Lack of central control/oversight over the Internet has enabled vigilante reactions against certain behaviors in the same way that they have prompted those behaviors to occur in the first place. Internet vigilantism often occurs due to an inability to effectively police the Internet.
The term internet vigilantism describes punitive public denunciations, aimed at swaying public opinion in order to “take justice into one’s own hands” by engaging in forms of targeted surveillance, unwanted attention, negative publicity, repression, coercion or dissuasion. Associate professor in sociology Benjamin Loveluck is identifies four main forms of internet vigilantism: flagging, investigation, hounding, and organized denunciation.
The following are methods of Internet vigilantism that have been used or proposed for use:
The act of publicly shaming other internet users online. Those who are shamed online have not necessarily committed any social transgression, however. Online shaming may be used to get revenge (for example, in the form of revenge pornography), stalk, blackmail, or to threaten other internet users.
In 2002 in the United States, Representative Howard Berman proposed the Peer to Peer Piracy Prevention Act, which would have protected copyright holders from liability for taking measures to prevent the distribution, reproduction or display of their copyrighted works on peer-to-peer computer networks. Berman stated that the legislation would have given copyright holders "both carrots and sticks" and said that "copyright owners should be free to use reasonable, limited self-help measures to thwart P2P piracy if they can do so without causing harm." Smith College assistant professor James D. Miller acknowledged the threats to the privacy of legitimate Internet users that such actions would pose, but drew comparisons with other successful crime-fighting measures that can invade privacy, such as metal detectors at airports.
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- Loveluck, Benjamin (2016). Digital Vigilantism, Between Denunciation and Punitive Action. De Boeck Supérieur. pp. 127–153.
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