Online Networks and Social Change

Cancel Culture: The power of voice


Cancel Culture: Judge, Jury and Executioner. Rule of Law ignored as everything goes in the box to the left.

Exploring the current phenomenon of Cancel Culture, revealing its origins, history and evolution.

Providing an in-depth analysis of how this relatively fledging form of protest has evolved into a seriously powerful force to be reckoned with by international corporations, governments and individuals.  Also providing a timeline of its growth fuelled by social media and other online platforms, that has left it changing the face of culture and the world, unchecked by the Rule of Law.



Cancel Culture: judge, Jury and Executioner. Rule of law ignored as everything goes in a box to the left!

The majority of developed countries in the world today exist with little turmoil in society due to the Rule of Law relevant in that jurisdiction.

That rule of law has evolved over time due to changes in cultural values within each society, which have been progressed slowly and carefully by the legislators of the country. This has allowed for more and more freedoms to the citizens of each country to live in a manner to which they believe is consistent with their individual moral’s values and identity, while still abiding by the Rule of Law in order to maintain order.

The above statement also is reflected in organizations’ culture, who while faster moving than government, still took time to carefully consider progressive changes to their policies and procedures.

Pressure on governments, organizations, and other cultural groups to change has become immense and fast moving due to the rapidly growing ‘Cancel culture’, being fueled by social media and other online and highly distributable mediums.

The uprising of social media has resulted in the creation of a powerful tool that any member of society can use to make allegations and force action against individuals, businesses, brands and media works. While this ‘tool’ can have positive and negative outcomes, the concern we face is how to regulate the content, where when and for what cause.

In our modern society, if something is deemed to be offensive or politically incorrect then it can be “cancelled”, or revoked at an incredible fast pace. The most prevalent issue is the damage incurred to a reputation, be it an individual’s personal reputation or the public image of a brand or organisation. The destruction of this image, “without a trial “can have lasting detrimental effects in terms of opportunities being stripped and loss of cultural admiration.

Consequently, members of the population who may disagree with the vocal “cancel culture” voices are too scared to speak up in defence through fear of being targeted themselves and therefore remain silent. This is chilling similarity of the events of World War II and is utterly terrifying.

The concept of freedom of speech is challenged by ‘cancel culture’. For the most part we do have the ability to share our views and opinions, however, we now have to be incredibly careful and mindful of anything we choose to share if a group or individual is troubled by our comment it can result in an onslaught of hate speech via the instrument of social media. Essentially, in today’s society if you release something that is overly conservative or mildly offensive, or speak up in defence of another targeted individual, the woke hall monitors on social media will find you!    Even more so if you are influential.


The concept behind the modern term “cancel culture” is not new, however, the rise of social media has catered for the process of ‘cancelling’ to become significantly more rapid, easily accessible and significantly more harmful.

Dating back to medieval times, we can draw similarities to hangings, the pillory and other public shaming techniques to online shaming attacks. The major difference is volume of people and the speed of dissemination of the ideal. Shaming techniques in those past eras may have been more physically disturbing and agonizing, the mental trauma and stress faced by those targeted online today is an unparalleled experience.

The terminology of being “cancelled” only started to gain traction in 2014 when Cisco Rosado, a cast member from reality TV show Love and Hip-Hop, tells his love interest Diamond Strawberry, “you’re cancelled”. This quote then began to grow on social media soon after the episode aired. People started using the term in a humorous manner saying things like

“Ima start telling people “you’re canceled, out of my face”” -Scotty (@scotty2thotty_).

The cancel culture trend gained further momentum with the uprising of the #MeToo movement, where victims of sexual assault and abuse made a stand and came out about their experiences. This movement can perhaps be credited for the realization of how much power social media can have when masses combine their forces and posts go viral. As the online world has started to embrace this new term, its influence as a tool of humiliation has morphed into something far more powerful.

The Cancel Culture does not initially have a sole leader or ongoing following, and those who partake do so erratically, and potentially only as a once off. They don’t share an understanding, however if the particular target gains traction or virality, a new faction or organisation is formed quickly with a rising membership and contributory base.

Cancel culture is often used interchangeably with call out culture. Call out culture aims to publicly humiliate brands, celebrities or individuals for something they have done that is considered to be unacceptable or offensive or politically incorrect. Some people within society believe that this is a toxic form of behaviour others perceive it as a power that holds people accountable for offensive and hurtful actions and words. Cancel culture is similar in the aspect of publicly shaming, it differs however, with the aim of culturally boycotting a brand or individual to their detriment. Cancel culture exceeds criticism and forms a barrier to prevent growth. Call out culture quite often does lead to ‘cancellation’, so the two do go hand in hand.

Major Organisations

The proclivity for and ease of access to social media and other online forums has enabled, groups who were once limited to members in a refined or targeted geographical area or social or professional group or organisation to form structured and well-planned organisations with a worldwide membership base.

Organisations such as extinction rebellion which now boasts 650 “franchises” in 45 countries are able to mobilise within minutes and without warning to would-be targets. Similar organisations such as Black Lives Matter boast over 8 million active users in 30 countries worldwide, with 350 “Franchises”. Another, organisation “Stop Funding Hate”, again purely run online, even boasts in its accounts which it now submits to the FCA, to having a strong balance sheet and remunerating its directors.

The “He for She organization” was launched by Ban ki Moon the UN Secretary – General. This organisation provided legitimacy for the above similar organisations and can be recognised as the catalyst for the growth, popularity and legitimacy of the viral movements as a whole.

If we look into these organisations we can conclude that social media has played a pivotal role in allowing them to exist and operate, and without this internet network, they simply could not exist in the way that they do. 

Cost / Detriment

In modern times it is considered essential to be “woke” or in other words, be actively aware of how our actions will affect others and society. This particularly relates to our opinions and what we publicly support. The harsh consequence of not obtaining a “woke” mindset is a digital bashing, made possible only by social media. Many people who may contribute towards the shaming and potential “cancelling” of another entity may have no idea of the magnitude that their single input can generate. Collectively, these individual comments create a virtual tsunami which has the ability to ruin the name and reputation of a person or brand.

This culture is costing individuals and brands both intrinsically and extrinsically. Once classed as an offender brands have greater options for apologies or ways of solving the issue, where individuals, may lack those resources. We can examine the example of a man who was fired from his job after a video of him verbally abusing an elderly woman at Costco went viral. The company was quick to act and severe ties with the individual, claiming that, “their behaviour in the video is in direct conflict with our company values”. This demonstrates how in this situation; the company had the resources and power to avoid serious damage from the cancel culture.

 However, the man who was fired now had a permanently damaged reputation which will influence his ability to get employment in the future.

There are other instances where large scale brands have suffered significant losses due to pressure from cancel culture. The brand Coon Cheese, which has now been renamed as Cheer Cheese, suffered a serious blow to its reputation and generated a massive expense as a result of cancel culture. The brand was accused of being insensitive to the Indigenous Australian people through their brand name. This brought on a social onslaught, pressuring them into acting to resurrect their company. While the brand name was not intended to have any racist context, modern society values have deemed it to be problematic, therefore leaving the company with no choice but to comply or go under.

