March 24, 2008
The Dark Side of Connectivity and Collaboration
For the past two decades, there has been considerable literature written on the positive aspects
of Internet with emphasis on the increasing connectivity and informational availability to the masses.
Web moguls such as Google, Facebook, and Youtube, along with concepts such as blogs, search
engines, and social networks, are aggregately touted as revolutionary positive innovations of this
generation. Daniel Solove, in The future of reputation : gossip, rumor, and privacy on the Internet
frames these web innovations into a digital dystopia, where breakers of social norms are puritanically
branded a scarlet letter in its digital form, reminiscent of Hawthorne's novel. Through a series of
examples, he reveals a world in which users
live in perpetual self doubt, forever second-guessing the
actions of others.
By quantifying the enforcement of societal norms, Solove effectively describes the neologistic
“norm police” authority to be overamplified through modern web developments. His self-coined
“Norm Police” are the vigilante individuals who enforce punishment on socially unacceptable actions.
To emphasize the disproportional punishment associated with each action violating a social norm,
Solove cites the event of a Korean train passenger refusing to pick up the droppings of her dog and her
subsequent public shaming as an illustrative example of his point. A Korean girl refusing to pick up her
dog's droppings on a train was photoed and posted on the internet. Within weeks, news of her actions
were known nationally. Not only was her name identified, her private information—addresses,
contacts, email, even school affiliation—were released on the web. Shortly thereafter, she dropped out
of her university. While refusing to pick up her dog's droppings was socially irresponsible and
unacceptable, her subsequent national shaming was a disproportional punishment. The new generation