Q&A With John Dean on Cyber Harassment in Today’s Verdict
Former White House Counsel John Dean writes a bi-weekly column for Justia.com’s Verdict. Two weeks ago he reviewed two books on public shaming:
- Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (Riverhead Books); and
- Jennifer Jacquet’s Is Shame Necessary? New Uses for an Old Tool (Pantheon Books)
Dean concluded, “[b]oth of these books provide insights into the potentials and the dangers of shaming in our global electronic village. If we are in the renaissance of this new shaming, the sooner we find enlightenment the better.”
Dean then reached out to me to address the legal implications of shaming and his column this week includes our discussion about the legal remedies and implications involved in cyber shaming.
It concludes with the following question and answer:
Q: Has American law on privacy and defamation kept pace with the Internet? Is there any country whose laws are keeping pace with the problems?
A: Law is reactive, so it will always lag somewhat as problems emerge. At the same time, I do agree with University of Maryland Law Professor Danielle Citron that we have been slow to respond to cyber harassment and even wrote a Huffington Post column entitled The Unbearable Unawareness of Cyber Harassment in 2010.
Even in privacy, the rapid changes in areas like behavioral targeting and big data have been a challenge for policymakers to comprehend and address.
One thing that I would stress is that while existing laws can often be used to address many of these problems, one should not underestimate the normative value of enacting legislation declaring that this city, state, or even nation will not tolerate certain conduct.
As to how we compare with other countries, while I am not an expert on European law, I think the United States has consistently been the first to address many of these issues as they emerged. We may not have always got it right, but I am not sure of another jurisdiction that can say it has done better.
Many thanks to John Dean for this opportunity.