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Think:Digital Futures – Cyber-sleuths and online vigilantes

Think:Digital Futures Producer Miles Herbert joined Nic to discuss the complex world of online justice seeking. Mob justice movements online have become increasingly ferocious in recent times. In the US, the recent Charlottesville tragedy saw online justice seekers work to “name and shame” neo-Nazis protesters as racists online, with the goal of stripping their targets of employment.  

There is however another side to the online justice movement. A community of cyber-sleuths are using forums like reddit to to solve fascinating cold cases, like finding missing persons.

The web has also been used to crowdfund independent inquiries into systemic injustices, like institutional child abuse in the UK.  For the disenfranchised, it’s clear that the Internet offers a remarkable means of circumventing the traditional justice system.

Of course, online justice seeking is ethically fraught, and it can be dangerously misguided. For example, the bizzare #Pizzagate conspiracy during the 2016 US Elections culminated in an individual entering a pizza store and discharging a weapon, convinced that the Democrats were concealing a human trafficking ring.

So should lawmakers crack down on online vigilantes? Or do we need to preserve the Internet as an open, democratised site of justice seeking?

Listen back to the full Think:Digital Futures episode, featuring Professor of Forensic Science and the founding Director of the UTS Centre for Forensic Science Claude Roux; CEO of Crimestoppers NSW Peter Price; Senior Lecturer In Criminology, Western Sydney University Michael Slater and Reddit Moderator Layla Betts.

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