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Online Discussion of Domestic Violence around Chris Brown's Grammy Win

The final paper in this session at AoIR 2012 is by Elycia Taylor, whose focus is on the reaction to the 2012 Grammy win by Chris Brown, who had assaulted his partner, the singer Rihanna, following the 2009 Grammys. Brown had become a persona non grata at the time, but has made a recent comeback, and many of his new fans appear to be prepared to overlook this violent history. There are also rumours about Brown and Rihanna working together again.

Technology can be used to support survivors of violence; was such support apparent in online discussions around the 2012 Grammys, then? The Brown support hashtag #TeamBreezy contained messages which suggested that the assault had been Rihanna's fault, and that her career had profitted from it, and it offers forgiveness to Brown and supports his comeback. There is significant romantic interest in Brown as well, some of it very problematic as it accepts the domestic violence.

The #RihannaNavy hashtag, on the other hand, supports Rihanna and attacks Brown; it offers advice to Rihanna as well as to other survivors of intimate partner violence, and comments on the implications of the Grammys validation of Brown in spite of his personal failings. At the same time, there is also criticism of Rihanna for linking up with Brown again: support is expressed for other survivors of violence, but not for her. Much as in the #TeamBreezy hashtag, this is a form of victim-blaming.

The combination of race and gender in the mainstream narrative around this specific case must also be considered – there is a broader tendency of excusing male domestic violence in the black community due to a perceived need to protect black makes against oppression by the dominant majority, and this may influence the patterns of online interaction here.