In Brazil, people are taking racist comments that have been posted on the internet and publicly displaying them on billboards for everyone to see. The campaign is known as “Virtual Racism, Real Consequences”, and it is supported by a civil rights organization called Criola.
The group has been collecting racist Facebook and Twitter comments and then using geolocation tools in order to determine where the offenders live. The organization then purchases billboard space in the immediate area of the racist user.
Their comments are then posted to the billboard so that everyone who frequents the area can know that there is a racist person in their community. Luckily for the offenders, their names and photographs are pixelated in order to protect their identities.
The founder of Criola, Jurema Werneck, states that the purpose of the campaign is to encourage people to speak out against racism.
Werneck says, “Those people think they can sit in the comfort of their homes and do whatever they want on the internet. We don’t let that happen. They can’t hide from us; we will find them.”
While there are laws against racial abuse in Brazil, Werneck believes that authorities have done a poor job enforcing these laws. She also says that many people are hesitant to speak out against racist comments.
Criola started the campaign after popular black weatherperson Maria Julia Coutinho was targeted by offensive racist remarks. The remarks were directed towards Coutinho after her photograph was posted on the Facebook Page of a primetime news program. Incidentally, the photo was originally posted on July 3rd, the national day against racial discrimination in Brazil.
The campaign by Criola has been ongoing since last summer. Werneck says that she has received positive reactions from people of all races. However, some people have been less supportive, saying that the internet is free game to express any viewpoint and that people who don’t want to be offended shouldn’t go on the internet.
Regardless, the moves by Criola have certainly been making Brazilians think twice before they say something that might be hurtful to others.