The video tracks public shaming from 90s “trash TV” talk shows like the ‘Jerry Springer Show’ and the ‘Ricki Lake Show’ into the digital world of Facebook and Twitter, exploring recent well-known incidents such as the ‘Worst Aunt Ever,’ who was villainized after being portrayed as suing her nephew for $127,000 for an aggressive hug.
“’Aunt sues nephew for hugging her.’ The one little catch line that was meant to get eyeballs so distorted a storyline,” said Citron. According to the story, the law suit was merely a formality in triggering the homeowner’s insurance due to Connecticut law, but the shaming was relentless enough for the Aunt in question to change her identity.
“There are economic costs and social costs and psychological costs that victims bear that are really hard to get back,” said Citron.
In order to curb online shaming, Citron notes legal protections aren’t enough.
“It can’t just be the law. Law is way too blunt of a tool. I’m hoping that it’s a combination of law, and private providers, and schools, and parents, and moderators of content so that we come together and say this is not the way we want to live,” added Citron.
Citron explored this topic in her recent book, published by Harvard University Press, “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace,” exposing the extent of personal cyber-attacks and propsing practical, lawful ways to prevent and punish online harassment. Citron further explores some of these topics in her course “Information Privacy Law Seminar.”