The use of stocks and the pillory as a form of punishment by public humiliation was abolished in Canada in 1842. In the wake of the Vancouver riot, the Internet has taken the place of the wooden restraining devices, which were common in town squares. Eggs, rotten fruit and even rocks would be hurled at the offenders, who could be subjected to torment for hours at a time.
The public shaming websites arising from the Stanley Cup riot are modern cyber stocks, with punishment doled out without benefit of a trial. One woman looter has lost her job after her photo was posted, and the family of 17-yearold water polo star Nathan Kotylak had to flee their home in fear.
Even in medieval times, people weren’t sent to the stocks without appearing before a magistrate. The mob mentality that provoked the Game 7 riot is now rampant on the web. Vancouverites are rightfully angered. The riots were a crime against their city, but some of the public shaming websites have gone too far.
Publishing addresses, phone numbers and names of employers raises the possibility of vigilante justice, with the potential for punishment being disproportionate to the crime — if there was any crime at all. Smiling stupidly for the camera in front of a burning car may be irresponsible, but it is not a crime.
Punishment must be left to the justice system. Responsible social media users should encourage the public to send tips to the police. This vigilante behaviour is the same mob rule that caused the destruction last Wednesday night.
It should stop.