Prosper Otemuyiwa (AKA Unicodeveloper) is one of the biggest names in the Nigerian developer universe. He’s renowned for not just being a developer, but for also being a great tutor and speaker. He was an early member of the Andela team and has taken part in several developer conferences across the world.
Thanks to his proficiency, he earned his place in the Google Developer Expert (GDE) program in 2016. Now the GDE is a lofty zone recognizing individuals with high level proficiency in one of Google’s different products.
How Public Shaming Ended Prosper’s GDE Tenure
In late May 2018, during the #EndSARS campaign, Mr Prosper tweeted something that will have an adverse effect on his immediate future. A former Andela developer narrated his experience with the Nigerian police and how they pulled his car over for no good reason.
This unplated Toyota Corolla car just drove off now, it's filled with at least 4 #SARS operatives who stopped me in an Uber on my way from Lagos island just before Boni Camp.— Yellow flash of Lagos ⚡ (@q_ode) May 26, 2018
They flagged down the Uber, I didn't even notice until he parked cause I was on my phone. pic.twitter.com/dwWGpMb4Ac
Someone replied: “Are you dressed like a yahoo boy? Why is it only you they stopped on that busy road Pls?”
Infuriated by the response, Mr Prosper replied: “I hope you can keep the same energy if you are out and harassed in the night and people start asking you questions like “Why did you too dress like a whore?”
He however deleted the tweet Within five minutes of posting it for fear of being taken out of context. But this was not before a Google worker took a screenshot of the tweet and reported it to Google. There was no telling what was going to happen next.
In literally the blink of an eye, Mr Prosper got removed from the Google Developer Experts program.
I cringed. I paced the room like a Pogba fan under the curse of Mourinho. I didn’t know how to feel after this happened.
In the new digital world, experiences like this are becoming more frequent as shaming campaigns are becoming more dangerous on social media.
The Dangerous World of Public Shaming
Today, people are quick to report, call out users, retweet or comment on posts without considering the context in which a user is coming from. A simple unintentional tweet can quickly go viral and ruin the lives of people.
Outside of Nigeria, companies and other institutions are increasingly concerned about how employees and other members behave on social media.
Writing on the New York Times, Jon Ronson, author of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ Delves Into Infamy in the Age of Social Media, shares a particularly interesting example of how public shaming occurs.
A male developer made a joke to another male developer during a conference. “Something about a fictitious piece of hardware that has a really big dongle, a ridiculous dongle. . . . It wasn’t even conversation-level volume.”
After the said joke, a woman sitting in front of them stood up and took their picture. She claims to consider the joke sexist and immediately posted the picture of both male developers on Twitter to her over 9,000 followers, saying: “Not cool. Jokes about . . . ‘big’ dongles right behind me.”
The next day, the developer who made the joke got fired when he got to his office. “I went outside to call my wife. I’m not one to shed tears, but” — he paused — “when I got in the car with my wife I just. . . . I’ve got three kids. Getting fired was terrifying.”
And for the lady who thought she had done alright by publicly shaming him, trolls came for her. Some sent her death threats and others hacked her company’s website. Guess what? Her company fired her too. She went into hiding from the trolls for the rest of the year, says Ronson.
These examples are painful reminders about how destructive public shaming can be.
Public Shaming in Nigeria
But worse, many in Nigeria do not even know the extents to which it can go on to damage the lives of others. In Nigeria, many companies and domestic organisations have not really started paying attention to what employees and others say online.
For instance, during the aforementioned #EndSARS campaign, many called out Yomi Shogunle, an Assistant Commissioner of the Nigerian Police Force, for his truly insensitive comments about the campaign. They called for his sack and, or replacement. Nothing happened. He recently even went into philanthropy, gifting a young child from Sokoto some items after he performed excellently in a debate.
Yet, with the world heavily globalised and the digital economy becoming huge in Nigeria, companies and institutions should no longer ignore what employees do online. Nigerian internet users are not a secluded part of the internet.
Another example that buttresses this is Nigerian author, Tomi Adeyemi’s attempt to shame New York Times best seller Nora Roberts for plagiarizing her book title.
She noted the similarity in the two titles and called her out for not giving her credit. Ms Roberts responded immediately to the damaging claims and said she never even heard about her book before the tweet went viral.
Although both parties have settled the issue, was calling her out on Twitter the right approach?
Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!