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Social media users are collectively blocking celebrities and influencers who have been silent on Gaza

Social media users are collectively blocking celebrities and influencers who have been silent on Gaza

Hundreds of celebrities are on the “digital guillotine” as social media users campaign for a #blockout — urging one another to block the social media accounts of big names who have remained silent about the ongoing humanitarian atrocities in Gaza.

Selena Gomez, Zendaya, Drake, Justin Bieber and the Kardashian family are among the many targets. Even longtime fans of stars like Taylor Swift have announced their decisions to block the same celebrities they once followed and admired. (Some celebrities on the block lists expressed concern for both Israelis and Palestinians after Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7 but have not posted publicly about Gaza in recent months.)

Pro-Palestinian activists have been putting pressure on celebrities to show more support for civilians in Gaza for months, stirring a growing sense of disillusionment that reached a boiling point last week when the glitz and glamor of the Met Gala coincided with Israel’s announcement of a military offensive in Rafah.

Viewers of the Met Gala have long compared the event to “The Hunger Games,” the popular book franchise by Suzanne Collins that highlights the dystopian social divide between the wealthy Capitol elite and the impoverished district citizens living under state oppression. But criticism of what many online perceived as an excessive display of opulence grew even more pronounced this year as celebrities posed for photos while pro-Palestinian protesters marched outside.

The backlash bubbled into outrage after the popular social media creator Haley Kalil posted a now-removed TikTok video posing in her lavish Met Gala gown while lip-syncing to the TikTok sound “Let Them Eat Cake,” a quotation famously attributed to the last queen of France, Marie Antoinette, who was sent to the guillotine during the French Revolution. The phrase has come to symbolize the attitude of aristocrats who are out of touch with the realities of the less fortunate.

A scene from Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette,” the 2006 movie from which the “Let Them Eat Cake” TikTok sound originated.©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett / Everett Collection

“It’s time for the people to conduct what I want to call a ‘digital guillotine.’ A ‘digitine,’ if you will,” said TikTok creator @ladyfromtheoutside, who kicked off the movement with her viral video. “It’s time to block all the celebrities, influencers and wealthy socialites who are not using their resources to help those in dire need. We gave them their platforms. It’s time to take it back, take our views away, our likes, our comments, our money.”

Kalil later posted a video apology in which she said she was invited only as a pre-Met Gala E! News host and did not attend the event itself. She drew further backlash when she said she does not speak about Gaza because she is “not informed enough to talk about it in a meaningful and educational way.” Kalil did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some online pointed to rapper Macklemore as a celebrity who, despite having shared in October that he was “by no means” an expert in Israeli-Palestinian relations, has continued to learn about the conflict while voicing his support for a cease-fire. Last week, he released a song in support of Palestinians.

Kalil, who posted a now-removed video after the Met Gala sharing her excitement at reaching 10 million TikTok followers, has since dropped back to 9.9 million followers. Many of the celebrities on widely circulated block lists have also lost net averages of tens or hundreds of thousand followers per day since the “digitine” began, according to metrics from the social media analytics company Social Blade.

“Yalla, let’s all block the people who we made famous and rich.. who are living in a fantasy world.. destroying our environment, society, harmony and economy, and don’t even put some effort to educate themselves about us, the 99% of the world’s population who made them,” Palestinian journalist and activist Bisan Owda, known for her social media video reports from Gaza, posted on her Instagram story this weekend.

The “digitine” movement comes in the wake of weeks of protest encampments across college campuses nationwide as students pressure their administrations to divest from Israel, leading to mass arrests of students and some faculty members.

Police officers intervene during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in New York on May 6 organized to show solidarity with Palestinians.Selcuk Acar / Anadolu via Getty Images

But there’s some intra-campaign division over the effectiveness of block lists that center on those who attended Monday night’s Met Gala. Many online highlighted the misconception that celebrities spent $75,000 to attend, noting that invitees typically do not pay for their own Met Gala tickets. And some attendees, like actor Rachel Zegler, have been vocal about Gaza, as well.

Others said that celebrities should not be a focal point for pro-Palestinian activism and that social media users should prioritize talking about Gaza, instead. Still, some online pointed out the impact that an influencer can make with a single social media post: One GoFundMe campaign reached its $200,000 goal less than 24 hours after TikTok creator Yuval Ben-Hayun shared it in a video, asking viewers to donate to help get his friend’s family out of Gaza.

In the days since the “digitine” began, several stars on the block lists — such as rapper Lizzo and influencer Chris Olsen — have posted their first public videos encouraging their followers to donate in support of families in Gaza and aid organizations serving Palestinians.

Some viewers immediately criticized the videos, commenting that they came so late that they appear performative. Others commended them for using their platforms now, citing the videos as evidence the movement is working.

Angela Yang

Angela Yang is a culture and trends reporter for NBC News.

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