There was backlash after rapper Eminem released his album Music To Be Murdered By, earlier this year. The controversy relating to select lyrics and themes within a particular song in the album. This verse was, “but I‘m contemplating yelling ‘bombs away’ on the game like I‘m outside of an Ariana Grande concert waiting,” Eminem rapped on the second track of the album, titled “Unaccommodating”. Many media outlets and individuals launched attacks at Eminem for what they took as a gruesome hyperbole. A hashtag (#eminemiscancelled) began trending on twitter shortly after the release of the album, particularly promoted by Ariana fans.

This style of writing is not new for Eminem though. He has presented confronting messages and lyrics in his music throughout his career, and this shock factor has often conjured a controversial response from listeners and society. Those who are reacting in such a manner clearly don’t understand who Eminem is as a musical artist, and his style of composition. He has always presented confronting, gruesome themes and used dark humour, which is not supposed to be taken literally. Eminem meant no disrespect to the victims of the bombing or their families, this is reinforced by the millions that he raised for the families of those affected directly after the event occurred.

Furthermore, the artist’s lead single of the album is a plea for the end of gun violence, creating a clear message that Eminem does not condone acts of violence or terrorism. Considering these factors, it is clear that those who attempted to “cancel” Eminem had heard that one lyric from his song and formed an opinion of him as an artist from it. Ariana fans may have even just jumped on the band wagon of hate in support of her, without actually listening to the song themselves, let alone the entire album.

This presents the primary issue with cancel culture. If an individual decides that something that someone does is not acceptable, they can establish a large following of people on social media to come on board with the same idea, often without those people fact-checking what they are choosing to support. This in turn creates a dangerous society to live in, since anyone who is in the limelight can suddenly become guilty without being given the opportunity to be proven innocent. While large entities that have established names or careers might be able to recover from the online onslaught, it’s more of a serious issue for new names that are emerging. If someone who is aspiring to be in the spotlight receives a “cancelling” comment from a semi-influential person, their chance or reaching that goal can be made near impossible.


The terms “Cancel Culture” and “Woke” have become significant in our modern lexicon. An intolerance to progressive ideologies accompanied by a desire to seek retribution by excluding those who don’t have parallel views has become a serious threat to democracy and our freedom of speech.

We are seeing people being accused now for things that they had said or done long in the past, with no rule of law, effectively being trialled by social media and being guilty before being proven innocent. Furthermore, due to the silence of those that would be supporters their “guilty” verdict inevitably remains unchanged.

These past actions may be problematic in current times, they may not have been at the time of occurrence. Holding someone accountable for this essentially enforces the idea that people are not allowed to change, and if you make a mistake, you are eternally guilty. Being held accountable for something from your distant past is not creating justice. This strongly challenges the positive view of cancel culture.

In society today, conservatives or indeed capitalists or right-wing thinkers, are too scared to speak their mind in fear that they might offend someone. In fact, studies show that 63% of people share this viewpoint and are left with no choice but to remain silent. It is a critical human right to be able to speak freely, no one should be able to take away what is in our minds and hearts. Some are arguing that Cancel Culture is giving people a voice, but in reality, this toxic trend is destabilising society and taking away the ability for people to speak freely, in fear of being persecuted by not just another individual, but the masses online who personally have nothing to do with the expressed thought or idea. The notion of being politically correct is spiraling out of control, leaving people in a confused state, where they are lacking in power and stripped of freedom to speak out with no oversight.

Effectively the very thing that gives this movement momentum – virality or a viral post, should perhaps be what it is labelled – A VIRUS that needs a cure.


Altshul, S. (2020, Dec 22). Cancel culture cancels freedom of speech. Jerusalem Post

Santangelo, M. (2020, May 04). The backlash for eminems new album demonstrates the problem with ‘cancel culture’cancel culture. University Wire

Laud, G. (2020, Jul 08). Cancel culture definition: What does cancel culture mean? what is cancel culture? Express (Online)

Kato, B. (2021, March 10). What is cancel culture? Everything to know about the toxic online trend. New York Post.

Sadler, K. (2021, February 16). Top 10 recent examples of cancel culture. The Washington Times.

23, E. B. J. (2021, March 8). The Cancel-Culture Glossary for Canceling, Boycotting, Calling Out, and Calling In. Well+Good.

Cancel culture will divide us. The Centre for Independent Studies. (n.d.).

Beware the sinister dangers of cancel culture. The Centre for Independent Studies. (n.d.).

Mishan, L. (2020, December 3). The Long and Tortured History of Cancel Culture. The New York Times.

S. (2014, December 23). twitter post. Twitter.

Below is a PDF version of this conference paper for your convenience.

41 thoughts on “Cancel Culture: The power of voice

  1. Hi Matthew,

    This was a great read, thank you for sharing. I think you have definitely raised some very interesting and valid points here, and some very interesting facts. I found it interesting and didn’t really think about how cancel culture has always been a thing in the past, but only recently had a name given to it.

    I believe that social media can definitely be a great place for like minded people to connect, share ideas and rally together for good, although in saying that, it’s also much, much easier for online trolls to find each other.

    I had a look through your citations as I wanted to get some more information on the Costco man that got fired, although I didn’t find anything. I did a bit of Googling and saw a few articles of a worker abusing a customer for not wearing a mask (in America). Is this the incident that you were referring to? I believe that sometimes there is little or no context given in some situations posted onto social media and people are getting ‘cancelled’ or even fired for the wrong reasons. The clip that I saw of the man only went for about 30 seconds but doesn’t take into consideration other factors such as if the man had someone vulnerable to COVID at home or if he had someone close to him pass because of the disease. I do doubt, however, that Costco would’ve been cancelled or lost a large portion of their customers if they didn’t rapidly react to the situation the way that they did and fire the man. They could’ve instead released a statement saying that they don’t condone the behaviour and worked with the offender to understand their situation and potentially get them some counselling and work towards a situation like that not happening again in the future with any employee ultimately leading into a more positive outcome.

    I disagree slightly with your comment about people being scared to speak up in fear of being targeted themselves with regards to cancelling. I do believe that there are people that do speak up and put forward their opinions in the comment sections, although other ‘like-minded’ people may just simply scroll past or not even see the post as the social media’s algorithm would already know that they’re not interested, although I do believe that those doing the ‘cancelling’ have the louder voices online, as they all hype each other up which may sometimes drown out the defence comments. Generally what I have found is if the post has a certain opinion, the comments at the top usually have the same view – you have to do quite a bit of scrolling to find an alternative opinion and what you initially see is single sided.

    The Coon example is great although it truely baffles me to be honest. The company had been operating under Coon Cheese since 1959, why now, 61 years later is it all of a sudden a problem? Why was it not a problem in 1959?

