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They Didn't Ask to Go Viral. Posting on Social Media Without Consent Is Immoral – WIRED



The problem with judging people for their sins is that the internet makes it exceedingly easy to invent sins. In February, Buzzfeed News reported on a man filmed by a passing TikTokker, who then uploaded the footage with text suggesting he’d lied to her to get out of a date. That was false—he’d never met her—but it didn’t stop people from ridiculing him as the video racked up over a million views.

Similarly, last year, an Australian woman objected to being made the star of a stunt in which a TikTokker asked her to hold a bouquet, strolled off, and then congratulated himself on performing a random act of kindness. Sixty million hits later, his viewers were praising him for brightening the day of a woman they judged to be old, lonely, and sad. But she objected to that characterization and declared the whole affair “dehumanizing.” She hadn’t asked to have her day interrupted, let alone be thrust into a global spotlight.

And then there are those incapable of even grasping the situation. In 2022, a TikTok channel was called out for surreptitiously filming the homeless with drones. Loved ones with dementia are put on TikTok to be infantilized or have their worst moments gawked at. Parents transform their children into viral stars. Sometimes, those children grow up and call them out for warping their youth.

When people tell us it was harrowing and wrong to be unwillingly cast into the spotlight, we nod and agree. But those responsible typically offer only half-hearted apologies or remain unrepentant, while their millions of views discourage reflection. Often, moral scolding is implicit in the video and explicit in the comments: It is wrong to be homeless. It is gross to be ill. It is pathetic to be unhappy.

To be sure, crass and hateful public figures are worthy of ridicule. And we’ve been using the internet to judge strangers for as long as we’ve had the internet. But the common trait shared by much of the most obnoxious content today is that someone chose to elevate a stranger for no reason beyond their own gratification, attracting attention at a scale unimaginable in the days of relics like Hot or Not and People of Wal-Mart.

At best, these are misguided attempts to juice the poster’s social media presence. At worst, they are pointless cruelty. That cruelty can be addictive, but we can and must resist the urge to gawk at strangers against their will. It should, in fact, be considered rude, insulting, and wrong to have uploaded a stranger against their will. We would not go out into the streets and stir up a mob against a random person. Why are we so comfortable with doing it online?

Much of what we post online is innocent and will remain so. The average Facebook user has 338 friends, while the average number of Instagram followers, according to one estimate, is just 150. You likely use these platforms to follow celebrities and brands, and to interact with friends and family. These are, for most users, insular communities. Vacation photos with friends or a family portrait at Christmas are unlikely to attract trolls and creeps, and even if they do, they are clearly posted in good faith.

But some platforms, like TikTok and Twitter, are more exposed to the vagaries and cruelties of the wider world. Anything you post on them can wind up in the feed of people who don’t follow you. Therefore, anyone can become the day’s punching bag. Does your relative really understand what could happen if you put your interaction with them on TikTok?

Maybe you know better than to post Grandpa on Twitter without thinking it through. We know whether our friends and family like attention and whether they understand social media ecosystems, and with this knowledge we are capable of making informed decisions as to whether and on what platforms we should post them. We do not have the same knowledge of strangers. That can be a reason to not post them, but it can also be an excuse to post them without thinking.

If it came out that an influencer uploaded an interaction with a stranger to a private Facebook page or Discord server solely so their closest friends and family could pick them apart, it would rightly be considered misanthropic. And yet uploading a stranger so millions can mock and over-analyze them is just the business of content. That business needs to change.

It’s exceedingly unlikely we’ll ever eliminate jackassery from the internet, but a social media mishap involving a friend or family member can be resolved with communication.

It is harder for a complete stranger to succeed in that endeavor, especially when “Look at this weirdo I found, please gape at them” is the text or subtext of so many videos and posts by accounts that thrive on content starring the unwilling. Such content must become anathema. Particular thought must be taken before posting an interaction with a stranger, and the consent of a stranger to be posted at all is necessary to retain an internet that is even remotely civil. If someone does post a stranger without their consent, they should be shunned, not rewarded with the attention they crave.

The vast majority of disputes with unruly neighbors are solved by talking to them. Ideally, the law only gets involved when lines of communication break down. The same can be true of digital disputes.

We have privacy laws. If I were to post your name, address, and phone number, you would have legal recourse. And yet the same is not true for your image. Today, at least, you surrender your right to privacy by stepping into public. But outdated privacy laws are catching up to the abuses of government and tech, and the issues raised by social media virality could be next.

Still, a blanket law against posting strangers without their consent would be draconian and unworkable. There are too many variables, too many circumstances, and simply too many cases. However, whole generations who have been online since birth—sometimes unwillingly—could grow up to be more sensitive to the downsides of posting without permission, prompting a normative shift.

