The rise of the social web may be perceived as a re-villaging, where the permanence of one’s digital footprint behaves as a deterrent, making it seem to some like an ideal time to reintroduce public shaming to reinforce norms. But considered through a historical lens, public shaming begins to look like a tool designed not to humanely punish the perp but rather to satisfy the crowd.
This explains its resurgence. When has the crowd ever been bigger, or more thirsty for vengeance? The faceless Internet, with its shadowy cyberbullies and infinite display of every social ill is scary. And when it slithers its tentacles in a person’s life, we become desperate for some way to fight back—to shine light into the darkness and counterattack those who would victimize behind the veil of anonymity. But doxing, even just naming publicly-available names to channel outrage (or worse) at someone who has violated your norms, is not only an ineffective way to deal, it risks causing more harm than the initial offense. Last year’s trendy rise of media-sponsored shaming is self-righteousness masquerading as social justice. In many cases the targets deserve to be exposed and more, but public shaming does not drive social progress. It might make us feel better, but let’s not delude ourselves into thinking we’ve made a positive difference.
Nothing I need to add to that.