Publicly shaming harassers doesn't bring justice: study

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, March 27, 2020
Adjust font size:

CHICAGO, March 26 (Xinhua) -- A study posted on the website of the University of Michigan (UM) on Wednesday suggested that current means of dealing with online harassment mirror the criminal justice system by penalizing the perpetrator, but they don't address justice and fairness for the person who has been wronged.

In a survey of 573 U.S. social media users, the researchers sought to understand what people who are harassed would want social media sites to do to better support them.

They found that while most participants wanted some sort of action that felt just or fair, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.

Many participants liked the idea of social media sites requiring a public apology from the harasser. Such an apology could acknowledge harms to the person being harassed. It could also provide a public statement that the site thinks the harassment is not okay.

Not all participants wanted this remedy, however. For example, transgender participants and Hispanic or Latino respondents liked the idea of the apology less than other groups on average, perhaps because a nongenuine apology could magnify discrimination those groups experience.

The study found some participants also liked the idea of publicly shaming harassers.

"This may be because social media sites currently fail to support harassment targets in any meaningful way, so people want to take matters into their own hands," said Sarita Schoenebeck, associate professor at the UM's School of Information.

The researchers cautioned that public shaming online can quickly go wrong.

"Most people are not trained to determine proportionate punishments, and large groups of people online may not make for very good juries and judges," Schoenebeck said.

The study highlighted how most social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, currently rely on two approaches to sanction harassers: remove the offensive content or ban the harassers (or both).

The researchers found that participants favored both approaches, but with some exceptions.

In general, participants did not like the idea of increasing or decreasing exposure to large audiences on the site. Those who are transgender, black or female, in particular, did not like the idea of more exposure.

The researchers highlighted concerns about the limitations of existing approaches social media sites use: removing content and banning users. These are difficult to enforce because harassers easily can create a new account and continue with the harassment. They argued that these approaches, like the criminal justice models in the United States, are more focused on punishing people than on educating or rehabilitating them.

The researchers suggested that alternatives to criminal justice systems, like racial justice or restorative justice, may be more effective at remediating harm to targets of harassment.

The study has been published in the journal New Media & Society. Enditem

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from