More specific laws are already evolving to handle some scenarios raised by nonconsensual virality, specifically as it applies to children. Irina Raicu of Santa Clara University’s Internet Ethics Program points out that a recent French law entitles child influencers to demand that platforms scrub all trace of them once they turn 16. The YouTube career their parents create for them—or force on them—need not be what defines them as adults. The United States is considering a similar law; a woman who testified to a House committee said the details of her first period were turned into content.

Another law being considered in France would make parents responsible for their children’s privacy rights. Le Monde cites, as an example of fame-seeking behavior that France is hoping to discourage, TikTokkers scaring their children by pretending to call the police on them, and an Instagrammer who smeared chocolate on her 4-year-old and convinced them they were covered in feces. We will eventually wonder how parents were able to get away with this at all.

So those who cannot consent are starting to be protected. But what about those who could consent, but don’t? And what if, as some unwillingly viral subjects have found, reaching out and asking for posts to be removed is met with silence or rejection?

In reality we already practice social media consent; it is not unusual to ask a friend if they’re alright with having a picture posted to Instagram, even though the face they make as they try to cram an unusually large sandwich into their mouth is not a flattering one. And yet we continually fail to extend this courtesy to strangers, either because we think nothing of it or because it is our job to go viral at all costs.

Some of this, as Raicu points out, can be blamed on the platforms we use, which encourage hair triggers. “There are ways in which the design choices behind many websites make it harder for all of us to think about consent,” Raicu wrote in an email. She points to the sheer ease of posting and the fact that norms around social media consent have not solidified. But she notes that platforms could “introduce some friction” in the form of, essentially, reminders that other people are human before you hit Post.

Future platforms could work to curtail shaming, either out of moral compulsion or legal necessity. Much as you can report harassment to social media platforms, posts that have elevated you to infamy against your will should be fair targets.

Lines have been drawn before. YouTube banned dangerous pranks and challenges after people were hurt and complaints mounted. TikTok is trying to tweak its algorithm in response to growing concerns that young users are awash in content encouraging suicide and incel ideology. Content made from those unable or unwilling to consent is a broad category that cannot be wiped out with algorithmic tweaks, but the damage is still happening, and we have the power to collectively declare that some forms of content are unacceptable and must no longer be tolerated.

Perhaps, given the increasing universality of social media usage—83 percent of Gen Z uses TikTok—platform-embedded tools could establish consent. Before posting a video of someone, an influencer could ask their username and send them a simple, stock contract granting them permission to post. Again, this need not apply to every random photo of friends. It could be optional, or it might apply only when an account reaches a certain threshold of followers. But a lack of permission could give a user cause when they cite unwanted virality and negative attention when asking for a post to be removed.

But most of the work will fall to people. It’s difficult enough to remember that the man being a bit rude in the grocery store line is a fallible human being with hopes and dreams; it can be almost impossible to remind yourself of that when viewing a contextless clip of someone halfway across the hemisphere. The internet is capable of connecting us to tremendous numbers of people, even as it makes us forget that they are human like us.

An influencer comfortable with filming themselves for thousands of viewers should be comfortable with approaching a stranger and saying, “Would you mind appearing in a video I’m making? I’m going to post it on this platform, and I have this many followers. Take a minute to check me out.” Some already do, and surely there are people who would be happy to receive a free bouquet in exchange for appearing in a TikTokker’s silly stunt. But a no should be taken as a no, just as it should in any other scenario involving consent.

It’s all too easy to skip this step today. People who speak out when they feel harmed by what an influencer did with their image receive only a tiny fraction of the attention that the original posts featuring them got. But when an influencer is repeatedly called out for exploiting strangers—or when their exploitation is obvious, such as when they prey on the homeless—they should be frozen out of the social media ecosystem, not rewarded with attention and profit.

In the future, how will we be able to see such casual cruelty as anything but unethical? Maybe stories of regret are a sign of what’s to come. Brianna Wu, one of the victims of GamerGate, says she has fielded over 100 apologies, often from people who were at their lowest and saw her as an easy outlet for their emotions. But we generally don’t take our frustrations out on people on the street; understanding that people deserve to be protected from unsolicited online fame and malice is the next logical step.

We no longer parade people through villages on a cart or lock them in pillories in the town square to shame them, as was done in centuries past. We did not stop enforcing laws and norms, but we recognized that humiliation and ostracization are harsh, counterproductive tools. Eventually, we will make that realization about the strangers we parade across the internet.

