TODAY

TODAY   |  June 12, 2013

Is public shaming on social media acceptable?

The court of public opinion online has grown very large, and bad behavior caught on camera can go viral quickly. But is does such vigilante behavior-monitoring really make people behave better? NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports and Anna Post of the Emily Post Institute discusses the phenomenon.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> social media is a powerful tool and as stephanie explains some people use it right or wrong to draw attention to questionable actions and behavior. stephanie good morning.

>> reporter: good morning savann savannah. the court of public opinion has grown large online. bad behavior caught on camera and posted on social networks can go viral fast. in a few days thousands of people watch and weigh in. the public is watching and recording. someone is ready to snap a photo, video and post what you do online. the good, and the bad. last week a woman posted a photo on facebook of a man whose face we have obscured on a computer train. if this is your husband i have endured a two hour train ride from philadelphia listening to this loser and his friends brag about their multiple affairs and how their wives are too stupid to catch on. please repost. no one came forward to identify the man but she got plenty of digital fist pumps for the post. over 200,000 shares. internet justice is swift but not necessarily just.

>> a lot is lost in the translation and you don't know the context of what is going on.

>> take nicole richey's photo. she said he dropped her on the floor and while she cried snapped a photo of richey. she stirred up plenty of facebook feedback and the more shocking the posts gets the faster the anger grows.

>> part of the interactive this is going to be great we're going to get him. we have pitch forks and keyboards and we're going to go after this person and get stuff done.

>> like this security video of a woman in the uk dumping someone's cat in the garbage. they posted someone to find out who did it.

>> are you sorry about what happened?

>> of course i am.

>> but before she could apologize, a spoof video was created and she even got death threats all for a crime published by a $400 fine.

>>> this growing trend sometimes turns into an online vigilanteism with few rules and people trying to pile on.

>> let's bring in anna, author and spokesman for the emily post institute. she's an etiquette expert. good morning to you.

>> good morning.

>> i'm sure in some ways this feels like justice. the example of the woman who thinks she hears about the man cheating on his wife and good for her. but is it appropriate to do something like that?

>> at the end of the day , as much as i completely understand why you would want to. it's not a good idea. it turns into a mob justice and vigilante wanted posters out there and it's out of your control and never goes anywhere good.

>> say nothing of the fact that you don't always know the full context. you think you do -- for all we do they're doing a dramatic reading about a play about adultery or something.

>> exactly. we're hoping, you're right. you don't know the context. you won't be able to police somebody's behavior this way or of all the people out there that are angered by it and where they might take that.

>> we asked our viewers what they thought. whether they thought it was appropriate to do this kind of shaming or calling out. amajority of them thought it was okay. does that surprise you?

>> it doesn't surprise me. i understand where it comes from but the thing is this is the time to pause and think about what's going to happen next. if someone is committing a crime you need to report it to authorities and then we hear the story about it later but taking it in your own hands, everybody's judgment is too up in the air what could happen.

>> if you think you see something that crosses into tlefl the level of a crime or something the appropriate thing to do is tell authorities.

>> right. it doesn't go hand in hand .