Social Media and Harambe, the Gorilla

Since the news about the death of Harambe, the rare 17 year old male silverback gorilla who was shot dead at Cincinnati Zoo in America, the internet has exploded with online debates. Many of these discussions have been impartial, expressing upset for the gorilla and well wishes for the boy. Other conversations have resulted in a mob justice for the gorilla with an online hatred campaign for the boy’s mother.

‘Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, turned 17 at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden on Friday. The zoo celebrated his birthday. The next day, zoo officials shot and killed the critically endangered ape.’

A young boy slipped through to the zoo’s gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati zoo in America and one of their rare male gorillas, Harambe, was then seen dragging the boy about. The zoo made the very difficult decision to shoot the gorilla in order to ensure the safety and protection of the young boy. Ever since, this story seems to have created a complete divide around the world about what should have happened that day.

As soon as this story was shared, it quickly became viral.

I tweeted about the story as soon as I heard about it and had watched some of the videos online. The debate surrounding my tweet has been unbelievable. I have had just under 220,000 impressions, 57 replies, 323 shares and 424 likes. I have also had to block a number of people who have made some very nasty comments towards me following my tweet.


It seems the general consensus is in favour of the gorilla, saying he should not have been shot, and the boys parents were at fault for not watching him. Whatever the argument, the online conversations surrounding this story do not seem to be slowing down and the internet mob, calling for justice for the gorilla is gaining momentum every day since the story broke out online.

Michelle Gregg, the mother of the boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure, has now become the victim of online abuse. The boys mum had posted on Facebook about the incident, but later deleted the post. There was no mention of Harambe, the gorilla, which seems to have caused more hatred towards the boys mother:

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There are numerous online petitions that have been set up, one with more than 320,000 signatures it calling for the boy’s parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life.

A number of hashtags are being used around the discussion; #Cincinnatizoo #JusticeForHarambe #Harambe.

There is also a Facebook Page, Justice for Harambe, has received over 136,000 likes.

The power of Social Media never ceases to amaze me with the way in which a local story can very quickly become viral and involve a worldwide debate amongst people you have never and may never meet. However this is also an example of how an internet mob can aim to seek vengeance, something that must be very frightening for the parties in which the mob is targeting. In this instance it seems to be Michelle Gregg, the young boys mother. Is it fair? And to what lengths will those calling for justice go to?

Have you commented or shared anything on social media about this story. What sort of reaction have you received?




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