A video posted to TikTok shows a woman in a blue cardigan and brown medical scrub dancing to Wale’s “Lotus Flower Bomb”.
On a screen sandwiched between two sparkling emojis, a woman who says she’s a pharmacy technician wrote: “Most of the generic drugs I add cause cancer.” She then claims that drugs such as hormonal contraception, cholesterol-lowering drugs and chemotherapy cause cancer.
So, Savannah Sparks, another TikTok user who went by “Rx0rcist”, created her own video as part of what will become an ongoing series that refutes medical misinformation in the app.
“My name is Savannah. I̵7;m a doctor at the pharmacy, and I’m going to ruin your life for sure — ”Sparks said in a video before launch in a fact-checking claim of a pharmacy technician.
But Sparks didn’t stop there. So she contacted the woman’s supervisor.
“Her scope of practice does not allow you … drug counseling, especially from the empire of the pharmacy, which is my garage. I really go into that person, and I think. ‘You really shouldn’t be. Talking about this ” Said Sparks.
Sparks, 31, a Mississippi-based lactation consultant and a pharmacy doctor who is the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, has become a prolific watchdog on TikTok for those she says are trying to spread misinformation. Especially those spreading health care workers. Counterfeit information about Covid-19
“In the past, I was a little reserved with the aggression I pursued. But the longer this epidemic and the more misinformation we begin to see as health workers on social media, the less I am. I started to care about my voice and came across some way, ”Sparks said.
This has earned her a huge following on TikTok, her account has over 467,000 followers, and her videos have hundreds of thousands of views and sometimes millions.
Sparks said she not only But only look for deleting misinformation about healthcare on the platform. But she also needs responsibility.
“Anything that forces someone to change their way of thinking … it makes them angry,” Sparks said. And I’m where I have to be. “
This way of calling out the alleged perpetrator made her the target of online harassment. Her address was posted on a radical website, and her inbox was full of threats to rape and kill both her and her daughter, which at one point almost relentlessly drove her from the internet.
Inaccurate information and captions
Sparks’ most exhaustive captions are part of her TikTok series she calls “Petty Journal Club with Sav.” She said the opening video was to thwart misinformation about healthcare in general. From spreading on the app But it was soon to be more specific when she said she realized that some health workers not only But only publish misinformation about the outbreak But also teach their followers How can they circumvent Covid restrictions?
Using public data and social media, Sparks said she would identify TikTokers who claimed dubious or boast about rounding rules and contact their employer, or, in the worst case, the branch’s licensing committee. To try and keep them accountable
And, with TikTok’s algorithms always elevating Sparks’ videos to the “For You” page, the platform’s infinitely scrollable homepage, she continues to attract more viewers and followers.
Sparks decided how to handle the bad actors on a case-by-case basis, she said, personally contacting a specific person if she felt their intentions were not malicious. If someone does what she thinks is a big mistake – for example, health care workers say they don’t wear masks outside of work, publish misinformation about drugs or steal vaccination cards – Sparks said she’ll share TikTok’s. That person and her followers Explain why the person is wrong.
“It varies from case to case, depending on how much I can get individual data and how serious the online errors are, because some cases aren’t as bad as others,” said Sparks. say
Sparks said her first “Petty Journal Club with Sav” video was a pharmacy technician who claimed some drugs caused cancer.
When Sparks contacted a woman’s supervisor on Facebook, the supervisor was shocked, she said.
“She was like, ‘Oh my mother, I’m ashamed. I couldn’t believe she was posting information like that,” Sparks recalls.
Karen North, a professor of digital social media at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said one reason viewers are interested in this type of content is because it is like catharsis for real-life discontent about rule-breakers.
“We all know people who do things that cross the line in terms of what we think is right during an epidemic, whether they don’t wear masks or anti-vaxxers, or jump in line to get vaccinated. … as much as we’re frustrated with people we know in our own social circle who are breaking our rules. Now we can go online and not only But only watch for those who break the rules But also look at people attacking people who break the rules, ”North said.
After the public caption on her page, Sparks said headlines sometimes become private or delete their various social media accounts.
Sparks said she was picky with her work and knew she had a responsibility to do this first because her captions could have hundreds of thousands of eyes staring at them and seriously affecting the poster.
“Even if they volunteer to get all the information themselves, social media links, and workplaces, unless I can be sure that what they say is not a joke or what they say is some malicious intent. ‘I’m not going to push hard because I know when I go in, I go all in,’ she said.
However, she remembered that when the details were received, the captions were wrong. One nurse she called to identify the hospital as her Facebook employer, which Sparks included in a video about the nurse.The only problem? Nurses are no longer working there, and many Sparks followers have reached out to the facility demanding that the person be fired.
