What began as a means of communication intended to bring people from around the world together has grown into a vehicle for instilling fear. The recent Oscars mishap and subsequent death threats the Pricewaterhouse Coopers accountants received are a prime example of the dangers of social media in this day and age.
This incident shows how emotionally attached people become to movies and how some act out when the results aren't in their favor, similar to threats athletes (and their families) have received for mistakes made during an important game. The individuals who threatened the accountants were fortunately venting frustration and the threats themselves held no credibility.
But, this is only the tip of the iceberg. I predict many more threats will follow, especially since the framework has been created and highly publicized, thus inspiring others. Social media threats are something industry folks must be aware of and prepare for.
It is important to note that threats aimed at the sports and entertainment industries are nothing new and have been around for ages: however, social media changed their delivery method.
For example, in 1973 as Hank Aaron was approaching Babe Ruth's career homerun record, he received a flood of letters with racist threats. Never once did he give in to fear and went on to break the record.
Nowadays, everyone from Kim Kardashian to Rihanna to Game of Thrones star Brenock O'Connor have been threatened on social media. "If you get people from Spain and Portugal and all over the world saying they are going to kill your family, you just can't take it to heart or you would not cope," stated O'Connor, after being targeted for something his character did on the show.
The entertainment industry is at a point where the success of an album, event, movie or TV show breeds passion and sometimes fanaticism that, when combined with easy access to social media and the misguided aurora of secrecy, becomes a recipe for disaster.
Outside of threats involving physical violence, there are a plethora of other threats surfacing on social media that directly impact individuals and organizations, including: unreleased content published on social networks, chatter before cyber-attacks occur, and damaging posts with the potential to go viral and harm brand reputation.
When one takes a step back to think about it, social media has become a digital weapon and is being used on a daily basis to harm others. But what is the solution?