    Your article and the Coon story reminded me of a store near my house called Love Crepe. Earlier this year there was massive backlash and ‘cancelling’ of that organisation as the owner refused to comply with the NSW mask mandate. The owner put up a post saying “Love Crepe Believes that being forced to wear a mask is a crime against humanity”. There was massive backlash in the comments of the now deleted post and trolls went online and gave the business one star on their Google reviews ultimately hurting the small businesses reputation even more. Although I don’t agree with the post and views of the company, I don’t think it is fair for people to essentially bully businesses for their beliefs. That’s the funny thing about opinions though, everyone has one – what’s to say that yours or mine is right? But that’s exactly the situation we are in where like minded people with the same opinion are finding each other online through social media. Here is a link to one of the articles about Love Crepe’s post if you wanted to have a read into it:

    After reading your article and a bit of reflection I am a bit indifferent about cancel culture. I don’t necessarily support it but I am not necessarily against it. I think it is a good thing as it keeps organisations and individuals accountable for their actions but obviously think it is a bad thing in how the knock on effect can turn people’s lives upside down. My personal belief is to be a good person, don’t get involved in things that do not involve you directly and rely on the law to hopefully keep everyone accountable for their actions.

    Thanks again for sharing!


  2. Hey there,

    This was such an awesome read, and very informative. I had always ran with the assumption that cancel culture was based off the habits of the digital world, and that we were the cause of criminalising people on the internet for their actions. It came as a shock that this dates way back to an era I hadn’t even known about. It makes me wonder if we as society are just circulating back to our tendencies. Although technology is growing, are we growing with it?
    Not much more to say except I really enjoyed this.

    – Michelle

  3. Hi Matthew,

    Some interesting thoughts here, and an absorbing read!

    Based on my experience in terms of witnessing cancel culture, I would define it as calling for the eradication of a brand or the boycotting of an individual’s products in the event they remain close-minded about various issues, instead of adapting to modern expectations and social standards.

    Based on this, I found it particularly interesting that you’ve highlighted the Coon Cheese example of cancel culture. I think, in this case, while the label may not have had any initial harm intended (this is not my view, but a view presented by many others), it is unreasonable for the general public to experience any kind of outrage and or discontent when individuals request a change of name due to the racist connotations recognised in a modern society. In saying that a brand did not initially intend to be racist – despite the label now being known as racist – and therefore refusing to change, I think this demonstrates a level of close-mindedness that suggests social change is not necessary. For example, as you pointed out, early examples of cancel culture could be linked back to medieval hangings. It is social change that dictates that this behaviour is no longer acceptable; if one behaviour is allowed to evolve and be recognised as inappropriate, why can’t other behaviours follow this same path? Therefore, I would argue that the individuals who, for the most part, reasonably requested a name change, this is not cancel culture, but can instead be referred to as education. The select few who called for closure of the brand altogether could –based on what I have highlighted– be referred to as cancel culture. I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this take!

    Similarly, I disagree that the case of Costco could be seen as avoidance of cancel culture, but is instead a display of an organisation staying true to their values. As someone who works closely with HR, though am not directly involved, such demonstrations of values and displays of zero-tolerance is becoming increasingly important to both employees and customers. Further, I do not feel that damage to reputation automatically equates to being cancelled. In the case of an employee verbally abusing a customer, such actions have not been acceptable for a long time, and in the retail context, this can be seen in the “customer is always right” mentality (please refer to Benjamin Owens research on the topic for more information, found here: In this case, damage done to one’s own reputation cannot be identified as cancel culture, as it is unlikely for an individual to cancel themselves. As you said, this is not a desirable position to be in!

    Finally, I’d like to hear your thoughts on another example of cancel culture, where an author has self-declared their cancellation. In April of this year, author J.M. Buckler used her Instagram platform to make a number of racist comments and spread harmful misinformation. When readers addressed the issues behind her comments and asked for clarification, therefore giving her the benefit of the doubt, she reiterated those same sentiments. As a result, she lost many followers, and she took to her Instagram stories and reels to call these individuals, who did nothing more than unfollow her, bullies. She also updated her Instagram bio to say “CANCELLED ON IG” even though no one in the community pushed cancel culture on her. She has since left Instagram, and built an exclusive platform that only select few individuals have access to. Do you think some cases of cancel culture could be self-declared in order to appear victimised by social media, and avoid taking responsibility for one’s actions? If this is the case, what kind of social change is this driving? Do you think cancel culture may be, to an extent, perpetuated by those who claim to be cancelled themselves?

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

    Kind regards,

  4. Hi Matt,

    Just read your article and enjoyed it, although I notice you haven’t cited a lot of academic articles. Did you not find many on the topic?

    Like so many digital issues it’s a problematic topic because, as you point out, do you stifle freedom of speech? One thought I keep coming back to as I study Digital and Social Media, and reflect on my own social media observations, is the fierce belief people hold that SNS’s are democratic spaces, and that they have rights on these platforms, and deserve to say whatever they want to, to whomever. The reality is that these platforms are owned by very powerful corporations, with their own agendas, and the ability to encourage people to interact in certain ways on their sites. There’s an interesting article about Weibo (I know that’s not a platform you covered but it does make you reflect about the design of SNS’s in general) that suggests the design of the platform distorts context, like identity, character limits, and discussion threads that get picked up by others even though arguments might have ended. If you’re interested it’s this one – Audience Design and Context Discrepancy: How Online Debates Lead to Opinion Polarization. I can definitely think of ways that Facebook/Instagram, and Twitter encourage mob mentality and cancel culture.

    Coming at it from another angle is the sharing, retweeting, remediating, meme behaviours that are so prevalent online. We are so used to scrolling our feed, reading something and then sharing it, tagging our friends, or hitting like. We’re conditioned to take things at face value. Erika M.Sparby in her article Digital Social Media and Aggression: Memetic Rhetoric in 4chan’s Collective Identity ( likens aggression on social networking sites to memetic behaviour. So you could argue that people see others commenting and calling out something they don’t like in someone’s feed, and they emulate that and do the same thing, causing that snowball effect.

    In terms of how to stem the tide of cancel culture, and people weighing in with their thoughts (despite not necessarily being very informed on the topic) online, I think a very extreme solution is something like Chinas social credit system. Where people are rewarded for behaving well – of course, who on earth could be trusted to administer a system like that without corruption!

    As you pointed out cancel culture has existed in different forms for centuries, people love offering their unsolicited opinions, and social media gives an all to easy platform for those thought to be “voiced”. It’s unlikely to change now.

    1. Hi Kymberly,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my paper and to respond in-depth with your own personal analysis.

      Yes, I acknowledge that my paper is lacking in-text reference to academic articles, only because I didn’t realise their importance in this style of writing.

      You raised a critical point about the major social media platforms being under the control and moderation of powerful corporations, which limits the individual users’ freedom. They do put strategies in place to encourage particular behaviour and responses. After all, the algorithm decides what you actually see when you open up the app/program. As you said, we have become conditioned to be repetitive and predictable in our use of social media. We scroll, like, comment, share. The sharing aspect in particular drives the mob mentality. Twitter for example uses the retweet feature, and once a tweet is retweeted the growth is exponential.

      The concept is memetic behaviour which you referenced is applicable in these circumstances for sure. It provides a good explanation of how the snowball effect can commence.