“People started calling that hospital, and then I contacted the hospital directly and said, ‘This is what happened, I’m sorry,’ ‘said the sparks.
The roots of the culture
Jessa Lingel, Associate Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication At the University of Pennsylvania, which studies digital culture, caption culture has a long history on social media and has started as a channel for people of color to take responsibility for important social issues.
“Abolish the caption culture culture, which comes from the practice on Black Twitter to focus on the issue and say hey, this is something we need to be aligned with, whether it’s the early #MeToo that happened in Black. Twitter, or is it related to Black Lives Matter or police brutality? The caption culture originated on Black Twitter, ”she said.
Lingel added that caption culture has evolved from a political tool to a way individuals can communicate with each other on social media for actual or perceived grievances. This often results in people identified as “Karen”.
But Sparks accepts the nickname Karen when it comes to her TikTok content – and she’s not the only one.
TikToker, 31-year-old Aunt Karen, who asked NBC News not to use her real name or location to protect her safety, is famous for an app used to call people caught racist behavior.
“The Internet has always been a tool. But now it’s a bigger tool and a core framework for keeping people accountable, ”said Aunt Karen.
Behind the scenes, Sparks and Aunt Karen say people creating content that call for bad behavior on the Internet, mostly women, have built a supportive network of each other and sometimes work together.
“What I think is great is that even if we all call people out, But there are many things these creators have to say. Aunt Karen talks a lot about racism and just like [she’s] Black women, I can learn a lot from that… not only But made friends But I’ve learned a lot from them, ”Sparks said.
While experts say the captions of Sparks and Aunt Karen, which attracted millions of views in total, can provide a mashup of retaliation for those looking for more. But the questionable TikTok caution will change people’s deeply ingrained views, adding that research into online shaming shows it isn’t. It generally does not bring a major change.
“Healthcare workers during Covid enjoyed a lot of public support, generally speaking, and that doesn’t mean mistakes can’t be made, and we shouldn’t pay attention to those mistakes. But in general, research into online scams is not optimistic about how impactful they will be, ”Lingel said.
Research also shows that online shaming is inherently impossible by the police and can lead to harassment, including threats of physical or sexual violence. What’s more, shaming online tends to reduce the humanity of those who are on the receiving end and can turn people violating social norms into undesirable targets. Will be attentive to the eyes of the online crowd
A matter of culture, captions are not the only ones who have to pay a price to keep the eyes of the internet locked away on them.
On March 28, Sparks posted a video announcing that she was stepping out of TikTok due to a harassment attack.
She said her address and phone number were posted online and her direct messages on Instagram were riddled with murder threats sent to her and her youngest daughter. Her business page is full of negative reviews. And a link to her TikTok account was posted to the extremist forum 4chan.
“They posted an aerial photo of my mother’s house in 4chan, which they paired next to a video of me and my sister dancing in her backyard to confirm that I was still at her home for that. They would plan to murder, rape and kill me, ”Sparks said.
Sparks said she had always put up with a simple backlash for her content. But the harassment had taken place in March to the point where it was unbearable.
“I have probably received a hundred. [direct messages] Per day every few minutes in my message request on Instagram in the comments “She said, remembering that she was texting,” say something like “Suicide” “I will rape you” “I” m will rape my daughter. “So awesome.”
She said a steady wave of threats and threats began after she posted a video about the safety precautions she took when running, and it worsened when she began calling for fake vaccine cards accused by health care workers. Some people brag on TikTok.
“They went to my Facebook business page, they found my family, they met all my friends and started messaging them. The same thing is the graphic model of death threats, ”Sparks said.
She then said that when her data ended on 4chan, she said Trolls began contacting businesses she partnered with as a breastfeeding consultant, claiming she was racist and asked them not. Doing business with her anymore. The attacks continued to escalate until someone posted her phone number and aerial photos of her mother’s house.
NBC News has examined nearly 20 threats submitted to Sparks, some from named accounts such as “times_up_savannah” was created to harass her. Solely
Sparks eventually filed a complaint with her local sheriff’s office, then decided to make her highlight video private and away from TikTok.
But about two weeks later, she returned to the app. She said she felt it was “her duty to stand up and do the right thing”, emphasizing that she wanted to use her platform to partner with marginalized voices and with others like Aunt Kare. Which is also creating highlight content on TikTok.
“If I’m not willing to do it, someone will step up,” Sparks said, “… a lot of people say, ‘Hmm, it’s not a big deal, it’s just TikTok.’ But what I’m talking about is a big deal. Public health is a big deal, especially as 500,000 Americans die from the virus. ”