sing and dance, and they’re wildly popular on Twitter as a way to advertise favorite groups and celebrate the talent and excellence of a favorite idol.
However, fan cams are also the bane of many Twitter users, who often find that their own viral threads are hijacked by users who post fancams to take advantage of the thread’s popularity. So a fan cam is sort of an abbreviation for everything other social media users hate about highly visible fandoms: their obsessive, purposeful focus on the thing they like when you try to discuss something else.
That is to say, it was a big deal when K-pop fans came up with the brilliant idea of doing their usual fancam spam thing – only this time they targeted the police:
The Dallas Police Department iWatch Dallas app is a localized version of the app Close Look, made by a company called Zeteky, so that users can give tips to the police in real time. “We are convinced that if every phone had Closewatch3, the world could be a safer place,” said the company’s website.
After the Dallas Police Department tweeted a request to the public to give them tips through the app during the protests, a viral tweet called for K-pop punches to submit fan cams instead. The fancam spam would theoretically prevent the police from seeing real local videos that could endanger protesters.
As the idea spread, fans flooded the app, went viral, and temporarily disabled the app.
The work of the K-pop fandom was so popular among other Twitter users that people started calling on them to apply their appeal to other missions.
And the K-pop fans responded quickly.
K-pop fandom has taken part in internal battles during the wave of protests as fans debate how best to show support for issues affecting black citizens while struggling with generalized racism within the fandom and the K-pop industry. But this is certainly not the first time K-pop has fandom collected behind one politics or humanitarian cause, and K-pop fans continued to drum up support for the Black Lives Matter movement in more concrete ways: after news leaked on Saturday that BTS and his studio Big Hit had donated $ 1 million to the movement’s official charity, fans themselves launched a hashtag movement to jointly match the donation.
The fans also continued to operate systematically when it came to streamlined responses in support of protesters. In addition to shutting down police apps, they led a completely different trend: hashtag derailment.
We all clicked on a hashtag and found it to be full of off-topic posts, burying the hashtag’s true meaning. Typically, this cacophony is created by one of the following two actions: individuals who are grand to chase a viral hashtag for influence, or respond in confusion or outrage to what they think the tag is, generating more confusion and the original subject of the tag thins.
Rarely, a hashtag has been deliberately derailed. But white racists’ attempts to generate trending tags for the idea that ‘white lives matter’ led K-pop fans to turn that tag against their advocates. Many fans spent days making sure that the entire white life mass hashtag was used with fancams, tweets about music, and tweets about people tweeting about music under the tag.
Paradoxically enough the virality that K-pop fans have acquired for this stunt has kept ‘white lives matter’ as a trending topic for days. At one point, Twitter presented it to me as a “K-pop” topic, even mentioning the phrase “#WhiteLifeMatter” as a more general “music” topic.
Several Twitter users have be on it that placement with the racist hashtag continues to keep the racist hashtag continuing to trend, which could undermine the point that K pop fans originally wanted to make. While on Instagram the tag “whitelivesmatter” is completely flooded with K-pop and anime references, white supremacist posts and troll memes continue to appear. However, the resulting disagreement makes the tag more or less useless – and on Twitter, most people seem happy with the whole concept:
To clarify – if it weren’t for the K-Pop fans, Twitter today would be filled with many thousands of anti-black tweets that would be trending and highly visible. Kpop kids are experts at using Twitter and knew how to stop it.
– chrisb (@ chrisb23202436) June 3, 2020
The K-pop punches aren’t the only ones participating in the white supremacist hashtag takeover game. Countless people on Twitter who are not affiliated with fandoms have become creative with their definitions of ‘white lives’.
One of the smartest ways people use social media to spread information about the protests and related activities is something like the idea of derailing hashtags to advocate for anti-racism. This is what I like to consider rickrolling for justice.
Rickrolling for justice
You probably already know what a rickroll is, but to be sure, the concept of rickrolling involves luring someone in with juicy clickbait and then surprising them with a disguised URL linking to, specifically, the music video for ‘I’m never going to give you upBy Rick Astley.
What is the point? To raise your hopes and then disappoint you, all for the cock. As much as any meme technically started in 2007 rickrolling is one of the founders of the internet culture: it has always been with us and will always be with us. The concept of rickrolling has been used more widely to surprise someone with something completely unexpected.
That basic concept applies to a lot of things, including luring people into Twitter threads that promise to spill juicy celebrity gossip just to get them to rickroll with information about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Did you think you were about to have a tea spill drama about music royalty feuds? No, but here are links to resources to help George Floyd’s family.
Take advantage of some recent Glee-related drama with former cast members call star Lea Michele for alleged racist-hued micro-aggressions on the set, a Twitter user lured people with promises of more.
