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Internet Naming -- and Shaming

Internet Naming — and Shaming

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When the story of Megan Meier's suicide gained traction in the national press, we couldn't stop talking about it. Neither, apparently, could anyone else. In case you haven't followed the case, Megan Meier was the 13-year-old victim of an internet hoax that turned out to be perpetrated by an adult neighbor — the mother of a former friend. What really got us was the rage that boiled over on the web — first, the bad judgment of the hoaxer herself, and then from people angry about the case... cyber-vigilantes. When the newspaper declined to publish the name of the woman who created the false MySpace profile, bloggers from around the country took it upon themselves to find it out and publish it themselves, along with addresses, phone numbers, cell phones, and business information. The name calling on every side has been spectacularly vile, and at worst, included death threats. It begs the question: When gossip (true and untrue) can go viral, what principles should govern who we name — and don't name — on the web? Have you ever used the internet as a kind of pillory? Or been trapped in its stocks?

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