Internet Law

Is Web Shame Game Too Tough on Some Defendants?

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Internationally vilified for tossing a cat into a trash can, in an act captured by a surveillance camera–and then identified after footage was posted online–a British woman was fined about $400 in the animal cruelty case in October.

The subject of death threats as well as a multitude of critical Internet comments before she was sentenced, Mary Bale got a break from a Magistrates’ Court district judge in Coventry who felt the public shaming had already had an effect, reports the New York Times.

The attention that the Internet focuses on bad behavior can be a powerful tool for law enforcement, and officials are still figuring out how to make optimal use of it, the newspaper says.

In Montgomery County in Texas, for instance, a campaign by the district attorney to publicize on Twitter the names of those arrested for drunk driving seems to have significantly cut the volume of arrests around this time last year, according to the Times and an earlier Houston Chronicle article.

However, it has also elicited complaints about a lack of due process and the damage done to those who may not be guilty but have the news of their arrest publicized after they are merely arrested.

Hence, as another New Year’s Eve approaches, officials there are pondering about the best way to address the situation.

“One of the things I’ve learned doing Twitter is that you have to have policies in place,” says attorney Warren Diepraam. He works with the DA and oversees the county’s Twitter postings.

Related coverage: “Woman Who Put Cat in Lidded Trash Bin is Found, Threatened on Facebook”

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