Saturday, July 20

Shafiqah Hudson, who fought trolls on social media, dies at 46

Shafiqah Hudson, who fought trolls on social media, dies at 46

Shafiqah Hudson was looking for a job in early June 2014, alternating between Twitter and email, when she noticed a strange hashtag emerging on the social media platform: #EndFathersDay.

The posters claimed to be black feminists, but they had ridiculous handles like @NayNayCan’tStop and @CisHate and @LatrineWatts; They said they wanted to abolish Father’s Day because it was a symbol of patriarchy and oppression, among other inanities.

They didn’t look like real people, Mrs. Hudson thought, but like parodies of black women, spouting ridiculous propositions. Ace Ms. Hudson told Forbes magazine in 2018“Anyone with half the meaning that God gave to a cold bowl of oatmeal could see that these were not feminist sentiments.”

But the hashtag continued to trend, upsetting the Twitter community, and conservative media picked up on it, citing it as an example of feminism gone seriously off the rails and “a beautiful illustration of the cultural trajectory of progressivism,” as Dan McLaughlin , senior editor at National Review, tweeted at the time. Devoted Tucker Carlson a whole segment of his show to ridicule him.

So Ms. Hudson set out to combat what she quickly realized was a coordinated action by trolls. She created her own hashtag, #YourslipIsShowing, a southernism that she found particularly useful, to challenge someone who thinks they present themselves perfectly.

She began aggregating trollers’ posts and encouraged others to do so and block fake accounts. Her Twitter community took up the mission, including black feminists and academics like Je’Nasah Crockettwho did their own research and discovered that #EndFathersDay was a hoax, as she told Slate in 2019organized on 4chan, the dark web forum community populated by right-wing hate groups.

Twitter, Ms. Hudson and others said, was largely unresponsive. Their actions were nevertheless effective. #EndFathersDay was virtually silenced within weeks, although fake accounts continued to appear over the years, and Ms. Hudson continued to expose them, like a never-ending game of Whac-a-Mole.

Yet it turned out that #EndFathersDay was more than an absurd joke. It was a well-structured disinformation action, a trial balloon of sorts, as Bridget Todd, a digital activist who interviewed Ms. Hudson in 2020 for her podcast “There Are No Girls on the Internet,” for subsequent actions: particularly the election disruption campaigns that began in 2016 with tactics replicated, Senate hearings showed, by Russian agents. In hindsight, Ms. Hudson’s efforts were an early and effective bulwark against what continue to be threats to democracy.

“It should be validation,” Ms. Hudson told Slate. “But on the contrary, it is upsetting and alarming. No one wants to be right about the real danger we all face, even if you saw it coming.

Ms. Hudson, a freelance writer who worked at nonprofits but devoted herself to Twitter activism since 2014, died Feb. 15 at an extended-stay hotel in Portland, Oregon. She was 46 years old.

His brother, Salih Hudson, confirmed his death but did not know the cause. She suffered from Crohn’s disease, he said, and respiratory problems. Her followers, however, knew from her posts that she had been suffering from Covid for a long time and had recently been diagnosed with cancer. And that she had no money to pay for her care. Many stepped up to help.

When he died, his community mourned their lossand expressed frustration and anger that Ms. Hudson had never been paid by the tech companies whose platforms she monitored nor properly attributed by academics and news organizations citing #YourslipIsShowing, and that she had not received the health care she needed so desperately.

“The world owed Fiqah more than it gave her,” Mikki Kendall, a cultural critic and author of “Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot” (2020), said by phone. Ms. Kendall is one of several black feminists who have taken up Ms. Hudson’s mission and befriended her on Twitter, now called X. “The world owes it to Fiqah to never let this happen to anyone again ‘another. Unfortunately, she is part of a long tradition of black activists dying in poverty. Who died sick, alone and afraid. Because we love an activist until they need something. »

Shafiqah Amatullah Hudson was born on January 10, 1978 in Columbia, South Carolina. His father, Caldwell Hudson, was a martial arts instructor and author. His mother, Geraldine (Thompson) Hudson, was a computer engineer. The couple divorced in 1986, and Shafiqah grew up with her mother and brother, primarily in Florida, where she attended the Palm Beach County School of the Arts, a magnet school.

Shafiqah earned a bachelor’s degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, in 2000, majoring in African studies and minoring in political science. After graduating, she moved to New York and worked at various nonprofit organizations.

She was new to town and alone. She found a community on blogs and social media sites, including Twitter, which she joined in 2009. (She chose as her avatar an image of Edna Mode, the imperious fashion expert from The Incredibles.) And like many black women on this platform, she was mocked and harassed. She received rape and death threats, she told Ms Todd.

In addition to her brother, Ms. Hudson is survived by her father and sisters, Kali Newnan, Charity Jones and Mosinah Hudson. Geraldine Hudson died in 2019.

In the last months of her life, Ms. Hudson posted about her deteriorating health and her fears that she would not be able to afford her care or housing. She could not work because of her disability.

She had moved to Portland, her brother said, because the climate was better for her respiratory illnesses. But she couldn’t get health insurance. Doctors had discovered that the painful fibroids she suffered from were cancerous. She needed money for more biopsies and for transportation to the hospital. His Twitter community contributed, as always. She did not ask her family for help.

“She was very private and very proud,” Margaret Haynes, a cousin, said by telephone, adding that she had spoken to Ms. Hudson a few weeks before her death. “She told me, ‘I’m fine. If I need anything, you’ll be the first to know.

However, on February 9, she told her subscribers: “I feel like I’m meowing into a void. And it rains. And I’m just trying not to drown.

February 7 was a difficult day. Ms. Hudson was dizzy and in pain, she wrote. She resented her mortality and published an article about her decision to be single and not have children – “to be an aunt (that is) and not a mother”, as she put it. said, remembering a conversation she had with a younger family member. , and rendering it with characteristic wit.

“Let’s say that life on a particular plane of existence is a dinner at a restaurant,” she explained, continuing: “Let’s say that the life that Aunt (I) chose is the Salad option. A life without partner(s) or Littles of my own. Let’s say the Soup option comes with Littles, and maybe a partner. But you can only choose one. As. If you choose the family soup, you can’t have the single self-reliance salad. »

She riffed a bit in that vein, then concluded: “Aunt Fiqah chose the salad. Because she only likes a little soup. And no one will ever be able to convince her that she REALLY likes soup. Or will come to. Or that she should. The soup should be enjoyed with love and enthusiasm. If it is not possible ? Take the salad.

Mrs. Hudson died eight days later.

Alain Delaquérière contributed to the research.