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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 47, Issue 1, January 2021

Guy Aitchison, Saladin Meckled-Garcia
Pages 1-31

Against Online Public Shaming
Ethical Problems with Mass Social Media

Online Public Shaming (OPS) is a form of norm enforcement that involves collectively imposing reputational costs on a person for having a certain kind of moral character. OPS actions aim to disqualify her from public discussion and certain normal human relations. We argue that this constitutes an informal collective punishment that it is presumptively wrong to impose (or seek to impose) on others. OPS functions as a form of ostracism that fails to show equal basic respect to its targets. Additionally, in seeking to mobilise unconstrained collective power with potentially serious punitive consequences, OPS is incompatible with due process values.