Is it right to publicly shame Vancouver rioters online?
On Cross Country Checkup: public shaming
Pictures of Vancouver rioters caught in the act of breaking the law are all over the Intenet ...and some have been deliberately mailed to families, employers and schools.
Is it digital justice ...or a throwback to the Middle Ages?
Toll-free number 1-888-416-8333 (works only during the broadcast)
Today we want to talk about the aftermath of the Vancouver riot. What unfolded in the days after the riot surprised Canadians across the country. Many Vancouverites were disgusted with what happened in the streets of their city after their hockey team lost in the final game of the Stanley Cup. So much so that several people decided to take action. Now, action for some meant going downtown to help clean up the mess of torched cars, smashed windows, and trash everywhere. For others it meant something a little more serious ...something that has had people talking ever since. They encouraged anyone with photos to put them online to help identify the people engaged in acts of vandalism, assault or theft during the riot.
If you watched any of the riot on TV or online you would have noticed how many people were waving cell phone cameras and handheld videos and thereby documenting the whole thing.
Social media such as Twitter and Facebook were put into action. Blogs were harnessed. Websites were set up to facilitate the collection and display of photos. Many, many people were identified and in some cases photos were tagged with labels such as 'moron' or 'criminal.' E-mails with incriminating photos were sent to parents, employers, and schools. It amounted to a digital wave of public shaming and many celebrated it because the people who did participate directly in the riot and the destruction would be forced to atone for their actions.
Well it worked. Some 'outed' this way quickly felt the need to turn themselves in to the police and make public apologies. But it didn't stop there. Some of them found out there were consequences ...for example one elite athlete was cut from his team and another young woman lost her job.
Critics of the public shaming said it amounted to mob action worse than the orginal riot. They called it mob justice or digital vigilantism ...and a throwback to the Middle Ages. They said it wasn't much different from the wooden stocks of old to which people were attached in town squares so citizens could hurl insults and rotten food at them. We want to know what you think?
Were you happy to see that some of the rioters were being forcecd to account for their actions? Or did it have a feeling of the same mob action in reverse? How do you view social media ...is it a liberating technology that allows instant expression for all citizens ...or something that has a dark side that needs some taming?
What about public shaming ...is there a role for it ...in public life or in the justice system? Sometimes the names of drunk drivers are printed in newspapers with the intention of shaming them in the eyes of their fellow citizens. Some years ago in Toronto a judge had a convicted person carry a billboard outside of Old City Hall court house declaring herself a "thief". Is the reaction to the riot just the same thing? Should there be limits? How can we tell the information posted online is true?
What do you think ...digital justice ...or virtual mobbing?
Our question today: "Is it right to publicly shame Vancouver rioters online?
I'm Mercedes Stephenson ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.
- Terry O'Neill
Co-host and writer of Road Kill Radio in Vancouver and a past vice-president of Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy.
- Anne Jarvis
Award winning reporter and columnist for the Windsor Star.
- David Eaves
Negotiations expert and public policy consultant and blogger who specialises in politics and technology.
- Lorraine Weinrib
Professor of Law, University of Toronto and expert in constitutional law.
- Is it illegal to name and shame rioters online? by Daniel Henry
- Facebook groups aim to ID rioters, help clean up
- Vancouver riots shape the future of the Internet
- Rioting teen Nathan Kotylak and family face backlash, forced to leave home
- Employers of Vancouver riot participants victims of public backlash
- Public shame, online apologies
- The 'Net doesn't forget: Managing disgrace in the digital age
- Facebook the judge and jury
- Man pictured looting during riot 'shamed' by experience, he says
- Adrian Humphreys: Post-riot 'electronic justice' shows that actions are hard to take back
- Barbara Kay: Vancouver rioters get mugged by Internet
- When you apologize for looting, you should try to sound like you mean it, Kelly McParland
- Terry O'Neill: Looting isn't a reaction. It's a choice
Globe and Mail
- You know what scares me? The online mob, Margaret Wente
- Outrage over the riot outrage, Gary Mason
- A tale of two riots: the role of social media, Wendy Stueck
Harvard Business Review blog
New York Times
- Crime and Punishment: Shame Gains Popularity (1997 article)
You can bet your boots that at the next mass demo of any kind that those bent on violence will direct some if towards those in the crowd filming with their mobiles. The vigilantes who put others at risk by publishing names etc should be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions.
