Unsurprisingly, yet another disturbing trend has formed on the internet. Having started on TikTok and group chats, a rumour has surfaced that 24 April is also celebrated as ‘National rape day’. First of all, to be clear, this is not true. Although an official investigation is underway, no one knows exactly where the rumour originated from. Here’s everything we know about the vile and potentially dangerous trend so far.
‘National Rape Day’ or ‘National Sexual Assault Day’ is an alleged holiday claiming to legalise sexual assult for 24 hours on 24 April. There is not a holiday in the US or anywhere else in the world that legalises sexual assault at all, or for any time period. Rape and sexual assault are crimes, and will continue to be crimes on 24 April.
In April 2021, over the last couple of weeks, warnings of this upcoming horrific day started popping up on TikTok. According to many videos and reports that are currently circulating, the trend was started by six men on TikTok who shared a video encouraging other men to sexually assault women on this day.
They allegedly said it is legal to do so, and shared tips on how to carry out the act. . The origin of the video, first posted in March 2021, is uncertain and has since been removed from the platform for obvious reasons. . Despite this, rumours are still gaining traction as users continue to post videos on the topic, unknowingly adding to the trend.
A TikTok spokesperson told USA Today that “The supposed ‘National Rape Day’ trend being reported upon is abhorrent and would be a direct violation of our Community Guidelines, and while we haven’t seen evidence of this trending on our platform, our safety team remains vigilant and would remove any such content.”
Having dug a little deeper, it appears that these rumours about a ‘National Rape Day’ aren’t new to 2021. Archived pages from Urban Dictionary show entries for this day dating back all the way to 2018. Although these entries have since been deleted from the website, a ‘correction entry’—added by Stevi Hardford—now states: “Don’t rape people it’s bad and national rape day is to put a stop to it. National rape day is to stop people raping girls and sometimes boys.”
The day may go back even further—Know Your Meme wrote that “Jokes and posts about a ‘National Rape Day’ date back to at least 2010 on Twitter, although none mention April 24th specifically or purport the day to be a real, practiced thing, more so using the phrase for comedic shock value.”
Social media has inevitably lapped this up, and women are now being urged to stay indoors and ‘safe’ on the day, which is certainly ridiculous but also quite terrifying. The ironic problem with such rumours and gossip is that they literally allow things to be talked into existence. In this case, the fact that this entire hoax is not true must be what is circulated the most. That being said, the surfacing of the entire ordeal is also bringing people into wider discussions about sexual assault, which can only be a good thing.
The 24 April rumours have also spread through UK universities. At the University of Exeter, rumours were circulating about a group chat of students with a “plan to rape as many girls as they can” on and around the day. Exeter’s university has now advised students to ignore the threats and has publicly stated that they are “designed to cause fear and to play on serious and genuine concerns regarding sexual assault.”
According to The Tab, the university has relayed these rumours to Devon and Cornwall police and that they are “currently making enquiries regarding the credibility of the group.” It also said the police believe the rumours are linked to the 24 April “international phenomenon.”
Although there is no clear evidence of it all, one thing is for sure: social media can be, and mostly is, a manipulative tool at best, and this is what we should all be aware of.
Imagine a private organisation with more social influence and money than many governments; an omnipresence that transcends national territories and a tentative plan to start its own currency. It sounds like an Orwellian nightmare, right? And yet, Facebook has achieved all three. So why is there so much faith that the corporation won’t attempt to influence the world for its own gain? And why are we still using the platform?
The last few months have revealed a myriad of Facebook’s growing shortcomings. The announcement of Libra’s looming entry into the cryptocurrency market was met with curiosity and excitement, but soon after, major backers PayPal, Visa and Mastercard near-simultaneously withdrew from the project, encouraging a wave of doubt in the currency’s legitimacy. The Libra plan has since been changed, with the project being rebranded as a payment system, rather than a currency, but the US inquiry into the project and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s unfaltering series of questions for Mark Zuckerberg resurfaced Facebook’s misdemeanours—their refusal to fact-check politicians’ ads, the Cambridge Analytica scandal—and the platform’s trustworthiness was once again heavily scrutinised.
With US and UK elections approaching, it’s hard not to see why Facebook would be viewed with suspicion. Since the influence of Facebook on both nations’ 2016 elections was proven, Facebook has gone to lengths to make amends. According to Zuckerberg, he has no interest in influencing democracy. In his recent speech at Georgetown University, Zuckerberg said, “I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy.” This was his excuse for why they don’t fact check politicians’ ads.
But other than well-crafted public statements that act only to make excuses for Facebook’s actions, Zuckerberg isn’t doing much to allay the public’s fears, with his penchant for private dinners with conservative politicians causing a wave of concern among liberals. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Zuckerberg is wining and dining politicians at this point, though. Facebook’s interests lay in increasing profits and keeping taxes minimal, so it pays off to sweet-talk neoliberal politicians and governments.
With neoliberal ideals supporting free-market trade, the deregulation of financial markets, and the shift away from public welfare, corporations—not society—are the first to benefit. Socialist Bernie Sanders introduced a bill aimed at curbing corporate tax avoidance in the US, pointing out that “the truth is that we have a rigged tax code that has essentially legalized tax dodging for large corporations.” If socialist politicians were to obtain power, large corporations would be subject to further accountability. For politicians, a strong relationship with Facebook could, in theory, mean the difference between winning or losing an election, and socialist politicians aren’t winning any brownie points in that arena.
Facebook’s interest in creating its own cryptocurrency is also highly controversial. A corporation having control over currency without any democratic accountability leaves reason to be concerned. Both France and Germany moved to block Libra when it was first announced, saying in a joint statement that “no private entity can claim monetary power, which is inherent to the sovereignty of nations.” While Bitcoin also removed the necessity for government and banks’ control over currency, the difference lies in the decentralised and permissionless nature of Bitcoin, compared to Libra, which will be controlled by a consortium of mega-corporations, who will be subject to regulation.
Facebook’s scale and influence are unique, leaving governments scrambling to create regulations as answers to the questions the company is creating. Never before has the world seen a corporation so extensively impacting psychology and public choice, and this is what’s at the heart of the issue: Facebook makes decisions that impact the lives of millions of people. Most of the users would likely believe that decisions of this scale should be made through a democratic process.
For Facebook, it always comes back to a question of trust. And despite the tech conglomerate proving time and time again that it’s not trustworthy—with our data, with its advertisements and with the news we’re fed—the social networking site has most people feeling as though there’s no alternative. Hopefully, their move into the finance sector won’t end the same way.