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Bob Newhart, deadpan comedy icon Dies at 94



Bob Newhart, the deadpan accountant-turned-comedian who became one of the most popular TV stars of his time after striking gold with a classic comedy album, has died at 94.

Jerry Digney, Newhart’s publicist, says the actor died Thursday in Los Angeles after a series of short illnesses.

Newhart, best remembered now as the star of two hit television shows of the 1970s and 1980s that bore his name, launched his career as a standup comic in the late 1950s. He gained nationwide fame when his routine was captured on vinyl in 1960 as The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, which went on to win a Grammy Award as Album of the Year.

While other comedians of the time, including Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Alan King, and Mike Nichols and Elaine May, frequently got laughs with their aggressive attacks on modern mores, Newhart was an anomaly. His outlook was modern, but he rarely raised his voice above a hesitant, almost stammering delivery. His only prop was a telephone, used to pretend to hold a conversation with someone on the other end of the line.

In one memorable skit, he portrayed a Madison Avenue image-maker trying to instruct Abraham Lincoln on how to improve the Gettysburg Address: “Say 87 years ago instead of fourscore and seven,” he advised.

Another favorite was Merchandising the Wright Brothers, in which he tried to persuade the aviation pioneers to start an airline, although he acknowledged the distance of their maiden flight could limit them. “Well, see, that’s going to hurt our time to the Coast if we’ve got to land every 105 feet.”

Newhart was initially wary of signing on to a weekly TV series, fearing it would overexpose his material. Nevertheless, he accepted an attractive offer from NBC, and The Bob Newhart Show premiered on Oct. 11, 1961. Despite Emmy and Peabody awards, the half-hour variety show was canceled after one season, a source for jokes by Newhart for decades after.

He waited 10 years before undertaking another Bob Newhart Show in 1972. This one was a situation comedy with Newhart playing a Chicago psychologist living in a penthouse with his schoolteacher wife, Suzanne Pleshette. Their neighbors and his patients, notably Bill Daily as an airline navigator, were a wacky, neurotic bunch who provided an ideal counterpoint to Newhart’s deadpan commentary. The series, one of the most acclaimed of the 1970s, ran through 1978.

Four years later, the comedian launched another show, simply called Newhart. This time he was a successful New York writer who decides to reopen a long-closed Vermont inn. Again Newhart was the calm, reasonable man surrounded by a group of eccentric locals. Again the show was a huge hit, lasting eight seasons on CBS. It bowed out in memorable style in 1990 with Newhart — in his old Chicago psychologist character — waking up in bed with Pleshette, cringing as he tells her about the strange dream he had: “I was an innkeeper in this crazy little town in Vermont. … The handyman kept missing the point of things, and then there were these three woodsmen, but only one of them talked!” The stunt parodied a Dallas episode where a key character was killed off, then revived when the death was revealed to have been in a dream.

Two later series were comparative duds: Bob, in 1992-93, and George & Leo, 1997-98. Though nominated several times, he never won an Emmy for his sitcom work. “I guess they think I’m not acting. That it’s just Bob being Bob,” he sighed.

Over the years, Newhart also appeared in several movies, usually in comedic roles. Among them: Catch 22, In & Out, Legally Blonde 2, and Elf, as the diminutive dad of adopted full-size son Will Ferrell. More recent work included Horrible Bosses and the TV series The Librarians, The Big Bang Theory, and Young Sheldon.

Newhart married Virginia Quinn, known to friends as Ginny, in 1964, and remained with her until her death in 2023. They had four children: Robert, Timothy, Jennifer, and Courtney. Newhart was a frequent guest of Johnny Carson’s and liked to tease the thrice-divorced Tonight host that at least some comedians enjoyed long-term marriages. He was especially close with fellow comedian and family man Don Rickles, whose raucous insult humor clashed memorably with Newhart’s droll understatement.

“We’re apples and oranges. I’m a Jew, he’s a Catholic. He’s low-key, I’m a yeller,” Rickles told Variety in 2012. A decade later, Judd Apatow would pay tribute to their friendship in the short documentary Bob and Don: A Love Story.

A master of the gently sarcastic remark, Newhart got into comedy after he became bored with his $5-an-hour accounting job in Chicago. To pass the time, he and a friend, Ed Gallagher, began making funny phone calls to each other. Eventually, they decided to record them as comedy routines and sell them to radio stations.

Their efforts failed, but the records came to the attention of Warner Bros., which signed Newhart to a record contract and booked him into a Houston club in February 1960. “A terrified 30-year-old man walked out on the stage and played his first nightclub,” he recalled in 2003.

