I recently attended a biodynamic beekeeping workshop at the Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary in beautiful Floyd, Virginia. Many of you, like me, probably have very little experience with bees save the occasional avoid, swat, and run maneuvers. Turns out bees are amazing and complex domesticated animals, and the Spikenard founders and staff are dedicated to supporting and nurturing them through natural and sustainable practices. Most importantly, bees are critical to our very survival since many fruits and vegetables are pollinated by honey bees, as are the foraging crops used to feed livestock we depend on for meat. Spring would also be very drab without the flowers bees pollinate. Unfortunately bee populations have been declining at alarming rates due to a lack of diverse food sources and the use of harmful chemicals.

What Does Social Media Attacks Have to Do With Bees?

During casual conversation with fellow workshop attendees, I was asked about my occupation and proceeded to try to explain my work in threat and violence risk management and social media investigations to a group far removed from the security industry. One of the participants asked if I had seen an episode of Netflix’s show Black Mirror titled “Hated in the Nation,” which eerily involved social media harassment and bees. She explained that the episode essentially involved mechanical bees (think tiny drones) that are developed to fill the critical void left when real honeybee populations are decimated. The source code used to direct the mechanical bee activity is hacked and manipulated so that they are made to attack individuals who are tagged with the hashtag “DeathTo” by social media users. You can imagine the chaos that ensues as the government scrambles to get control of the bees before one of their own is targeted.

Some may think this mechanical bee harassment scenario sounds implausible. I might agree had I not, just days before, seen advertisements for small mechanical drones you can program with your smart phone to literally fly overhead to record your activities. I had also just read about a federal lawsuit that showed the harm an organized group can do to an innocent individual using the internet and social media.

Federal Lawsuit, Social Media Attacks and Troll Storms

The suit was filed by Montana realtor Tanya Gersh. In it she alleges that prominent neo-Nazi group member and publisher Andrew Anglin rallied white nationalist followers to bombard Gersh and her son with anti-Semitic hate messages and death threats delivered through phone calls, text messages, emails and social media posts. Anglin reportedly posted an article on his website that said, “Let’s hit-em up! Are y’all ready for an old-fashioned troll storm?” What was the impetus for such an attack? According to an April 19 article in USA Today, Gersh had a falling out with the mother of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer over a real estate transaction. The lawsuit, which was co-filed by The Southern Poverty Law Center, reportedly alleges that Anglin “turned his horde of anti-Semitic fanatics loose on Ms. Gersh.” It’s imagery that could’ve inspired the Black Mirror episode script.

Stories like Gersh’s, though extreme, are becoming more common. Unfortunately, current laws have not yet caught up to technology to address this behavior. Our firm is frequently engaged to assess and manage situations like this and I’ve previously posted some guidance for managing them here.

I had no idea my interest in beekeeping would lead to a reminder about client safety. I wonder if it is too late to consider a tax deduction for my beekeeping expenses.

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