      You have provided some great insights to my paper Kymberly, I appreciate you sharing.


      ~ Matt

  5. Hi Matthew.

    An engaging read on a topic that I had hoped would be brought up in the conference. Indeed, ‘cancel culture’ is reminiscent of mob mentalities from events such as the Spanish Inquisition and Salem Witch Trials. And as you raised, we can see the same tribalism arising within social media platforms, further catalysing civil discussion within the public space.

    I, however, prompt another line of discussion. Could the emergence of cancel culture be a very physical reaction to the domination of mainstream society, with social media provides marginalised groups an unprecedented platform to voice evident frustrations?

    A topic I believe is very relevant to your work is the idea of ‘social currency ‘ or essentially the performative aspect behind ‘woke’ culture. Here, people engage with this moblike behaviour for the self-gratification that social media provides.

    1. Hi there Daniel,

      Thank you for reading and responding to my paper. I’m pleased to hear seeing the topic brought you some excitement.

      I’d like to respond to the line of discussion you have brought to attention. You said, “voice evident frustrations” which I believe was well worded. The cases of cancel culture which have been for a positive outcome have stemmed from this motive. To voice an issue and use the power of social media and the masses to push for a resolution. Combatting your statement is this, the online space is no longer a space place for free speech. Publicly posting your opinion or view can result in the reception of criticism from others who disagree. While criticism in itself is fine, the issue arises when enough people disagree with you and you get targeted. Essentially cancelling you for that comment.

      The topic of social currency is a new concept to me, and upon reading your mention of it I followed up with some research. It’s an interesting concept, where people place value in their online reputation and interactions with others. I can see how this is relevant to cancel culture. “Wealthy” online communities have greater influencing and cancelling power potential. People market themselves through their interactions online and what they choose to post/share. How others interpret this self-marketing can have both positive and negative results. Some benefits that businesses can get from investing in social currency include; increased traffic, awareness and loyalty, as well as sales. This is elaborated on in Forbes article –

  6. Hey Matthew,

    I thought this was a very interesting read! I thought that cancel culture was a recently new practice in online society until you mentioned that cancel culture is a remediated form of practice that pre-existed dating back to hundreds of centuries. I am very aware of the power of cancel culture and the social media ‘heroes’ that constantly attack those with opposing opinions.

    I personally perceive cancel culture as innovation of the good and the bad, I have seen the backlash that many celebrities have received from past comments and videos. The most recent example is David Dobrik and the arisen allegations of sexual misconduct, I can see how my view can be hypocritical, but I do believe that cancel culture is a practice that is taken out reason and employed to people when they against the popular opinion. I want to disclose that I believe it was right to cancel David and his friends for his disgusting remarks and content surrounding the sexual allegations, but I have seen groups of ‘cancellers’ go after renowned celebrities such as Sia and Eminem, for actions that the celebrities that they have not committed, the individuals that cancel others falsefully need to have consequences just like those who are rightfully cancelled. Do you agree that there needs to be consequences for individuals who have potentially destroyed stars careers?

    1. Hey Che-Anne, thank you for your response to my paper.

      It is interesting how the concept of cancel culture has persisted through the ages, only now being massively amplified by social media and the digital world. It is so easy to throw opinions online, but it is just as easy to get cancelled for making a statement.

      I agree with you regarding your example of David Dobrik. His actions were utterly wrong, and he deserved the consequences that he suffered. That is a prime example of the positive use of the power of cancel culture. It also highlights just how much damage can be hailed down on an individual to serve justice. The struggle arises when deciding who should and shouldn’t be cancelled, and beyond that, controlling cancelling occurring. There are some cases like the one that we have discusses that obviously, deserves cancelling. However, the harm caused to those like Eminem was not justified but was not stopped from happening. Its a problem in modern society which needs a solution!

  7. Hi Matthew !

    This conference paper overall gives a nice insight into the new idea that the every-day individual now has a significant responsibility online (through social media), passing the the power from just influencers and big corporations to any valid user.
    I agree with the points you have made and think that this responsibility can result in extreme cases; e.g. being dismissed from a job position. A good example (that has recently emerged) is the James Charles (social media makeup influencer) scandal: his followers were able to speak up and in result he had lost many businesses partnerships.
    However, in my opinion social media has allowed it to become very easy to just accuse anyone without sufficient evidence and you did very well to suggest this – does cancel culture abuse the freedom of speech?

    I also liked how you outlined the fact that past behaviour doesn’t necessarily reflect present or future behaviour as I believe that attitudes can be taught or picked up through the society at the time, with the chance of learning that those particular views are no longer appropriate – as society does change. Do you think the ‘cancel culture’ is just a phase? Do you think that these cultures oppress influencers/users’ freedom of speech?

    I also used #metoo as an example of influencers being called out however, my perspective is quite different. I’ll attach a link in case you wanted to have a look.

    – Kira

    1. Hi Kira,

      Thanks for your response to my conference paper. Glad to see you’ve picked up on the major discussion points of my paper. Exactly right, in current times any valid online user can have a social media presence and influence. Using the term “valid user” also brought something else to my attention. As I am sure you are aware, the online space is filled with “BOTS”. Think about this, cancel culture is driven by masses combining in an online space to push a message/view. With the assistance of AI this could present a massive problem as “BOT” accounts could join the cancelling movement.

      Absolutely cancel culture abuses freedom of speech. It allows people to post comments in a mass movement where they are not individually recognised and are safe behind their screen. They don’t have to fear the consequences of being part of the movement, unlike being part of a physical protest where you can suffer the consequence. Essentially, cancelling is an online protest against a singular entity, who can do nothing to “barricade” the onslaught of comments/posts.

      I don’t know if cancel culture is just a phase, but I truly hope it is. I hope people can become educated on the topic and understand its toxicity and avoid using it.

      Thank you for sharing your different approach to the #metoo example. I agree with what you have said and supported it with evidence.

  8. Hey Matthew,
    That was a good read! My thoughts on the matter lately have been if the mob rule that cancel culture has become is somehow able to regulate real social transgressions by large companies. It’s true that you can only form a mob but never control it, I think it would be what the occupy wallstreet movement wanted to use against rampant capitalism. I think the issue is that people are more likely to be influenced emotionally rather than intellectually, and therefore more likely to try and cancel what offends them rather than a company that burns down rainforests, or uses slave labour.
    Do you think there is a way to harness this kind of people power for good or will it always be the double edged sword?

    1. Hey Jorell,

      Thank you for reading my paper and responding.

      I agree that many cancelling movements are initiated due to emotional discrepancies rather than logical ones. This should not be the way.

      The question that you have asked at the end there has left me stumped, to be honest. I have been trying to think of a way in which the power of the masses could be harnessed and controlled in order to achieve positive results. At the end of the day it comes down to people having free will, and being able to choose what they say and if they say anything or not. Cancel culture is the people’s choice, they can propel it forward or they can shut it down. If enough people stop partaking then it is more likely to die off.

