Say No to Witch hunt/Cyberbullying

               Throughout the world, social network service users are consistently growing in both individual (consumer) and business sides. As a result, cyber-community has become the newest form of the world we are living in. There are even classes on “social media and digital businesses” to help us learning more about it. People constantly updates their status, check their friends’ status, and see everyday life of those whom they have never met in reality. With social media, information is open to anyone at ease, in shorter time, and at lower costs these days: Individuals can communicate and get desired information more easily while corporates can benefit from increased brand exposure, more consumers visiting their websites, and decreased marketing expenses.

              Power and influence of social media, on the other hand, have negative aspects too. These include 1)unwanted disclosure of personal information and 2)diffusion of unfounded false facts. Hence, social media is vulnerable to turning into a place of “witch hunt” or “cyberbullying.” There are a lot of cases that have been reported to have been affected by adverse effects, but the reality is that measures and solutions are insufficient. For this week’s blog post, I would like to discuss the social aspects, the business side, and the technical aspects of the recent issue of “Cyber Witch hunt.” By initiating a particular event, many social network users are vilified, attacked, and further witness the information of the past, present, and people around them get leaked through “malicious profiling.”


               [WHY] such Witch hunts against individuals and corporates happen online so easily? First, crowd psychology. One may feel less guilty when many others take bad actions. Also, due to anonymous and virtual environment on the internet may led them to take less responsibility for their actions. The influx of information and contents comes out every second on social media. Since it is so huge in number, moderate information barely grabs public attention. Those events subject to with hunt easily turn into stimulation and thus eye-catching. The rapid pace of constant updates make things go viral in very short time.

              Moreover, the process of censorship is very limited on social media. Until a post gets caught by website administrators or any kinds of report against it, users can post whatever they want. It gets worse when the post asserts something without fact checks. Words are spread so quickly, and the dispersion of words is difficult to stop once it becomes a trend that everyone talks about. The opinions that one agrees with and follow become more robust through more public consent, and additional detailed information (some would call it evidence even if they are not true) is added to convince the hypothesis. In a meantime, ordinary users will feel an indirect satisfaction from watching this happening even when they do not take action as they are free from responsibility and aftermath blames.


              As mentioned in my last blog post two weeks ago, individuals are also exposed to new inflammatory information so fast that making it easy to forget about witch hunts that they have been involved with. Before the final confirmation process like police investigation, most of the attention is turned to another place, with only the information that was obtained until then is concluded in the head. Individuals tend to forget too soon that they have participated in witch hunting; however, those that have been hunted by the witch has to live with the stigma of lifelong remembrance, because the posts are not erased completely, and people will remember the distorted truth for a long time.

              The possible causes of witch hunting can come from a technical standpoint as well. There is a root cause in the structure of social media platforms. Platform structures allow information about individuals to be disclosed to third parties, per say friends of friends, and that information contains a lot of information, including personal location, current status, mood, and even financial information. In other words, if you analyze the information within the social media of the witch hunt, you may be able to dig into the privacy of the individual, as well as material and mental harm, and damage can be extended to both the whole and the periphery of the individual’s social life. In addition, a number of attacks by many toward individual are possible in this platform structure, and anyone can be attacked and monitored anytime, anywhere due to the characteristics of real-time and the nature of the time space.


              [HOW], then, can we reduce social outrages on social media world? Regular users need to increase their privacy policy and awareness of privacy settings. The role of personal information as a provider of public and informational entities have become more significant, especially in the recent era of big data. The severity of the damage from the disclosure of personal information shall be clearly perceived. Individuals must proactively recognize and prevent the possibility of being exploited by a large number of cases that contain personally identifiable information disclosed to a large number of services on the web, because they are more likely to be misused by witch hunts.

              From a social standpoint, users should strengthen legal responsibilities in the sense of anonymity, forgotten rights, and damage to others’ personal information. If you are currently undermining the honor of an individual, you may be punished for libel, which is the only punishment for disseminating information on social networks. Yes, there is no shortage of social and witch hunts, and the appropriate legal system and accountability to prevent this is urgent. We need ongoing interest and discussion on SNS-related legislation and policies. It is also important to note that excessive regulation can neutralize the unique benefits of social network services. It is the obligation of the society to provide the basic framework by which information subjects can protect their own personal information.

