Should we name and shame online racists?

Tory Shepherd

by Tory Shepherd

18 Jan 05:50am

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The interwebs are a cesspit of bigotry, bullying and racism, hate and snuff porn, and all things dark and evil, right?

Does anonymity breed hate? Pic: AP

Right. But, being a human place, they’re also full of wit and wisdom and things of beauty.

It’s hard to tell who’s winning, but there’s a bloody interesting skirmish going on. Twitter user @lizsinnott tweeted a screenshot from a Facebook page on which a bunch of racist nongs had posted racist rubbish about an ad for indigenous education.

Pig ignorant, superficial, uneducated, poorly composed, petty, nasty crap like:

God! Look at that boonga nose! Disgusting! Maybe if they stopped pretending to be Australian dancing animals who beat sticks and think it’s music and started being humans who dont live off the doll they’d get somewhere in life.

Disgusting indeed.

Another Twitter user, @swearycat, posted the screenshot on their blog. It spread through social media. And then people started tracking down the racist clowns, figuring out where they worked, and reporting them to their employers.

Modern medium, classic name and shame.

I won’t repeat the names here, because the people who are now involved in the exposé are redacting the names as people apologise, so I’ll leave the list in their capable hands.

The broader question is: Is naming and shaming an effective tactic against people being dickwads, and worse?

It certainly got Marieke Hardy in trouble. Hardy joined in a shaming exercise under the hashtag #mencallmethings, pointing to a blog post she’d written about the author of “ranting, violent” online attacks against her – but got the name wrong, and was forced to apologise.

But what if you get it right, and can literally shame people into realising the error of their ways?

The best outcome would be that you might force people to realise they let the crazy free-for-all hatefest of the internet go to their heads. They might just take a good hard look at themselves. It might make them think about what they say, and stop feeding the beast.

It might just make them stop spreading hate speech on Facebook, and turn to forums where it’s easier to stay anonymous. Anonymity gives people great freedom to voice their most horrid thoughts, to give free reign to foul ideas and to become world wide bullies.

It could, conceivably, encourage people to pose as others and post hateful things in order to discredit their enemies.

It could encourage cyber vigilantes.

I still reckon it’s worth a go. Like it or not, the internet is a frontier town. It’s close to lawless – and that’s part of its beauty. Censorship is not the answer; neither is removing the cloak of anonymity that allows people to speak without fear of retribution.

But where bad ideas fester, and hate speech flourishes, the best weapon against it is fresh air and sunlight, and the ridicule of the cyberworld.

And if you’re stupid enoughto be racist, and to put your own name to your racism, well you’ve already done the naming and shaming part yourself.

@ToryShepherd

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2 thoughts on “Should we name and shame online racists?

  1. Good analysis, Tory. I don’t think the hard core hate merchants will change their ways, but bringing their activities to the attention of a wider audience at least creates opportunities for them to be made accountable for their views and actions. For the boneheaded me-toos, who seem mostly to want to be norty and outrageous, being called to account by real people sometimes does serve to make them pull their head in, even if only temporarily.

    Besides all that, it gives people like me an honest and reasonable way to deal with our fury and the nasty, grubby feeling that reading a hate post leaves one with.

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