So right off of Monica Byrne vs Bora Zivkovic I present you with Rachel Cassidy vs Peter Nolan which sadly demonstrates the effect of naming and shaming without real evidence.
After two drunk college students were filmed having sex in public and the video went viral first through social media then news sites, the female involved claimed rape resulting in a police investigation. To say the least there was much online discussion and many different opinions, some believe the alcohol meant she couldn’t consent and some believe that she did consent and that regretting the behaviour she engaged in while drunk did not equate to rape. Suffice to say it was hotly argued by many. On the back of this people tried to identify the two students in the video, one man Peter Nolan (on his website http://www.crimesagainstfathers.com) claimed he had identified the girl stating it was Rachel Cassidy and providing pictures showing the similarity between Rachel and the girl on video. Peter’s claim went viral from this tweet:
Rachel then experienced an especially vicious form of naming and shaming: whore shaming. Not only was she slammed for false rape accusations and being a whore in discussion forums and in peoples social media posts but she was personally harassed….. Peter Nolan after making his claims posted all the online and real world details of Rachel Cassidy he could find.
This included links to her: Facebook, Linkedin profile, Yateda profile, Google Plus account; Her YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest; Her public voting record (containing address and date of birth) and the sorority she is a member of.
The majority of these accounts were then deactivated during to the massive inflow of negative messaging, the virtual community took Peter Nolan’s claims as truth without much question and began whore shaming en masse. The problem…… Peter was wrong!
Both the Police and the Dean of Students at the Ohio college who are aware who the woman is have stated than it is not her, she is listed as such in a police report. With this information entering the online community, from reputable authorities (as opposed to Peter Nolan, who with one read of his post you’ll realised he’s probably no definitely best described as a crazy, obsessive, conspiracy theorist. Seriously. Read Here) the majority of harassers slunk away from Rachel back into the anonymity of the internet.
The incident has not only uprooted Rachel’s online life and presence (no longer using social medias). But the impact on her real life was also great, when the online rumors spread it affected her position, and treatment by other students on campus….. ultimately having to hide away and isolate herself. We can only imagine the psychological and emotional damage created.
I think when it comes to naming and shaming we like to think of the internet as a helpful tool enabling us to discover who the wrong doers are and bring them to justice, but without any means to regulate online vigilantism we cause more harm and there is greater probability of collateral damage.