As for the riots---Vancouver is not the kind and gentle city it pretends. Lets not forget this is the city that ignored 50 missing women and has a history of police brutality (Gastown Riots, 1994, Post Office riots etc.) I have lived in Vancouver most of my live but it is a city with significant social problems many impacting the very youth who participated in this riots.
Victoria, British Columbia
I am about to join over 100,000 people drinking freely in the streets of Montreal, as I did last night, and I only expect to be assaulted by a lot of fantastic Jazz. The actions of people under the influence of alcohol only amplifies their inner desires by releasing their inhibitions. Tonight, it will mean normally staid people will sway and dance to the music.
1. time out generation 30 years ago when beat our kids they didn't riot in the streets after a game
2. the police should have used local armory support with full ERT armed lines to clear streets
3. all media should have informed public of what was going to happen at the end of the game that multiple police agencies and military would be a force used to clear streets based on 1994 riots zero tolerance
Robert Stewart kelowna, British Columbia
It's interesting that Vancouver could host more than ten thousand pot smokers on April 20th of this year and there wasn't one incident to report.
The focus must be on reducing the risk or likelihood of events such as the Stanley Cup riot rather than worrying about the aftermath. If Canadian cities were to require the NHL to provide a security bond and property loss insurance as a condition for holding playoff games, conditions would soon change.
Terrace, British Columbia
Regarding the Vancouver post-Stanley Cup riots I believe that people can and should send images to the police. However, I think people should be cautious about posting images to Facebook for a couple of reasons.
First it smacks of vigilantism and the public taking the law into their own hands. How much difference is there between mob looting and mob justice? Not much.
Second people should be aware that under Canadian law they may be sued for libel. As a photographer who frequently takes candid or street photos I'm very careful of the context I may be placing people in when I take photos. On one hand I am protected by freedom of speech laws in taking candid photos; on the other hand I could be held libel if I take a photo of a person in a compromising situation, which it seems the riot falls into. If you have a photo you believe shows a person performing a criminal act, give it to the police and let them sort it out.
It's all too easy these days to snap a photo and post it online. People need to take a moment and think about the consequences of what they're doing.
Pender Island, British Columbia
It's not a foregone conclusion. And public shaming is an appropriate response to the riot.
If rioters are publicly shamed, fewer people will riot in the future.
Momentary bad decisions do have consequences.
Two short issues:
1. Criminal law was originally meant to deal with horrendous acts. Smaller acts were dealt with directly - using shaming or ostracization and this public shaming is the norm.
2. The restorative justice model requires that the wrongdoer takes responsibility for their acts and that they do what is required to make amends to those harmed their acts. This model is very powerful and can help make wrongdoers feel more a part of society than other remedies.
Take the acts of the rioters out of the criminal context and make them responsible for cleaning up after themselves.
There is a saying: your conscience is the small voice that says your mother may be watching.
When I was growing up, I was told that one should never do anything that you wouldn't want on the front page of the newspaper. Publicity is good. Idiots deserve the consequences.
As a lifetime Vancouver resident I'd like to add my 2 cents.
Regarding whether this is too harsh, I think some of the callers who believe this are forgetting about how much harm many of these people have done to others. One of the victims of the riot was a woman who owned a coffee shop. Her life was changed forever when packs of rioters broke her shop windows, stormed her shop, and looted everything for 20 minutes. She feared for her life and it will take 4 weeks for her to open her shop again. Far more permanent damage has been done to herself and her business than those rioters will ever sustain with the so-called "shaming".
Many people who tried to stop the rioters were beaten up and sent to hospital. A lot of businesses were looted. Millions of dollars of damage occurred.
A few people commented on the young water polo player who has had to pay a high price for his actions. Let's not forget that he tried to stuff a burning rag into the fuel tank of a police car that was surrounded by hundreds of people. He's very lucky he wasn't successful doing it because he'd be suffering a lot more than having a bit of shame. He could be dead, or maimed for life. If he survived he could have been responsible for the deaths of a lot of other kids, and chrged with murder or manslaughter.
Wake up people. These people were stupid. This is not about retribution, it's about never having it happen again.I say, shame these guys, identify them, convict them and make them serve their just punishment.
I'm embarrassed for my city and I hope it never happens again.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Digital Justice is the ultimate justuce. Why should the lawbreakers dictate the consequence of their actions. If you don't like the reality of the digital world, don't break the law and you won't have to worry about it.