Six of his routines were recorded during his two-week date, and the album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, was released on April Fools’ Day 1960. It sold 750,000 copies and was followed by The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back!. At one point the albums ranked No. 1 and 2 on the sales charts. The New York Times in 1960 said he was “the first comedian in history to come to prominence through a recording.”

Besides winning Grammy’s Album of the Year for his debut, Newhart won as Best New Artist of 1960, and the sequel The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back! won as Best Comedy Spoken Word Album. Newhart was booked for several appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and at nightclubs, concert halls, and college campuses across the country. He hated the clubs, however, because of the heckling drunks they attracted. “Every time I have to step out of a scene and put one of those birds in his place, it kills the routine,” he said in 1960.

In 2004, he received another Emmy nomination, this time as Guest Actor in a Drama Series, for a role in E.R. Another honor came his way in 2007, when the Library of Congress announced it had added The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart to its registry of historically significant sound recordings. Just 25 recordings are added each year to the registry, which was created in 2000.

Newhart made the best-seller lists in 2006 with his memoir, I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This!. He was nominated for another Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album (a category that includes audio books) for his reading of the book.

“I’ve always likened what I do to the man who is convinced that he is the last sane man on Earth … the Paul Revere of psychotics running through the town and yelling `This is crazy.′ But no one pays attention to him,” Newhart wrote.

Born George Robert Newhart in Chicago to a German-Irish family, he was called Bob to avoid confusion with his father, who was also named George. At St. Ignatius High School and Loyola University in Chicago, he amused fellow students with imitations of James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Durante, and other stars. After receiving a degree in commerce, Newhart served two years in the Army. Returning to Chicago after his military service, he entered law school at Loyola, but flunked out. He eventually landed a job as an accountant for the state unemployment department. Bored with the work, he spent his free hours acting at a stock company in suburban Oak Park, an experience that led to the phone bits.

“I wasn’t part of some comic cabal,” Newhart wrote in his memoir. “Mike (Nichols) and Elaine (May), Shelley (Berman), Lenny Bruce, Johnny Winters, Mort Sahl — we didn’t all get together and say, Let’s change comedy and slow it down.′ It was just our way of finding humor. The college kids would hear mother-in-law jokes and say, What the hell is a mother-in-law?′ What we did reflected our lives and related to theirs.”

Newhart continued appearing on television occasionally after his fourth sitcom ended and vowed in 2003 that he would work as long as he could. “It’s been so much, 43 years of my life; (to quit) would be like something was missing,” he said.

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Avril Lavigne Rocks Glastonbury Amidst Bizarre Conspiracy Theory



Avril Lavigne’s electrifying performance on Glastonbury’s Other Stage had the crowd roaring with approval. However, for some in the audience, a lingering question might have remained: “Was that truly Avril Lavigne on stage?”  The Canadian pop-punk icon finds herself at the center of one of the internet’s most outlandish conspiracy theories.


From Let Go to Let Go of the Rumors? The Enduring Conspiracy Theory

The rumour, which can be traced back to a 2011 Brazilian blog post, posits a shocking twist: the real Avril Lavigne tragically died shortly after the release of her smash-hit debut album “Let Go” in 2002.  According to the theory, a look-alike named Melissa Vandella was brought in to replace her and continue her musical career.  The bizarre notion gained further traction with the release of the BBC podcast “Who Replaced Avril Lavigne?” which explored the theory in detail.


Lavigne Laughs it Off on Call Her Daddy Podcast

Appearing on the popular podcast “Call Her Daddy” hosted by Alex Cooper, Lavigne addressed the elephant in the room, or rather, the doppelgänger on the internet.  “It’s just funny to me,” she said, acknowledging the contrasting compliments she receives about her youthful appearance.  “Some people say I haven’t aged a day, while others believe I’m an impostor!” she explained.


Lavigne Finds Humor in the Absurd

Surprisingly chill about the whole ordeal, Lavigne seemed to find humour in the conspiracy theory.  “Honestly, it could be worse conspiracy theories out there,” she joked.  “I guess I got a good one!” she added, playfully downplaying the absurdity of the rumour.  Even when Cooper playfully prodded, asking if it wasn’t at least a little creepy, Lavigne remained unfazed.  She pointed out other artists who have been targeted by similar outlandish stories.


Fueling the Fire or Closing the Case?

However, Cooper couldn’t resist a final confirmation, perhaps for the benefit of any lingering doubters.

“Your name is Avril Lavigne, right?” she asked.  Lavigne’s response?  “I knew you half-believed it!”

This playful non-denial might fuel the fire for some conspiracy theorists.  Did Avril Lavigne address the rumour head-on, or simply add another layer of mystery to the already outlandish story?


