But sharing data as basic as a name and affiliation, unaccompanied by any suggestion, much less threat, of action against those individuals is not harassment. And the future of open political discourse will require us to address the serious scourge of online harassment without misusing the charge in an effort to suppress protected speech.
While harassment is rightfully illegal, public shaming is not. Democracy depends upon the ability of politicians, journalists and citizens to draw attention to what they consider misdeeds. That our smash mouth discourse can sometimes trigger an outsized public backlash raises serious concerns. But the answer cannot be that we must all restrain ourselves from drawing attention to factual, publicly available information when there is a valid reason to do so.
According to Pew, more than 40 percent of adults online have experienced some form of virtual abuse. Virulent forms of harassment including threats of physical and sexual violence, doxxing (the exposure of private information like Social Security numbers) and cyberstalking (surveillance with the intent to kill, injure or menace) have perverted online discourse.