Name and shame describes a tactic sometimes used against harassers, in cases of sexual assault, etc. It is most often used when official channels are unlikely to be (or have already proven themselves not to be) sympathetic or responsive. It may also be useful when a community has an informal or undocumented structure, such that there is no central authority who can enforce anti-harassment norms.
Naming and shaming means posting the name of a harasser so that the wider community is aware of their action, in the hopes that this will "shame" them. This may, in theory, result in repercussions on the person's employment, education, or social status. However, due to the widespread acceptance of misogynist behaviour, rape, etc in our broadly sexist culture (see: Rape culture), sometimes there is little apparent effect at all.
Costs and benefits
Victims of harassment, sexual assault, etc, should never be pressured to take any particular course of action. It is important to acknowledge their agency and let them make their own decisions. We list the costs and benefits of naming and shaming from the point of view of victims of harassment here so as to illustrate why the choice to name-and-shame, or not to name-and-shame, might be made.
- may result in an organization or community warning, condemning or expelling a harasser where they would not have done so otherwise
- may result in public pressure on an organization or individual to stop harassing/enforce anti-harassment norms where private pressure did not
- may result in opponents of harassment organizing within a community where they had not previously done so
- may result in additional documentation of harassment in a community (eg this wiki) (although identifying information on harassers is not always necessary for documentation to happen)
- may reveal other victims of a harasser, and thereby identify a serial harasser who may have been repeatedly assumed to be a one-off harasser
- may help other people who've experienced harassment and abuse to find support or justice, or identify themselves as victims of a systemic problem rather than having invited or encouraged their harassment or abuse
- may result in condemnation of the namer-and-shamer for any perceived or actual bad consequences to the harasser
- may result in loss of the namer-and-shamer's job (if complaining about a colleague or perceived to damage their employer's interest) or membership in a community (if complaining about a fellow member or perceived to damage the community's interest)
- may additionally result in further harassment of the namer-and-shamer from previously uninvolved third parties
- the reaction may demonstrate that the community (or sections thereof) is divided on the issue of harassment or at worst is uncaring or actively supportive of it
- may discourage any further reports of or action against harassment or abuse within a community
- victim blaming may be widespread, analysing whether the namer-and-shamer "deserved" or "invited" harassment
- ensuing discussion about whether harassment is bad, the harassment was bad enough for naming-and-shaming, whether naming-and-shaming is ever OK may be divisive and give rise to a harming the community accusation
- may result in legal action against the person who spoke out. The truth is not a defense against libel in all jurisdictions, and even where it is, the threat of legal action or the early stages of legal action may be distressing or costly.
When people choose not to name and shame, they may be pressured to do so by people who aren't aware of the victim-blaming dynamic, or who are concern trolling and claim that they can't believe accusations of harassment without specific detail being given.
Another argument is that the potential to identify repeat offenders means that victims are obliged to name-and-shame to help stop abusers.
- Wiscon troll incident: A woman named Rachel Moss was identified as the harasser, and her university notified of her behaviour, which was in contravention of their policies.
- Noirin Shirley ApacheCon incident: Named and shamed Florian Leibert, a Twitter employee, for sexual assault.
- Australian author and radio presenter Marieke Hardy tweeted, "I name and shame my 'anonymous' Internet bully'", linking to a post where she identifies him as Melbourne man Joshua Meggit. See: Marieke Hardy name-and-shame incident
- PyCon 2013 forking and dongles incident: In which a woman was harassed for photographing and shaming (though she never actually named the perpetrators).
- Shawn L's expulsion from hackerspaces was brought about by sharing information about his behaviour, and is an example of the benefits of naming-and-shaming.
- René and Readercon: After Genevieve Valentine was dissatisfied with Readercon's response to René Walling's harassment of her, she made Walling's actions and Readercon's responses public, which helped bring about both a change in their reaction and a change in their leadership.
- SFF harassment revelations 2013 were sparked by a report of harassment where the harasser was soon identified as James Frenkel, and resulted in hundreds of community members making anti-harassment pledges