When I was in grade 8, we were put into debate teams. We were to discuss the very important topic of capital punishment.
Should it exist as a punishment? Why or why not? Is it moral and just to put someone to death for a heinous crime, or are other less vicious forms of punishment more appropriate?
These were the questions we posed to the audience as we throttled the topic back and forth. I was on team A, which was against all forms of capital punishment, for one primary reason: What if the person is innocent?
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We should never risk embracing a form of criminal justice that could see an innocent person lose their life, I argued.
Today, the same debate rages on, though the topic is nothing to do with legal punishment. Instead it applies to reputational punishment – in the form of revenge websites.
Now, initially when these sites started popping up, I thought they were a relatively ‘just’ form of comeuppance.
You want to rant racist abuse at a stranger on public transport? Well, don’t be surprised if someone videos it and uploads it to YouTube.
You want to steal from a store? Then you deserve the consequences when someone snaps a photo of you mid-act and uploads it online.
You want to cheat on your partner? Okay, just don’t go crying into your cornflakes if someone publicly shares details of your dalliance.
In other words: you do the crime, you do the time.
But what if you didn’t do the crime at all?
The internet has created an environment where revenge is pretty easy to exact, but it’s not always levelled at guilty parties.
Case in point: Alabama resident Monika Glennon was named and shamed on a site called She’s A Homewrecker. Monika is a real estate agent, and the permanent post (they’re almost impossible to delete) was written by a woman who claimed she’d walked in on Monika having sex with her husband at a home they were meant to inspect.
The story was a complete pile of hogwash. It turns out the person who made the defamatory post – and this is actually so nuts it’s almost laughable – had clashed with Monika on a Facebook post to do with the Holocaust. She’s since met Monika and apologised for her actions.
One throwaway comment made online was all it took to inflame an internet troll, and tear Monika’s reputation to shreds.
It’s enough to make you think twice before sharing your opinion online – and gets you wondering whether perhaps humanity isn’t ready for revenge sites after all…