The Internet is an interesting place. On the one hand, it’s essentially a gigantic, never ending library. It has practically every book or piece of information that you could possibly hope to find, and it’s open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. And you don’t need any kind of membership to get in. On the other hand, the Internet is also home to the “troll.” The “troll” is the word used to refer to any kind of malicious prankster or bully on the Internet. It’s easy to do mean-spirited or even hateful things when you have the anonymity of a computer screen to hide behind, but in recent years, some of the reports of online bullying and trolling have taken things to surprisingly malicious levels.
There’s a brighter side to the Internet, however, and it often prevails. Music fans and Internet lovers all got a chance to see this, and it was at the hands of none other than teen pop sensation superstar Taylor Swift.
It all started not too long ago, when Papa John’s Pizza and Chegg (a company that sells used or discounted textbooks to students at reduced prices online) put together a promotion to have Taylor Swift perform at a school. It wasn’t long, however, before users of popular Internet news aggregator and message boards Reddit and 4Chan. While the former (Reddit) has been known for its charitable activities and popular online contests, it’s also seen its fair share of malignant activity over the last couple of years. With a rise in popularity comes a diversification of population, and not all of Reddit’s newfound membership have been so polite. 4Chan, on the other hand, has had a long history of being the perverse and backwards corner of the Internet. For them, this behavior is nothing new.
Together, these sites effectively hijacked the contest, thinking it would be hilarious to send Taylor Swift to perform at a school specifically for deaf children. By stacking the contest’s Facebook votes, which were how the winner was determined, the two websites joined forces and won the contest in the name of the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston.
The school’s headmaster took the prank in strike, saying that the students would be happy to see a live performance, but the contest owners quickly pulled the school from the runnings once it became aware of the prank. The story doesn’t end there, however, as Taylor Swift came to the rescue with an incredibly nice little gift for the school. A $10,000 donation from Swift was matched by Chegg, Papa John’s, Cover Girl, and American Greetings alike. VH1 donated around $10,000 worth of instruments. And even though the students of Horace Mann School for the Deaf didn’t get a Taylor Swift concert at their school, each one got a free ticket to the singer’s upcoming Boston show before her tour heads to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. Not a bad ending to an attempted Internet prank.