Calgary Herald

Cyber stocks


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.

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