Edgy web ads for a Fishtown ice cream parlor had internet trolls making threatening calls to the establishment and accusing its operators of being satanic child abusers.
The episode brings to mind the man who fired an assault rifle inside the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C., because he believed fake stories on alt-right websites that said Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring in the basement.
Fishtown’s Little Baby’s Ice Cream Parlor and Pizza Brain pizzaria were apparently targeted for abuse because of web ads, including one where an androgynous figure made of ice cream eats ice cream from his or her head while saying, “I eat Little Baby’s (slight pause) ice cream.”
The ad is a little creepy, but creepier are the internet trolls who decided to harass the restaurant’s workers. But it’s a sign of the times.
A recent study by Stanford and Cornell University suggests some people agitated by what they see on the internet could be just having a bad day.
But others have bought into conspiracy theories and may believe there really was a Bowling Green massacre or that the news media ignores some acts of terrorism.
Twitter is trying to keep harassers off of its site. Facebook is clamping down on fake news. And Reddit recently banned some white supremacist chats. But those and other social media sites remain fertile ground for rumor-mongering.
Violent threats inspired by fake news require stronger action. Liberal definitions of free speech don’t include threatening someone else’s safety.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro should take advantage of cyber bullying statutes and research on anti-social internet behavior to protect people from web trolls.