The Love That Inspired ‘Hate Tweets to Frank Ocean’

Christina Lee


Mobilization on Twitter has marshaled inspired movements against repressive regimes, including the Arab Spring protests. That, and spewing hatred against anyone who’s photographed with members of One Direction––girlfriends and cousins included.

Last week, Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo divulged plenty of clear-cut intentions for the social media platform, including how it would utilize its partnership with the Olympics. However, Twitter has yet to figure out how to remain a valuable platform for political speech and also protect celebrities from hate speech––including the death threats targeting Selena Gomez and, now, the homophobic comments directed at Frank Ocean.

Prior to July 4, all anticipation for Ocean’s proper Def Jam debut, Channel Orange, was built off of his mixtape nostalgia, ULTRA and his guest spots on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne. Then, when journalists previewed Channel Orange, they noticed that it lovingly referenced ‘him’ where they expected mentions of ‘her.’ So on July 4, Ocean posted a rough draft of the Channel Orange liner notes, a letter about his first, unrequited love: “… 4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too.”

Channel Orange, now No. 2 on the Billboard 200, revels in how such unrequited love consumes him. When Ocean posted a free stream of the album (no longer available), Channel Orange‘s last soundbytes––of him exiting a girl’s car, running through pouring rain and then stepping inside his front door––leads directly to the album’s very first soundbytes––of him rummaging through his room and booting up a PlayStation. “End” bleeds into  “Start.” The stream automatically loops, because as Ocean pleas in falsetto, he’d been thinking about forever.

Ocean’s letter has sparked comparisons to previous celebrity coming-outs, informed how critics have analyzed Channel Orange and as five Swedish designers noted, inspired plenty of hateful tweets. Many of the comments are vile. And many commenters tagged Frank Ocean’s Twitter handle, ensuring somewhat that he’d see their remarks.

So in response, those designers launched Hate Tweets to Frank Ocean on July 5, where they have posted dozens of such comments with a simple call to action––respond with an auto-reply that reads, “It’s not who you love – it’s that you love that truly matters.” We spoke with site co-creator Martin Löfqvist via email about his hopes and story behind the site.

Who are all the designers involved in the creation of “Hate Tweets to Frank Ocean,” and how do you all know each other? Where in Sweden are you from?

It is primary me and Jacob Åström, both from Stockholm. We’re long time friends and also co-workers at Great Works, a digital communication agency in Stockholm that we now both have left. (Great Works have nothing to do with this site.)

Jacob is now running Dear Future, a digital communications and PR agency. Me – I’m very soon moving to Berlin to work with the iPhone app Loopcam. [Aside] from us, Isak Burström and Andreas Palmerén have worked with developing the site and Rebecka Hedström with collecting tweets.

Prior to the creation of Hate Tweets of Frank Ocean, how familiar were you all with Ocean’s music and/or career?

We both followed the Odd Future thing pretty close. Frank Ocean definitely made a permanent mark in my music listening with “Swim Good.”

Odd Future unmistakably stood for something new. Or still does. Hard to not like the creative force of Tyler. I heard “Swim Good” on the nostalgia, ULTRA mixtape, but it wasn’t until it was released as a single that I… discovered it. What I mean by “permanent mark‚” hm––probably by how he sings the refrain. It’s a fantastic song.

What directed your attention to the hateful tweets directed at Frank Ocean? (Do you all typically pay close attention to Twitter trends?)

Rebecka posted a couple of screenshots on Instagram with these hateful tweets, which made me feel two things: 1. Why aren’t these people ashamed? 2. Let’s do something about this.

Why do you think so few people were responding to the hateful comments before the site went up?

Conversations on Twitter sometimes feels like talking with someone on the phone––only the person you are talking to knows what you are saying. Only difference is: it’s not.

Why did you think it was important to draw attention to these Tweets, rather than ignore them?

It felt important to highlight these tweets, just to show the world what people are actually saying about this matter in 2012. And, give everyone a very simple way of responding with some love.

Had any of the designers involved had any prior experience dealing with cyber-bullying, homophobia or harassment of any kind? If so, how did this situation compare to what you were seeing on Twitter related to Frank Ocean, and how was that particular situation resolved?

No, not really. But I think all of us are intrigued by how internet can be used for good things.

Aside from Hate Tweets to Frank Ocean, can you name a specific example of how the Internet’s been used for good?

We actually did a self-initiated campaign to help Japan after the tsunami in 2011 called The idea was to let people donate their homepage using a single line of JavaScript code to only display a big red button, taking the visitor to the Red Cross on iTunes where they could give money. It went quite well, and we even received a Bronze Lion at the Cannes Lion [International Festival for Creativity] for it.

Other examples of Internet used for good might be [a non-profit organization focusing on poverty] or [advocacy organization]––great sites.

Another interesting thing, mainly Swedish, is ##prataomdet––a hashtag on Twitter that encourages people to talk openly and honestly about negative sexual experiences. Our friend Lina [Thomsgård]‘s initiative Rättviseförmedlingen (“Equalisters” in English) aims to help organizations and media to find competence that goes beyond their first choice, e.g. help a talk show find an expert on video games that’s not a man.

When Hate Tweets to Frank Ocean went online, how did you all spread the word? What were those initial responses like, and how has the number of responses grown since? (Do you know whether Frank Ocean has seen the site?)

It was, of course, a major bump when the big online media sites picked it up, like Mashable and Fast Company. Prior to that, Swedish radio [Sveriges Radio P3] had done a little interview with me.

I think the response have been fantastic. People have been happy and proud that we did this, which is of course very flattering. No word from Mr. Ocean himself.

Do you think Hate Tweets to Frank Ocean accomplished what you had hoped? Why/why not?

Very much so! We are very proud of how people have used it. Our hope is that it will inspire people to create things on the internet that can make a positive change on our society.

After having worked on this site, what else do you think people can do to address cyber-bullying, homophobia and/or harassment of any kind effectively?

Stand up for what you believe in.

What do you think of Channel Orange?

“Thinking ‘Bout You” is an instant favorite.

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