The world is literally getting crazier with social media. Now an embarrassing, but socially irrelevant, blunder on television can trigger death threats.


I’m now convinced that some people need the feeblest of excuses to trigger their berserk-ness and use social media to proudly manifest it. Take, for example, the case of those two executives from the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, who, for their error at the Oscars, received death threats. (Our front cover story covers this at length.)

We know that Hollywood is a stickler for details, doesn’t like surprises, and is obsessed with redundancy plans, which can reach up to the letter D — as in plans B, C and D. But with death threats it has reached the extreme limit!

I doubt, though, that actual industry people made those death threats. Most likely they came from some inflamed, out-of-town psycopath, who became hysterical when they saw the confusion on the stage, and their fingers moved faster on their iPad than their brain could control.

Cullinan was blamed for handing the wrong envelope to Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as they stepped on stage to present the Oscar for Best Picture. Because of the mix-up, La La Land was incorrectly announced as the winner — rather than the real winner, Moonlight — leading to shock and confusion inside the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and for millions of people watching the telecast around the world.

Subsequently, PwC told NBC News that personal information and pictures of the homes of Cullinan and Ruiz had been posted online, and that the company was providing security to protect them and their families.

Celebrity website TMZ explained that the pair had received death threats on social media. Some of those included: “You f****** idiot, I will f*** you every day…” and “I hope you get fired and get cancer.”

Now, it was a blunder, no question about it; the first of its kind in the 89 years of PwC’s relationship with the Oscars, and in the 83 years that the firm has counted the ballots from Academy members (the telecast started in 1953).

But it’s certainly not a matter of life and death! And certainly not momentous enough to trigger mental instability. But research has indicated that, indeed, there is a connection between increased social media use and deteriorated mental health.

To aggravate the matter further, the U.S. court of law is considering whether one person’s death threat is another’s freedom of speech; in the U.K., Section 127 of the Communications Act of 2003 makes it an offense to send a message of a menacing character over a public electronic communications network.

According to Aaron Schoenberger, CEO of Beverly Hills-based social-media threat-assessment company Soteria, who wrote this issue’s front cover story, “This is only the tip of the iceberg. [The Oscars] incident shows how emotionally attached people become to movies. Similar to threats athletes received for making a mistake during an important game. For the most part, individuals making threats on social media will never make such threats through other mediums.”

(By Dom Serafini)

Audio Version (a DV Works service)

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