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The Problems with the Concept behind Social Autopsy

Updated on January 24, 2018
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


Social Autopsy is a proposed platform to let people report online harassment, bullying and hate speech. It would collect content reported by others into a digital dossier searchable by their name, ostensibly to allow employers and others to see the person's online behavior and possibly shame them or ostracize them. What are the problems with this concept?


Text messages, online posts and similar commentary they suggest you forward to them can be faked.

If anyone hacks your account and spews politically incorrect statements, you have no defense. And instead of dealing with an immediate backlash solved by deleting the junk sent out under your account with a message that it was used by someone else, the permanent record of the event is saved while your explanation of it isn't.

You have no defense when someone goads you into making a statement that is politically incorrect, before they report it to Social Autopsy. To compound the problem, context is easily edited out, so a reasonable statement can be made to look unreasonable.

This site doesn't take social media impersonation into account. Creating fake accounts with someone's name and sending out vicious messages with it becomes a way to smear someone not only that day but forever, for which they have no defense. And this is much easier to do than the constantly faked hate crimes too many activists have done to garner sympathy or support.



Doxxing risks associating negative comments with the wrong, innocent people. Remember the times someone has assumed you were someone else, based on similar names or user names, and worry about how you could get a negative entry in your permanent

No one wants that stupid drunk Tweet to live forever, even after you've deleted it. And these reports won't include the "OMG, I was so wasted last night, I'm sorry I said that".

Legal Risks

Social Autopsy states they don't want to exclude minors from this reporting. Yet the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule or COPPA places very strict rules on collecting information on minors – and creating a digital dossier on the social networking behavior of minors is likely a violation of this law, especially if you intend for the digital dossier to last a lifetime.

These websites rely on the reporter's identification of a person, and incorrect associations of user accounts with a person lead to a digital dossier tied to the wrong person. Choosing to leave the negative reports in place by taking the word of the reporting individuals over the named person risks slander and defamation suits. This is especially dangerous when they explicitly state they want to link someone's digital footprint to their employer, so that they face professional consequences for personal conversations and private disputes.

Chilling and Negative Effects

The liberal double standard for labeling all politically incorrect views as hate will apply to this type of permanent record. We already see this on Facebook. Express conservative views on traditional marriage, immigration law or higher black crime rates caused by the deterioration of the black family, and the posts get flagged for hate speech. Yet liberals posting "I bathe in male tears" or "kill all white people" isn't considered hate speech.

The social mobbing that shuts down conservative sites on Facebook by groups reporting someone's site as hate because they defended their politically incorrect views online will show up on Social Autopsy or similar sites. Yet the Social Autopsy site likely won't consider the same abuse occurring on their site, much less the political bias and motivations of the reporting individuals. Watch the TED talk by John Ronson titled "When online shaming spirals out of control" for the worst case scenario, where a bad AIDS joke got a woman fired while people calling for her rape weren't reported or even seen as doing anything wrong.

Sites like Social Autopsy easily turns into an SEO bomb for those reported, and if it ranks high in website searches, it will be used to hurt search results of conservatives and others on the right. This is because those who want to document all politically incorrect speech and silence or punish it are, today, from the authoritarian, regressive left, not the right.

The concept of documenting all online behavior that falls outside narrow politically correct bounds smacks of "Big Brother", as well as the social credit system China is planning to implement. After all, if you want to socially shame people for holding politically incorrect views, why not tie it to a tool that rewards them for the politically correct views?

The best cure to bad speech is more, good speech. Attempting to shame people you disagree with into silence leads to some going silent, and others retreating to more extreme views because you've attacked them as bad for holding views you disagree with. Furthermore, pushing people with politically incorrect corners of the internet where they can talk in a thought bubble, leading to more extreme views. That is the opposite intent behind a tool that is intended to bring bad ideas to light and those who hold them.

The potentially good impulse behind the effort too often harms those they say they want to help. For example, Muslim female activists like Raheel Raza fight against honor killings and female genital mutilation, and yet they are called Islamophobic, banned as hate speech by too many sites or non-platformed at debates. Silencing speech by these activists doesn't help end the murder of women by Muslims in the name of honor; in fact, it enables it by saying you can't talk about these things. The same deliberate silence led to the Rotherham rape scandal, where British police were more worried about being called racist than stopping Pakistani Muslim male gangs from raping over 1,400 working class white British girls.

That you could lose your job today because of politically incorrect views posted five years ago reported by a rival yesterday as hate speech is immoral and dystopian.
That you could lose your job today because of politically incorrect views posted five years ago reported by a rival yesterday as hate speech is immoral and dystopian. | Source

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