  9. Hi Matthew,

    Your paper was really interesting to read. I am glad it is more talked about. Cancel culture is seriously toxic. It might have started as something that is good but nowadays it is like those people are bored and is willing to cancel just about anyone who did the smallest of mistakes. Most of the times, they are people who does not even deserve such hate. Recently there was a YouTuber, named DisguisedToast, that people were trying so hard to cancel ( has his response and more information about the whole situation). He did not deserve that kind of hate and some people were willing to hate on people that are completely innocent but are associated with him. This is such a great example. Someone woke up one day and decided to cancel Toast. But why? He had made some edgy jokes in the past but so has everyone on the internet or at least YouTube. It could be something that happened 10 years ago and people would still use it against someone without thinking that in 10 years someone changes a lot or the fact that it was obviously a joke. I also hate the fact that they call it “educating” the person when most of the time that person is 30+ with more maturity and experience of life than them. Why does this happen? Do you think it is because of the fact that they are anonymous?

    1. Hi Munika,

      I agree with what you have mentioned in your response. It is far too easy for someone to begin a cancelling movement targeted at another individual. The worst part of it is how often people are being cancelled for actions from their distant past. This is absolutely unfair and should not be tolerated. Society changes with time and so does what people consider to be acceptable. Like you pointed out, your example of “DisguisedToast” who was targeted for “edgy” jokes made in his past. Most people have made some comments, in the online space, which in a modern context would be considered to be inappropriate. While making these comments nowadays would be wrong, there is nothing to be apologised for in the case of past comments where the society of that time accepted them.

      Yes, I believe that people remaining anonymous is the only reason that cancelling works. If people had their names publicly displayed in the cancelling movement, it could reflect badly on them. So people can hide behind their screen and throw hate at someone else without it having any negative effect on them. It’s an act of cowardice.

      Thanks for voicing your thoughts and enlightening me with that example.

      ~ Matt

      1. Hi Matthew, this was an amazing read that really got my intention and challenged me to think outside the box. It would be difficult to find a ‘one shoe fits all approach’ to social media, especially with all the rules and regulations within governing bodies, companies, organizations, and global scaled social media outlets, such as Instagram and Facebook. There are countless people who have received the rough end of the stick because of social media, where often now people are being accused and then having the media follow them to the point of harassment and public shame purely based on a one-sided story told by a singular person, this is unfortunately what l believe is what will become of society, where social media will have the power to create positive change, promote people, help start new businesses, however, at what cost are we willing to pay for it? It has the power to dehumanize individuals as well as create this overwhelming anger, power, and anxiety for the general society which many people don’t benefit from social media.

        1. Hi Gustavo, I appreciate your response!

          I am pleased to hear that you enjoyed reading my paper and that it challenged you to think critically. The online social media space can be unpredictable and uncontrollable. Sometimes causing a virtual bloodbath and as you said, a lot of the time users have no control over the situation. You’re exactly right, all it takes is one person with an online presence to make a comment or present their view to start a movement against another entity. Typically canceling also has the “snowball” effect, where people jump on the bandwagon just for the hype, often not even fully aware of what they are supporting.

          At this stage, there is no way to put the reigns on cancel culture. I believe that educating society and making them informed of its harmful potential is a good approach to limiting its damage.

          Do you know of anyone personally who has been affected by cancel culture?

  10. Hi Matthew,

    I agree that cancel culture has gone too far in our society. I think in 2021 we have lost the ability to bring nuance in conversations around cancelling. We cannot ruin peoples entire lives over a misstep. However, I believe it is important to hold people to account and bring it to their attention if they say or do something insensitive, particularly if this is a repeated action. As a culture I think we are slowly beginning to reject peoples insensitivity and ignorance, which is a good thing, however it can go too far in some cases.

    I think the examples you used in order to demonstrate the effects of cancel culture are bad examples of people being cancelled for insignificant reasons. Particularly the example of Cheer Cheese. The campaign against Saputo to change the name was not just from a viral tweet about cancelling the brand. Academic Dr Stephen Hagan wrote a letter of complaint to Saputo after his research showed that, “The cheese was previously wrapped in black and was given the name “Coon” as a joke..” (ABC, 2020) , the name was racist. The name has a clear history of racial connotations in both Australia and the US and continued to be a reminder of the racism People of Colour still face today. Dr Hagan did not believe that people cancelling or boycotting of the product had a financial impact on the company, thus was not the reason for the change (ABC, 2020). However, the Black Lives Movement may have given it the momentum needed to bring about change as he had been trying to get the name changed for 21 years (ABC, 2020). Perhaps a better example of cancel culture going too far was Ariana Grande being cancelled for licking a donut and saying “I hate America” in 2015 (Smith, 2016). Or perhaps Taylor Swift being cancelled following a feud with Kanye West in which a fake version of events significantly effected Taylors reputation for many years (Kreuz, 2020).

    A question I would propose to you is, do you think that cancel culture effects men and women’s reputation differently?

    Ruby 🙂
    Coon Cheese rebranded after long-running campaign. (2021). Retrieved 5 May 2021, from

    Coon cheese’s name to be changed. (2020). Retrieved 5 May 2021, from

    Kreutz, L. (2020). Why ‘Cancel Culture’ is Immensely Worse for Women. Medium. Retrieved 5 May 2021, from

    Smith, N. (2016). Ariana Grande’s donut-licking cost her a gig at White House, WikiLeaks reveals. the Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2021, from

    1. Hi Ruby,

      Thank you for reading and responding to my paper.

      I appreciate that you agree with cancel culture having gone too far in today’s society. While I did focus on the negative impact of cancel culture, I don’t deny the benefit it can have, giving the public a voice. The examples that you brought in are great examples of the negative impact cancel culture has had, particularly on celebrity figures.

      In response to your question – do I think that cancel culture affects men and woman’s reputations differently? – my thoughts are this. In modern society, any individual or entity can suffer reputational damage due to public shame or “cancelling”. You’ve brought to attending whether I believe there is a variation between genders and no, I don’t see evidence that there is. Any individual can be cancelled, and one isn’t more likely to experience it due to their gender. Neither gender holds an advantage in battling cancelling either. It is society that determines who to cancel, and this is based upon the actions of an individual. As we have seen from this study and your examples, in many cases the “reason” that someone is targeted for cancelling is not legitimate or justified.

      I am curious whether you have a different opinion about the question that you’ve proposed. Do you believe that a persons gender is a factor in the effect on their reputaiton?


      ~ Matt

      1. Would just like to point out the irony here in the ‘Cheer Cheese’ example.
        The paper makes reference to many occurrences wherein something is ‘cancelled’ because of a lack of context or information around it, followed by a snowball effect of the public siding against that which is under scrutiny.

        This has gone the other way here in the sense that ‘Cheers Cheese’ has been defended against it’s cancellation on the grounds of a lack of information (As Ruby has proven, the name DID indeed have racist connotations in it’s origin, despite this paper stating otherwise).

        This leads to an important point, no matter what side an argument is being put forward for, the most important thing is that the information used to support the argument is well researched and proven. Until then, an argument is nothing more than two parties throwing conjectures at each other.