One thing’s for sure, Avril Lavigne, or perhaps Melissa Vandella according to some, knows how to keep the conversation going.  While her Glastonbury performance silenced any doubts about her musical talent, the question of her true identity, at least for some, remains a lingering internet mystery.

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Here is the full List of 2024 Emmy nominations



The nominations for the 76th Emmy Awards were announced Wednesday.

“Shōgun” is the most-nominated series this year, scoring 25 total nominations. Following close behind are “The Bear” with 23 nods and “Only Murders in the Building” with 21 nominations.

With its 23 nominations, “The Bear” made history, bringing in the most nominations for a comedy series in one year.

The 76th Emmys celebrates the best in television that aired between June 2023 and May 2024.

Some of the 36 first-time performer nominees include Jonathan Bailey, Dakota Fanning, Lily Gladstone, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Paul Rudd, Ryan Gosling and Greta Lee.

Tony Hale, a two-time Emmy winner for “Veep,” and Sheryl Lee Ralph, an Emmy winner for “Abbott Elementary,” announced the nominees live from the iconic El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.

Ralph learned about her third Emmy nomination for playing Barbara Howard on “Abbott Elementary” live during the nomination ceremony.

“Honey, that never gets old,” she said enthusiastically.

The 76th Emmy Awards will broadcast live from the Peacock Theater at L.A. Live in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 15, from 8 p.m. ET to 11 p.m. ET on ABC. It will also stream the next day on Hulu.

A host has yet to be announced for the ceremony.

The 75th Emmy Awards aired earlier this year, after being delayed due to the 2023 Hollywood strikes. “Succession,” “The Bear” and “Beef” took home the top awards of the night, winning for outstanding drama series, outstanding comedy series and outstanding limited or anthology series, respectively.

Check out a full recap of the 75th Emmys here.

Check out a list of nominees below.

Outstanding talk series

  • “The Daily Show”
  • “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
  • “Late Night with Seth Meyers”
  • “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”

Reality competition program

  • “The Amazing Race”
  • “RuPaul’s Drag Race”
  • “Top Chef”
  • “The Traitors”
  • “The Voice”

Lead actor in a limited or anthology series or movie

  • Matt Bomer, “Fellow Travelers”
  • Richard Gadd, “Baby Reindeer”
  • Jon Hamm, “Fargo”
  • Tom Hollander, “Feud: Capote vs. the Swans”
  • Andrew Scott, “Ripley”

Lead actress in a limited or anthology series or movie

  • Jodie Foster, “True Detective: Night Country”
  • Brie Larson, “Lessons in Chemistry”
  • Juno Temple, “Fargo”
  • Sofía Vergara, “Griselda”
  • Naomi Watts, “Feud: Capote vs. the Swans”

Limited or anthology series

  • “Baby Reindeer”
  • “Fargo”
  • “Lessons in Chemistry”
  • “Ripley”
  • “True Detective: Night Country”

Lead actress in a drama series

  • Jennifer Aniston, “The Morning Show”
  • Carrie Coon, “The Gilded Age”
  • Maya Erskine, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”
  • Anna Sawai, “Shо̄gun”
  • Imelda Staunton, “The Crown”
  • Reese Witherspoon, “The Morning Show”

Lead actor in a drama series

  • Idris Elba, “Hijack”
  • Donald Glover, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”
  • Walton Goggins, “Fallout”
  • Gary Oldman, “Slow Horses”
  • Hiroyuki Sanada, “Shōgun”
  • Dominic West, “The Crown”

Drama series

  • “The Crown”
  • “Fallout”
  • “The Gilded Age”
  • “The Morning Show”
  • “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”
  • “Shōgun”
  • “Slow Horses”
  • “3 Body Problem”

Lead actor in a comedy series

  • Matt Berry, “What We Do in the Shadows”
  • Larry David, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
  • Steve Martin, “Only Murders in the Building”
  • Martin Short, “Only Murders in the Building”
  • Jeremy Allen White, “The Bear”
  • D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, “Reservation Dogs”

Lead actress in a comedy series

  • Quinta Brunson, “Abbott Elementary”
  • Ayo Edebiri, “The Bear”
  • Selena Gomez, “Only Murders in the Building”
  • Maya Rudolph, “Loot”
  • Jean Smart, “Hacks”
  • Kristen Wiig, “Palm Royale”

Comedy series

  • “Abbott Elementary”
  • “The Bear”
  • “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
  • “Hacks”
  • “Only Murders in the Building”
  • “Palm Royale”
  • “Reservation Dogs”
  • “What We Do in the Shadows”

For more nominations, head over to

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