Revisiting privacy and dignity: Online shaming in the global e-village

Author: Anne Cheung

In: University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper, 2012, p. 1-41.

Abstract: Using public shaming as a form of criminal sanction has remained a controversial topic. Yet in the Internet era, we do not need to wait for state approval to administer this form of punishment. Rather, online shaming against those who have violated social norms is proliferating fast in cyberspace, where the personal information of targeted individuals is often disclosed and displayed for the purpose of humiliation and social condemnation. Whether or not the victims themselves are perpetrators of wrongdoing in the first place, this article argues that online shaming is a blatant form of attack on a person’s innate dignity, and is a violation of the right to privacy. Drawing on recent jurisprudence from both the English Courts and the European Court of Human Rights on the relationship between the right to private life and dignity, the discussion will explain how the role of dignity has informed the development of privacy right where its value has played a distinctive role. This refers especially to the context in which the plaintiffs could be said to be partly at fault as transgressor-victims. In this article, the term ‘dignity’ refers to one’s innate personhood, integrity and self-respect.

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