        1. Hi Jordan,

          The ABC example that Ruby provided for the re-labeling of ‘Cheer Cheese’ outlines the Dr. Stephen Hagins activist campaign. As an activist for indigenous rights, he viewed the brand name as drawing racist connotations as we are aware.

          The companies reply was, “After thorough consideration, Saputo has decided to retire the COON brand name.” This demonstrates that the name change occurred as a result of pressure and as a clear attempt to avoid the brand receiving the cancelling effect any further. This flipped the outlook on their brand completely, from one presenting racist connotations to one of inclusivity.

          So the “snow ball effect”, that you referred to before was not able to occur with this brand since they sort a solution before it could get worse.

          To claim that the original “Coon” brand name was intended to present racist connotations is not justified, as the brand is well established and until recent times, there was no controversy about the brand name. This does highlight a positive of cancel culture since Hagan has the power of society and social media behind him to push his cause. However, it also brings to light again the issue that many cases of canceling centre around an action or event that happened in the past. I agree this example is somewhat different since the brand name is more than a comment that a person made. The principle is the same though.

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jordan

          ~ Matt

          1. Hi Matt,

            Just wanted to respond to your reply to Jordan. The word has been used as a slur against People of Colour for around 150 years (Rogers, 2020) so I think your point that the name wasn’t intended to present racist connotations is a little misguided.

            I also believe your point about this being a recent campaign is incorrect. In fact a quick Google search will show you that in the 90’s people were petitioning to get the name changed (Australian Food News, 2008), so your claim about there being no controversy with the name until recently is unjustified. Plus as I said in my original comment, Dr Hagan had been petitioning for the name change since 1999 (Mills Turbet, 2020) (ABC, 2020).


            Coon Cheese rebranded after long-running campaign. (2021). Retrieved 5 May 2021, from

            Coon name to come under the spotlight again. (2008). Retrieved 11 May 2021, from

            Ely, R., & Tinsley, C. (2018). What Most Companies Get Wrong About Men and Women. Retrieved 11 May 2021, from

            Izade, e. (2020). Louis C.K.’s sexual misconduct tanked his career. Now he’s selling out theaters. Retrieved 11 May 2021, from

            Rogers, D. (2020). COON: more holes than Swiss cheese – investigating a slur. Retrieved 11 May 2021, from,justice%20advocate%20Dr%20Stephen%20Hagan.

            Turbet, H. (2020). Coon cheese to be ‘retired’ after 21-year fight to change its name. Retrieved 11 May 2021, from

          2. Hi Ruby,

            While I am not disagreeing with you on the understanding that the word “coon” has racist connotations, I don’t agree in the context of my example.

            The brand name originated from the owner’s family surname. This article might shed some light on the topic – ( )

            The headline – “The end to Coon cheese has surprised the owner of Wodonga’s Coons Dairy who says she does not find her surname “racist at all” sums it up concisely. The brand name never intended racial degradation and it’s as simple as that. You are focusing on the word in a modern context and forgetting about why it was originally chosen.

            Sorry, but I disagree with you. The brand name originated from a family surname. So if you are accusing the brand of being racist for their name, that is not acceptable. You don’t decide your surname, and in traditional family business, the business is always named after the family.

            I agree in a modern context the term by itself has racist connotations. But in the context of this brand, I don’t believe it did.


            ~ Matt

          3. Hi Matt,

            Exactly how the cheese got its name (I have seen the argument that it was a family name, however I have also seen the opposite being argued, I’ll add my sources at the end) is irrelevant to our discussion.

            Regardless of whether it’s a family name or not, the word is a slur. As I stated earlier, the name has been used against
            Indigenous People for decades. Dr Hagan said the name was offensive to Indigenous Australians.

            You said in your previous response, “You are focusing on the word in a modern context…” and, “I agree in a modern context the term by itself has racist connotations. But in the context of this brand, I don’t believe it did.”. In your original paper you stated, “While the brand name was not intended to have any racist context, modern society values have deemed it to be problematic…” This product/brand exists in 2021. As a society we no longer accept this kind of language being used in both conversation but also marketing/branding. If the brand exists in 2021, the brand should be held to the standards of 2021. So if you think the name shouldn’t be changed just because it’s always been named that, then that is a racist point of view, and I urge you to check yourself.


            Coon Cheese rebranded after long-running campaign. (2021). Retrieved 5 May 2021, from

            Coon cheese’s name to be changed. (2020). Retrieved 5 May 2021, from

            Rogers, D. (2020). COON: more holes than Swiss cheese – investigating a slur. Retrieved 11 May 2021, from,justice%20advocate%20Dr%20Stephen%20Hagan.

          4. Hi Ruby/Matt,

            I have to side with Ruby on this one. She really sums it all up when she says: “If the brand exists in 2021, the brand should be held to the standards of 2021”.

            While of course it is unfortunate that the brand came from a family name, it’s beside the point under the grounds of this argument. If a family with the last name of the ‘N Word’ today decided that they wanted to create a brand using that name, it would of course never be accepted by the general public.
            I think this is mainly due to the fact that the nature of a brand is a lot more publicly facing than that of the meaning behind it. Again, it’s unfortunate to have to pivot away from a familial name for a familial brand because of the name itself, which can’t be changed and is of course, due to no fault of it’s owners, but it’s just how it has to go.



      2. Hi Matt,

        I agree that people do often get cancelled for illegitimate reasons. As I said I think as a society we have lost the nuance in our conversations about someones actions. However, my question wasn’t about how often or how likely someone is to get cancelled based on their gender, but rather the long term effects to their reputation following the cancelling.

        To answer your question, yes, I do believe that there is a difference. I think the Taylor Swift v Kanye West is the best example of this. Taylor Swift’s public image suffered largely after Kanye West lied about asking for her permission to use her name in his song ‘Famous’. However when it was revealed West was lying he did not get the same level of vitriol or long term effect on her career that Swift received.

        A study by the Harvard Business Review identified that women are often scrutinised more for their mistakes than their male colleagues.

        “Several studies have found that because women operate under a higher-resolution microscope than their male counterparts do, their mistakes and failures are scrutinized more carefully and punished more severely.” (Tinsley, C. & Ely, R., 2018, para 23)

        There’s also the example of Louis C K being cancelled for sexual assault allegations. Following this he was dropped from his agency and Netflix cancelled any future projects. However, in 2019, he sold out 5 shows in Toronto (Kreutz, 2020).

        So while I agree there is not a difference in the amount of women vs men that get cancelled, and I will also state that not all cancelled women have their reputations ruined long term, I believe that more often than not women feel the long term effects of their cancellation more than men.



        Ely, R., & Tinsley, C. (2018). What Most Companies Get Wrong About Men and Women. Retrieved 11 May 2021, from

        Izade, E. (2020). Louis C.K.’s sexual misconduct tanked his career. Now he’s selling out theaters. Retrieved 11 May 2021, from

        Kreutz, L. (2020). Why ‘Cancel Culture’ is Immensely Worse for Women. Medium. Retrieved 5 May 2021, from

        1. Hey Ruby,

          I appreciate you explaining further what you meant in your question to me. I clearly misunderstood the direction you were coming from and I can see what you mean now.

