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Lincoln Cafe Hit With Backlash From Social Media Mob

Walker Evans Walker Evans Lincoln Cafe Hit With Backlash From Social Media MobPhoto by Walker Evans.
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Late on Monday night, local ABC affiliate WSYX reported that a Columbus police officer had been injured earlier in the day when biting into a sandwich that contained shards of glass at the Lincoln Cafe on East Long Street. The officer was rushed to Grant Medical Center where he was treated and released. The Columbus Police Department issued a statement at 11:30 yesterday morning stating that while the investigation was still ongoing, there was no reason to believe that the glass was placed there intentionally.

The Columbus Public Health Department conducted an inspection yesterday morning based upon the complaint, which discovered “several small clear glass plates with small chips on rim” and “under drying rack were found four small pieces of clear, broken glass”, according to the report. The report also detailed that the situations were remedied by instructing the person in charge of the kitchen to “examine all plates and discard any damaged plates” and “the complete cleaning of the three-bay sink and the drying rack”.

While the incident is certainly unfortunate for everyone involved, and in most instances would result in someone being fired from their job, a large contingency of social media users took to their platforms of choice to have a virtual field day with the news. The mob mentality was in full effect once the local story went viral and was reported on by news outlets from New York to California, including wide-reaching online publications such as The Huffington Post and The Blaze. The wide-spread coverage converted quickly into backlash fueled by a social media mob across Facebook, Yelp and other platforms.

Many responses posted yesterday included fake reviews from Yelpers with physical addresses located all across the US, and racist Facebook comments taking aim at the African American business owners at the Lincoln Cafe. Insults were hurled, boycotts were called for, and death threats were made.

“I was on Yelp this afternoon when I noticed some of my Yelpers had started a talk thread about Lincoln Cafe — they were obviously concerned and wanted to help,” Yelp Columbus Community Manager Bryant Miller told us last night. “Within a few minutes we had placed an ‘active cleanup alert’ on their page, which lets consumers know that this business had recently been in the media and reminds them of some of our terms of service. The gist of it is, only authentic consumer experiences will remain after the cleanup.”

The policy is a newer one for Yelp, which has seen similar mob responses to national media stories that have impacted small businesses in a similar way. Miller said that with this phenomenon happening more and more often, the alert system is designed to help prevent the situation from getting out of control.

“I was most upset by the racially-charged ‘reviews’, and so were other Columbus Yelpers,” he stated. “I think it’s also important to remember that cases like this are the exception, not the rule.”

Facebook currently doesn’t have a similar proactive program in place to respond in these situations. Business owners have individual administration tools to hide or delete comments, ban users from making further comments, and delete or hide visitor posts or reviews. That process is likely daunting in the case of the Lincoln Cafe, which has accumulated over 600 one-star reviews in a single day after Monday’s news went viral.

“Social media has been lauded for the way it allows anyone with a social footprint to share their point of view,” explains Social Media expert Danny Brown in a blog post from 2014 on the emerging trend of the mob mentality. “The trouble with anything that offers this kind of untethered “freedom” is that it often leads to untethered hate. Instead of leading to mature discussions around common goals, frustrations and injustices, it’s led to the bear pit mentality that we seem to be seeing more of. Ironically, as social media matures, the audience seems to be going the other way.”

The owners of the Lincoln Cafe have been reached out to for comment, but have not responded as of the time of publishing.

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