Perspective on the Supposed Swedish Instagram Riots

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On December 18th, an Instagram account in Gothenburg, Sweden ignited a media-identified riot resulting in the detention of 27 individuals. A more intensive explanation, via Free Art & Technology:

What happened this time around was that a person (a 17 yo girl attending Plusgymnasiet (The Plus High School, a privately owned and managed school) was suspected and got police protection) started an Instagram account called “gbgorroz” (“gbg” is short for Gothenburg, “orroz” is a swedishification of a turkish word meaning whore) asking people to name and shame the sluts of Gothenburg and what slutty things they have done. The account gained about 6000 followers and posted about a hundred pictures and description about “sluts” of Gothenburg (mostly female but also male, often for being “gays”. Age 12-18) and their alleged sex acts before it was shut down. In an unexpected turn of events, the last pictures posted was screenshots of the inbox of the account where you could see who had submitted what “slut” – shaming the shamers.

Somehow it was revealed who was behind the account – or at least someone was accused – and people decided to “take revenge”. A rumour started spreading that there would be “chaos” at this high school the morning after. And there was even a facebook event called “World War 3 at Plusgymnasiet”. About 500 people showed up the day after (18/12) and tried to enter the school. I guess most to just watch THE CHAOS unfold. Some were there to beat up the girl that started it (among them people who had submitted to the account and had been exposed in the screenshots). Others to beat up the people who had submitted to the account. Some even might have been there to beat up someone for what they allegedly had done. And yet more just there to take the opportunity to start some fights.

F.A.T. also provides a useful analysis of the event, suggesting that

What’s good is that most people have afterwards focused on violence, gender issues, culture around sexuality and bullying, and preventing this kind of behaviour, rather than condemning “the internet” for what happened. So I think the debate about teenagers and internet use have matured a bit. People are also very fast to report accounts (new ones have popped up), take screenshots as evidence and report them to the police. So we’re starting to learn how to react to these things without panic (except the 500 ppl strong mob, that is…).

One of the mainstream narratives concerning social media since the Arab Spring has been its revolutionary, or at least radically organizational, potential. Two years after protests began in Tunisia, social media precipitated another, perhaps more unexpected eruption of incendiary energy more in the vein of Mean Girls than May '68. Media outlets like the Daily Mail and the BBC have focused on Instagram and Facebook's formal role in the protest as opposed to the sexual politics at its center. Whether this will indicate a change of perspective remains to be seen.