          The research and studies that you have referenced support what you have said, and granted that the research provided is accurate I would agree with you. In terms of the Kanye/Taylor example, I don’t think there is a clear definition as to why Taylor received more harsh effects of cancellation than Kanye. The information referenced in your research doesn’t particularly apply to this example, since that is in an employer based environment, and the cancelling came from society.

          Making the claim that, “woman feel the long term effects of their cancellation more than men” is a personal opinion. Perhaps it has to do with the approach that they take to dealing with cancellation? I;m not saying you are wrong, but that claim is more opinion based than fact.

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts, views and opinions further on the topic of cancel culture in today’s society Ruby.


          ~ Matt

  11. Hi Matthew,

    This was a very insightful paper to read which has left me with many thoughts.

    I thought that describing cancel culture as “The destruction of this image, “without a trial “” was very insightful and explained very well. I see cancel culture not always being used in the correct way. I only seem to see it occur within social media influencers. It never seems to apply when a big sports star does something like smuggle drugs, etc. Why do you think that is? Are they simply harder to call out?

    Do you think that cancel culture has heavily overtaken an online platforms? I would argue that it may start from one platform, for example, an instagram model posts a photo of them wearing that is cultural appropriation and therefore goes to YouTube to post a long video apologising and sharing the link their video on multiple social media platforms where others can comment on it, further “cancelling” someone.

    When you said “If an individual decides that something that someone does is not acceptable, they can establish a large following of people on social media to come on board with the same idea” it made me consider how damaging the term “cancelled” is but I do think it is necessary in some situations. For example, I see cancel culture not always being used in the correct way. I only seem to see it occur within social media influencers. It never seems to apply when a big sports star does something like smuggle drugs, etc. Why do you think that is? Are they simply harder to call out? It seems unfair that they are continued to be praised.

    One further thing that I would like to mentioned is the popular YouTuber, Jenna Marbles. Years ago she said some discriminatory things online which were hurtful to certain groups. Instead of being “cancelled”, she decided to cancel herself which meant stepping down from her platform and not posting any sort of content on all of her social media platforms. Her fans immensely respected her for it and she took the time to learn from it and has still not returned to social media. I see this as super interesting and would love to know your opinion.


    1. Hi Lauren,

      Firstly, thank you for taking interest in and reading my paper as well as your response. I am pleased to hear that you found it insightful to read.

      As I discussed within my paper, larger figures are better equipped to battle cancel culture. Yes, I would say that more established public figures have a greater resistance to being called out. Which in some cases I agree is not fair. At the core of it, that is the issue with cancel culture. It is just groups in society that get to decide who gets cancelled, which is not fair and this should not continue this way.

      Your example of the YouTuber Jenna Marbles is new to me and is interesting to look at. Rather than combating cancelling with an apology, she just slipped off the radar. While it appears that she did this to learn from her mistakes, it could have also been a move to protect her name and her future career opportunies. Some might have even viewed it as a cowardly move.

      Essentially, cancel culture at this stage is uncontrollable and that is the issue with it. There are no guidelines or regulations about who can be cancelled and for what reason. I think that if people are educated they peoples attitude towards cancelling might change and it could be brought under control.

      Thanks again for your response, Lauren.

      ~ Matt

      1. Hi Matt,

        Thanks for your reply.

        By getting to the root of cancel culture, hopefully we can understand it better. As Jenna Marbles did, as you said, “slip off the radar”, is that really a form of getting cancelled when she chose to leave social media herself?

        There will never be guidelines to what should cause someone to be cancelled and I can’t understand how the online world thinks that it is their responsibility to cancel people rather than simply explain how their actions were wrong and then move on. Everyone makes mistakes so why is it only online influencers that get cancelled when doing things that others do every day?


        1. Hi Lauren,

          By “slipping off the radar”, Jenna largely avoided the significant damages of cancelling. You have asked if this is still a case of cancel culture, and yes it absolutely is. Jenna only stepped down off the platform due to pressure from the online presence. If this had not arisen she would not have done so. So that should answer your question.

          I agree, it is impossible to have guidelines and even if there were, even more, impossible to have them enforced. If only the majority of society had that thinking, to comment and move on, instead of taking it on personally to target another and bring them down. Causing them to suffer for their actions. As discussed with other comments, there have been situations where cancel culture has done good, but more often than not it is harmful.

    2. Hi Lauren,

      I wonder if the difference between your example of sports stars and online influencers and celebrities is that sporting organisations like the AFL are perceived to adequately “deal with” their members who have done the wrong thing? like if a footballer is accused caught with drugs it goes to an internal enquiry and they make a decision and dish out a “punishment”, whereas with an influencer who says the “wrong” thing, the community feels they need to basically Lynch that person?

  12. Hi Matthew,
    I really enjoyed reading this article as it is a topic that is prevalent in society. You raise some valid and interesting points, especially linking the current online shaming techniques to medieval public shaming techniques, there is an element of similarity there.
    I agree that cancel culture is extremely powerful and can have both positive and negative impacts, but I believe in some cases it is taken too far.
    I have read several articles about people in the public eye who have been ‘cancelled’ or shamed online for past mistakes. A lot of people are being punished for things they may have said in the past, when this wasn’t considered problematic in society, and it is now. It is important for these people to acknowledge these mistakes, but I think it is unfair to completely cancel them due to this. People change as society changes, as you mentioned in the start of your paper, more people have become ‘woke’, aware and educated on societal topics which may influence and change the way they act and speak in comparison to their past.

    Do you know of any positive examples where cancel culture has been used?

    1. Hey Eleanor,

      Great to receive your reply to my paper!

      I absolutely 100% agree with you. This is probably the single biggest issue with cancel culture that I have witnessed occurring first hand. People receiving criticism for words or actions from their distant past. Firstly, people do make mistakes and they learn from them and move on. I firmly believe that calling someone up for something that they did a significant time ago is not right and should not be allowed. Furthermore, as you mentioned, their past actions/words may have been acceptable by society at the time they occurred, and only now in modern society are they viewed as unacceptable.

      An example of this occurring recently is with one of the cast from Rupaul’s Dag Race TV show, who experienced massive public shaming and cancel culture as the show was commencing. This was because of videos re-emerging from their past, which contained speech that was accepted at the time but in modern society is not accepted. This individual was then judged for their distantly past actions and suffered greatly because of it. This is absolutely unacceptable and is one of the reasons supporting my opinion that while cancel culture can sometimes be beneficial, for the most part, it is uncontrollable and harmful.

      In terms of positive examples of cancel culture, the case of the Ellen Show, where she was exposed for operating a toxic work environment, is a good example. Social media and the power of cancel culture gave employees power and a voice to expose the toxic work environment and demand change.

      Once again, thank you for your response to my paper, I appreciated hearing your input.


  13. Hi Matthew,

    Brilliant article! I also wrote on the toxic and damaging effects of cancel culture, so I agree with many of the points made in your post.