My first job in Hollywood was as a PR assistant on 20th TV, and Lea Michele’s stories were pretty insane. Here are my favorites (WIRE): pic.twitter.com/OMd97Phcfy
– Ryan Aguirre (@aguirreryan) June 3, 2020
But instead of stunning stories of on-set misconduct, the user offered links that invited people to donate to the Black Lives Matter fund instead.
Reinforcement from Disney’s heavy-handed copyright control
Disney has long been making life hell for remixers, artists, and other people on the Internet using Disney characters and images by making heavy use of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act provision to enable companies to allegedly infringe Aim by removing from the Internet any video or image that appears to be infringing copyright. By doing this, the alleged infringer argues why his work is infringing or not. (This copyright prohibition is generally known on the Internet as getting a DMCA removal, or simply “getting DMCA.”) However, savvy Internet users have begun manipulating Disney’s overuse of DMCA removal requests.
Last fall, for example a movement spread among artists who thought their original work had been stolen and sold by bots. The bots would upload the artists’ work to internet vendor sites and then take advantage of the sale of the image on T-shirts and other items at the expense of the original artist, who usually lacked the resources to make a tedious and expensive copyright removal process.
The solution, as was popular with such artists for a while: Lure the bots with copyrighted Disney art. The hope was that the bots would upload the copyrighted Disney art to the merchant sites – which would then be destroyed by the massive looming hand of Disney’s legal power and the rigorous infringement approach.
It is unclear how well this idea worked in practice. But it embodies a growing belief that Disney’s copyright removals can be used strategically to the benefit of people who are usually on the weak side of a DMCA complaint.
This brings us to the protests. On the weekend of May 30 is the infamous “Gun Girl” Kaitlin Bennett, a young conservative activist who got a right-wing supporter for her videos on gun rights and other issues, showed up for protests. She was presumably looking for on-camera demonstrators for her website and YouTube channels. But protesters who saw her didn’t have it. How can you prevent Bennett’s videos of the protests from being broadcast? Summon the power of Disney’s copyright marking system.
If she approaches you to speak, play Disney music! The mouse renders the images unusable due to copyright https://t.co/ngdd5Z7C7l
– Disty Dickens (@distykisaragi) June 1, 2020
Demonstrators encouraged each other to play music in particular from Disney movies and musicals so that any video footage that Bennett uploaded would activate Disney’s copyright flag.
If anyone comes across this vile witch, follow her and play Disney music loudly. Disney’s copyright falls on everything, so she can’t use footage and it becomes useless https://t.co/ec9eIRpTbQ
– TATA (CAB) (@TATAdventures) June 1, 2020
This approach is a fascinating convergence of direct on-the-ground activism (by following someone and playing music) and elements that are only digital (getting someone’s YouTube video DMCA).
It also shows how internet users are undermining the power of a large company, so that its effects are not exerted against poor individual artists and creators working in online spaces, but against bad actors in a real fight for justice.
YouTubers make money for good with their videos
YouTubers often monetize their videos for a purpose, which means that they will donate the advertising revenue generated by videos to a charity or charity of their choice.
What stands out at this time of protest is the extent to which many YouTube influencers generate revenue with content specifically related to the protests. YouTuber Stephanie Soo, who is one popular channel where she eats while talking about real crime posted a heartfelt apology for not doing more to speak out in support. As part of her reconciliation, she shared a series of true crime stories heavily influenced by systemic racism, then donated all of the ad revenue collected from these videos to support Black Lives Matter and the Minnesota Freedom Fund.
By donating the proceeds from their channels, YouTubers like Soo are turning their content into tools that allow people without much financial resources to still do their bit to raise funds in support.
INFO THREAD: If you can’t donate yourself, here is a thread of youtubers you can check out. all proceeds from advertisements (pls don’t skip it) in their videos go to donations! there is no excuse for not doing your part
– kris (@KRISTINSANGRY) June 2, 2020
if you can’t donate now then here is a playlist of youtubers who will donate the money from these videos please watch and don’t skip the ads !! https://t.co/4r0gwzW32o
– ‿୨ ♡ ୧‿ (@fiItery) June 2, 2020
Many YouTubers also create content specifically tuned for the moment to raise awareness while entertaining – such as this video created specifically to raise money for the BLM movement and emphasize black musicians.
The nice thing about the money-making awareness trend is that it’s a holistic exercise of everything the YouTube platform is for: entertaining and educating viewers and helping creators in the service of Black Lives Matter and the protests.
All of these methods of virtual and real-world support reveal the quirks and cultures of many different platforms, apps and internet communities. They also remind us that we need the tools we use on the Internet to be managed by more than one or two megalithic companies. The more varied, cluttered and decentralized the internet is, the more versatile it is.
And as the protests show us, the people of the internet are always ready to use it in increasingly versatile and interesting ways.