Black Square

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Originally posted on Twitter and Facebook.

If you posted a black picture of a square and provided no additional information/support (and maybe even used the “wrong” hashtag), congratulations: you’ve done the equivalent of forwarding a chain email like in the late 2000’s

Let’s break it down:

Chain emails are designed to be low friction (low effort), take up your time and energy, appear harmless, and gather large lists of “gullible” people quickly and without prejudice.

Let’s see…check, check, check, and check.

Low effort: you post literally nothing, and provide nothing

Takes up time and energy: you have essentially DDoSed an entire hashtag to the point of unusability - check any social media site

List of gullible people: just trawl the hashtag, find all the black squares with no descriptions, and collect those accounts into a list. This is how chain emails work - anyone who forwards it on is labeled gullible and therefore more likely to be susceptible to more things like it in the future, and it’s an easy way to collect email addresses to boot. Same with those Facebook statuses that tell you to repost or blah blah blah will close your account or whatever. Anyone who sees or searches for these statuses can easily gather up lists of people who can be targeted in the future.

Appears harmless: yes, of course the cause you’re supporting is good! That’s good! But consider how your post affects other people. Consider that maybe sending that email to 10 other people maybe doesn’t actually get Bill Gates to send you $1M. Consider that maybe the default expected behavior for people is “not racist”. When paired with inaction, it does nothing of value.

Now, this comes with a few additional kickers in this certain instance:

Instant gratification: sure, you’re showing support, but provide nothing of substance.

Lack of access to information: Again, check the hashtag - literal millions of posts filled with NOTHING.

If this wasn’t a misinformation campaign on purpose, you can bet money that bad actors are taking notes on how to drown out actual useful information, by reducing the signal-to-noise ratio to all noise with something that’s easily spread and preys on apathy. I would not be surprised if it WAS a misinformation campaign, designed to drown out useful information.

Be smart when sharing things, and don’t just do things because it’s easy and they make you feel good, do things because it may actually help.


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