I don't believe that online persecution is justifiable. Like the some of the previous callers this is the same as vigilantism, which is also illegal under law. We should have faith in our justice system to uphold the truth. If we rely on ourselves to dole out what we think is right then why do we have laws? I also think that many people put the blame on the individual which I think is wrong. When in a mob there is a group mentality, especially if alcohol and sports are involved. I am not saying that what the rioters did was right but to pursue in condemning them after the fact with your own sense of justice is just as equally wrong.
In my honest opinion, the perpetrators are NOT being shamed by the "outers", they are shaming themselves by their actions.
John W Hall
I absolutely agree that public shaming is the way to go in this case, for several reasons.
First off, they have already shown their mentality and the lack of respect they have for their city and other people's property. Maybe this will help teach them a leason in respect.
Second, the only reason they are apologizing now is because they were either caught or fear being caught. They sure weren't concerned or sorry while they were out there causing all of that damage.
I believe there should be harsh penalties for anyone and everyone involved in that. It was completely uncalled for a wasted a ton of resources to try to stop it and now to clean up their mess. Just because their hockey team lost a game, it doesn't give people the right to act in that manner. Just be grateful their team made it all the way to the end. I love Vancouver, have even considered relocating there, but with behaviour like that, I think I am better off staying in the small town I currently reside in.
As for the people that are bringing the evidence forward and outing these immature people, keep up the good work.
Red Lake, Ontario
These brainless rioters and looters in Vancouver brought shame upon their hockey team, their city, their province and our country. It is just that they should be outed and shamed in any way possible.
Judge Amy St. Eve during sentencing Conrad Black to further jail time said "a significent sentence was necessary to serve as a warning to other corporate execs".
Likewise, I believe that this time the rioters MUST receive severe punishment to serve as warnings to others.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Dear CBC Cross Country Checkup,
The riots in Vancouver, and the response to them have highlighted the worst in the people of Vancouver and Canada. What happened after the cup finals was inexcusable, but by the very same token the response, the so-called "Public Shaming" is also inexcusable. You are using nice, polite language, but lets call a spade a spade. Mailing photos with no proof and an accusation to some one's employer is called LIBEL. Those who do such things need to be rounded up and prosecuted along with those who were rioting. You gave several examples of "public shaming" that has been done in the past. The difference is one small word. That word is "Convicted". These people have been convicted of NOTHING. They haven't even been charged. For every person who was actually guilty of rioting, how many are fighting for their jobs, their school careers just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and had some over-zealous vigilante mistake the context? How many innocents are getting caught up in the guilty and being lost in the shuffle while the Internet moral brigade pats itself on the back?
These vigilantes are no better than the rioters. They use anonymous throwaway email addresses, blog and other aggregators to hide their identities. How is that different than wearing a mask? They seek to destroy the lives of those whom they have even a suspicion of being involved, and a suspicion is ALL it takes. What they are doing is just as illegal, and has effects that are FAR longer lasting than any riot.
I think they deserve whatever they get.
Two quick points:
1. If Anarchists plan to riot they cover their faces. Those were hockey fans plan and simple!! The sports media is causing a smoke screen.
2. 100's of drunk people downtown what did you except?
Moncton, New Brunswick
No one seems to talk about what were the camera folks doing besides taking pictures. Were they egging people on for better pictures?
Port Huron, Michigan
Yes, the rioters were publicly destroying things that many worked very hard to create, both private and public property. They were defaming and despising peace officers vehicles. They were degrading the underpinning of our peace and our nation. So, yes, public shaming is appropriate.
The police often ask for the public's help in solving crimes.
We do not condone vigilantism. So, the police or justice system can sift through evidence the public presents.
Our entire justice system is to some extend dependent upon the public's support of policing, sentencing and enforcement. Our justice system is public, paid for by the public to protect our way of life. Social media has its place in this, especially if it passes through the hands of law enforcement.
Thanks for this show. Anne Davison
If the justice system won't deal with thugs, then we, the people will fill the gap.
Prosecutors and judges allow these creeps to go essentially unpunished and we're fed up.
In the past, we all knew who the young offenders were in our communities and we shamed them & shunned them. This is the 21st century equivalent.
The young people who whinge about how "unfair" they think this is have learned nothing. The "public apologies" being offered are pathetic attempts to gain sympathy.
Suck it up, princesses.... You did the crime, now life with the shame.