Friday, July 31, 2015

More On Cecilicide And Public Shaming

Public shaming in the age of social media has created lynch mobs on a scale never before seen. Public shaming has always been terrible punishment for most people - so terrible that our legal system largely abandoned it. Global social media has multiplied its scope and impact immensely. Consider again the case of American Dentist Walter Palmer.

Via Kevin Drum, From Max Fisher in Vox.

When an American dentist named Walter Palmer killed a beloved lion named Cecil, the social media platforms that allowed outraged web users to spread the story also enabled them to do more than just fume. It gave them the power to act on their anger, to reach into Palmer's life and punish him for what he'd done, without having to wait for the wheels of more formal justice to turn.

Web users uncovered Palmer's personal information, including about his family, and published it online. They went after his business, a private dental practice, posting thousands of negative reviews on Yelp and other sites. The practice has since shut down. Users also went after professional websites that host his profile, leading the sites to remove his information. On Twitter and on his practice's public Facebook page, people made threats of physical violence.

This should look familiar: It is the same set of tactics that has been used in online harassment campaigns such as the "Gamergate" movement that targeted women in technology, or the seemingly endless online harassment conducted against female journalists. It is a growing trend of internet mob justice, one that often bleeds into real-world harassment with real-world consequences.

We as a society deemed campaigns such as Gamergate unacceptable and rejected their proponents as harassers who crossed the line. But because we all agree that we dislike Palmer, the campaign against him has so far been deemed acceptable, even funny or laudable.