Dec 242010
 
 December 24, 2010  Online

Laura M. Holson writes:

In late October, Mary Bale walked into a courtroom in Coventry, England, her head bowed. Two months earlier, Ms. Bale, a former bank worker, had been filmed on a security camera, picking up a cat by the skin of its back and tossing it into a garbage bin.

[…]

Social media is the new court of public opinion. With the freedom to post just about anything — and say whatever without reprisal — online sites like Facebook and Twitter are making it easier to shame people whose behavior might otherwise remain unknown or slip by unnoticed. Police departments have begun posting the names and photos of people arrested for crimes to inform a global public and deter unlawful behavior.

Consumers, who might otherwise have called customer service to complain about poor treatment, are publicly embarrassing companies instead. Even some corners of Facebook, whose motto is to “connect and share with the people in your life,” are emerging as a virtual pillory, where the actions of online pariahs are parsed and commented upon, judged against the mores of the real world, often with little context or compassion.

“If you cast stones and see people are bloodied and crying, you might think you’ve gone too far,” said Daniel J. Solove, the author of “The Future of Reputation” and a privacy-law professor at George Washington University. “The problem is, you don’t see that online.”

Read more in The New York Times.

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