With Cameraphones, Scorn Is Just A Snap Away

from the crowd-rule dept

As the internet allows for the rapid diffusion of information and easy coordination of large groups of individuals, a rise in vigilantism seems inevitable. We saw this last year when Digg users helped to drive a sleazy online photo store offline. In New York, one site has been set up exclusively to publicly shame men who expose themselves to women. The ubiquity of cameraphones helps this task immensely, as women can instantly snap pictures of offending creeps, and send them to the site. While the threat of being exposed (no pun intended) on the internet may serve as a powerful deterrent for would be flashers, there are some problems with this kind of justice. One worrisome aspect of vigilantism isn’t the outcome per se, but the fact that targets of it are afforded none of the due process to which they’d be entitled under the courts. If a picture misrepresents a situation, or if a person’s name is wrongly associated with a blurry photo, there’s almost no way for them to get recourse. At least if a court makes a mistake the ruling can be reversed. It would seem that attacking someone’s character or business online shouldn’t be completely without cost should the accusations prove baseless. Furthermore, while nobody has any tolerance for flashers, what do we do with regards to other kinds of behavior that people would like to keep private. Would it be ok if a group posted pictures of anyone who entered into an adult bookstore, or, to use an example from the above article, an abortion clinic? Though these questions are complex, and raise many legal and ethical questions, much of this debate has been anticipated in discussions of sousveillance. If technology seems bound to erode privacy, then perhaps the next best situation state is one in which everyone can watch everyone else. This includes the right of individuals to watch the state, making abuses of power more difficult. Unfortunately, discussions of sousveillance seem to have an element of utopianism to them. In the real world, reputations can be unfairly destroyed, and some things are worth keeping private.

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Comments on “With Cameraphones, Scorn Is Just A Snap Away”

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Dave Stanford (user link) says:

Good post

A very nuanced and balanced post on TechDirt. Congrats for considering both sides of the mob rule argument — people do things that deserve shaming, but mob rule also gets out of hand. Further, who gets to decide what rules the mob applies? Mob rule is great so long as you agree with the mob.

In a way one could look at the rise of the Internet as giving power back to the people — groups of people now have the power to inflict justice on individuals (flashers in NYC) and businesses (camera scams). The problems occur when the mob goes too far (how much punishment is enough?) or people disagree strongly about the end result (should we “shame” abortion doctors?).

It’ll be interesting to see how these issues play out.

Dave Stanford (user link) says:

Unrelated -- way to "flag" or mark stories?

This reminds me — in the next TechDirt redesign it might be interesting to have a way to mark or flag stories of interest for later retrieval. It would obviously require creating an account, but maybe allow both account and non-account comments? Totally unrelated, but I was bookmarking this story and thought of it.

dorpus says:

Reminds me

I did a summer internship at the FBI many years ago, and heard the tale of a bank robber who held up a bank on payday. That just happened to be payday at the FBI field office next door, and it was lunch hour, when the bank was filled with a few dozen FBI agents cashing their checks. When the bank robber pointed a gun at the bank teller, clickclickclickclickclickclick, a few dozen guns were pointed at him.

Todd (user link) says:

RE: With Cameraphones, Scorn Is Just...

This is an excellent post – props to the author.

Yes, good things ( woman posting pics of flashers ) and bad things ( zelots posting pics of women entering abortion clinics ) can come from people powered technology…

…but in the grand scheme of things I would rather have too much than not enough, or worse, none at all.

Also, imagine all of the things considered in this article, but replace static cameraphone generated images with the new abiltiy to broadcast live video using a mobile phone:

…ComVu has created the world’s first live video broadcast solution from a mobile device to a global audience. ( more at comvu dot com )

It reminds me of the 80s tv show Max Headroom.


Anonymous Coward says:

> Yes, good things ( woman posting pics of flashers )

Don’t forget about men posting pictures of woman flashers: girlsgonewild.com.

Don’t you love the double standard of naked men = bad, naked women = good. Granted, I’m straight so I don’t go for the naked men, but objectively, why is one bad and the other good?

Anonymous Coward says:

In New York, one site has been set up exclusively to publicly shame men who expose themselves to women.

That site is an example of what can go wrong. According to their FAQ, they will only publish photos of me, including photos of men claimed to have only said something rude to a woman. They will NOT, for example, publish ANY photos of women harassing men. In other words, it is very sexist.

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