               In the end, a technical viewpoint would have to be developed to control an abnormal approach to personal pages, blogs, etc. Witch hunt and information about the potential victims are shared over the Internet, and several people would start to view or collect personal information about the victim, which will result in more sudden access and traffic to the victim’s personal pages. It will accumulate more and more problems combined with identification hacking and user impersonations. Therefore, post-spread protection systems related to personal information need to be also developed in order to effectively prevent the damage.


               Social media is a service that allows people to share information, communicate with each other, and provide an element of convenience and enjoyment. In order to be utilized socially and positively in appropriate functions, the parties comprising social media platform will have to continue their efforts to maximize share of information as well as ease of use, and minimize information distortion, indiscretions, and moral hazard.


  1. Deb Whittam · ·

    While I agree with you, there is one issue you don’t touch on – when enforcement prevents freedom of speech. I am not talking about bullying but overt censorship which results in certain viewpoints being blocked. Certainly we need more protection for the individual but we also have to acknowledge that freedom of speech is equally important

    1. Yeah you’re absolutely right. That is why it’s so difficult to control malice on social media.

  2. Deb Whittam · ·

    I feel it is the duty of the platform to react in a timely manner when informed. And it is the duty on the platform users to inform – not to turn a blind eye

  3. This witch hunt mentality and the psychology of much of what you outlined was used to tremendous effect by the Russians. They effectively stirred controversy on already incendiary news outlets and disseminated false information by strategically planting evidence on social media which would be inevitably shared again and again until the source of the news became a moot point. The solution to this is just like Deb said, you need a platform that can and WILL react to this happening and a user base that is willing to police it to some degree…which unfortunately is much easier said than done (I’m lookin at you and your “fake new” Facebook)

  4. graceglambrecht · ·

    My biggest issue with social media has always been the anonymity factor. I think the opportunity for people to speak their mind and have a voice is an incredible aspect of social media, but it also creates a groupthink mentality and allows people to feel as if they have no responsibility for their words and actions online. It definitely goes both ways, and I think that it just shows how important both user response and technological policing is for media platforms. There are so many people online that its hard right now to create policing, so you are right that people need to be more proactive in protecting their own data/privacy and companies need to be better about encouraging those users to actively participate in privacy initiatives.

  5. jamessenwei · ·

    Hey Jaehong, you bring up a significant issue with your blogpost. Reading your post, I was reminded of the incident on Reddit after the Boston marathon bombing when users tried to track down the bomber and accused the wrong person, which caused a lot of problems. I think the main problem social media, like you say is the inability to verify statements. What’s more disturbing is that I don’t think a lot of users care very much about verifying the validity of what they read on social media. I think many people are more comfortable with finding someone to blame their outrage on rather than finding the right person to blame. I don’t know what to say as for solutions but awareness is key, I think. This is definitely the dark side of social media.

  6. This is a great post that sheds light on a controversial issue that plagues all social media and messaging boards across the internet. Bullying was always a problem in schools since individuals were brought together as children to be educated. But the introduction of online communities exacerbates the problem since the anonymity factor makes it extremely difficult to tie an individual to the actions he/she takes.

    I agree with others that outright censorship would not only forever change the landscape of online interactions, but also would infringe on the rights of users. Personally, I believe the best route to take to address this problem could be incorporating AI into social media screeners, as it would be impossible for companies to have someone reading each and every post for inflammatory content. In addition, taking personal precautions and being aware of how much information we actively share with others would be another step in the right direction. Doxxing, a term that means to publicly ID online users, has been rising as the incidents of online bullying have increased. The means by which users ID others is by delving into the piles of information that we voluntarily share across all of our online interactions. We may share information with the intent that it is only used innocuously. But once it’s online, we no longer have the ability to limit its viewership.

  7. I think you’ll like the Ronson video this week, if you haven’t already seen it.

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