    An idea you mentioned that really stood out to me was that powerful brands have greater options for apologising and saving their reputation, while individuals may not have that opportunity, and their livelihoods suffer because of it. This is something I personally hadn’t considered, and truly adds to the toxic effects of cancel culture.

    However, while doing my research I did find a certain grey area within the positive and negative effects of cancel culture. While many public figures become victims of cancel culture due to misconstrued comments, or generally not ‘fitting in’ with today’s political correctness, such as Eminem, there are other cases in which brands or individuals were held accountable for their actions. For example, in 2020, ‘call-out culture’ targeted Ellen DeGeneres, with former employees sharing stories of the toxic workplace environment surrounding ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’. This led to an internal investigation being launched, and the workplace environment potentially being positively changed. Ellen herself publicly apologised and vowed to change the culture of her show. This brings to question, would a positive change such as this ever happened if cancel culture did not exist?

    Do you believe that cancel culture does have positive effects? If so, is there any way of controlling it in order to utilise the positive elements while eliminating the negative impacts, or do we have to eradicate the culture completely?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    1. Hi Asha,

      Thank you for reading my paper and for your thoughtful response. I will be sure to read your paper, as you mentioned writing on a similar topic which would be insightful to compare.

      To address the point that you raised and to answer your question to me. Yes, I do believe that cancel culture can have positive effects. In my paper I focused primarily on the negative effects as I believe that these outweigh the positive, however, that doesn’t mean there are no positive results. Your example of the exposure of the toxic behaviour occurring behind the scenes in the Ellen show is a clear demonstration of how it can give those with less power a voice and in this case, it drew attention to an important issue. There are many other examples of situations where cancel culture has been used as a powerful tool to serve justice. People, through the use of social media, now have the power to ban together and bring a select entity to their knees. In regards to monitoring and controlling how this occurs, I truly see no way is that being done. People have 100% control over their personal social channels. While companies like Instagram and Facebook have the ability to ban profiles and hashtags, they can’t target individuals when this type of movement occurs, that would be unacceptable since people are simply voicing their thoughts. It’s the combined effect that is harmful.

      It is because of the inability to control cancel culture that I think it is dangerous, and I see it as a weapon, rather than a tool.
      I agree, it has had some positive results, but not being able to control this type of movement makes it threatening.

      Do you have any thoughts on how cancel culture can be controlled?


      1. Hi Matthew,

        Thank you for your reply!

        I completely agree with you that there is seemingly no way to monitor and control how cancel culture is used. It certainly gives people with less power a voice, yet that can be manipulated and exploited to tear down others that do not deserve it. I believe that the only way to truly exercise some sort of control is through the rules and regulations of the social media website itself, such as blocking the spread of false news and misinformation. However, as you stated, when it comes to targeting and blocking individuals for expressing their thoughts and opinions, it is unacceptable.

        I would agree with you that cancel culture is uncontrollable, and all we can do as individuals is educate ourselves on the toxic effects, which might decrease participation in the movement.

        Thank you again for the insightful reply.

  14. Hi Matthew,

    Thank you for an interesting conference paper! You’ve made several interesting points here on cancel culture and the tendency to call out other individuals online. Your point about people being too afraid to speak out when they disagree with someone else being called out for saying something they think is a non-issue reminded me of an interaction I witnessed on Facebook a few weeks ago.

    There was a thread of comments on a post in which one commenter referred to someone she was speaking to as ‘sis’ (short for sister). Another commenter joined the conversation to call her out on her use of the word ‘sis’ as she described the word as belonging to the AAVE (African American Vernacular English)[1]. She tried telling the first commenter that she could not use that word because she did not belong to the African American community. The original commenter pointed out that she was an Aboriginal Australian and that ‘sis’ is part of the Aboriginal Australian vernacular. The pair argued for a time, and while a few people did comment in defence of the original commenter, the person calling her out continued to argue her point. Personally, I agreed that both commenters had every right to use the word ‘sis’ as it belongs to both vernaculars, but belonging to neither of those communities there was no way I was going to respond because it would have earned me backlash either way.

    I agree that cancel culture has its place and uses, it certainly has benefits and can be used for the right reasons. But I also agree that it can be seriously problematic and damaging, and also it has created an online atmosphere in certain communities where people feel they cannot communicate their thoughts without fear of being misunderstood and attacked like in the example I’ve given above.

    I wonder if in your research, whether the literature suggests this problem will get worse or whether it will improve. Certainly, there are groups where people recognise some of the cancel cultures toxicity, but can that create change?

    In addition, governments around the world are scrambling to introduce laws to mitigate these types of issues and exert some kind of control over what happens and what is said online. This is made challenging because governments struggle to come to unanimous decisions on how to police the internet and whether they even should. Taking action against groups and people across borders is near impossible for some countries.

    A few questions:

    Should the government be able to regulate online interactions to solve issues online? If so, what kinds of solutions might be viable that doesn’t infringe on individuals rights to speech and expression?

    Thank you again for a very interesting read.

    ~Crystal Beaini.


    1. Hi Crystal,

      I appreciate your response and would like to answer the question that you posed.

      Yes in my personal opinion I believe that governments should have the ability to regulate online issues in very specific circumstances. There would have to be detailed legislation around this, which would not be easy. Since this could potentially grant governments power over people’s personal socials and data, creating a privacy breach. The intervention of governments would only apply in cases where cancel culture is leading to large scale and damage to reputation. Again, defining when this starts to occur is the difficulty.

      So in terms of what permissions the government could be granted. I’ve struggled to come up with appropriate controls that don’t overpower the people and their rights while allowing intervention when needed. Do you have any ideas to present relating to what controls governments could be given?

      Thank you for your engagement with my paper and your response.


      1. Hi Matt,

        Thank you for your response. I agree that it is very difficult to come up with a solution that does not infringe on the rights of platform users. But also, how is the internet policed, and by whom? We might suggest that Australia expands existing laws[2] to preventing people from doxing[1] other platform users online to reduce instances of people causing malicious damage to others. This is good but it doesn’t stop people in other nations that do not have similar laws from doxing Australian platform users. The challenge is getting a coordinated solution between nations, and unfortunately, I can’t think of a good enough solution to this.

        It may be that regulation is not the answer so much as a change in attitudes and behavior?



        1. Hi Crystal,

          I have to agree with what you have proposed, especially your last point about it being a change in attitudes and behavior as opposed to the implementation of regulation.

          If society is able to understand how to control the way they interact with cancel culture it can be a greatly beneficial tool. If it is reserved for worthy circumstances. In terms of having a global agreement between nations in regards to government regualrtions. This is an impossible task as far as I see.

          Moving forward, I think the best approach is to educate people about the harmful effects of cancel culture and generate a movement to reserve it for suitable situations when they arise. Of course, this will always come down to the discernment of an individual or group of people. Educating people will hopefully reduce the amount of toxic cancel culture, as people realise its harm and avoid being a part of it. We should encourage people to place themselves in the position of the target, to sympathise and understand.

          ~ Matt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *