Category Archives: The Internet

Criminal Charges For Web-Shaming? Sure.

Gee, I wonder why that kid is a bully?

Gee, I wonder why that kid is a bully?

Police in Winter Garden, Florida have arrested and charged Christle Prado and her, ah, “roommate” for forcing her 10-year-old son to wear a dress, and then posting photos on Facebook to humiliate him. Discipline, you see; he had wet his bed.

The model mom and Keith Driscoll were charged with cruelty toward children and infliction of mental injury on a child.

Good.

I’ve written about web-shaming children before, and characterized it as child abuse, which it is. A maxim here is that when ethics fail, the law must take over. It is a poor second option, but for this couple and those like them, including the parents of the boy in the photo to the left, it is a necessary and an ethical one.

Police learned about the abuse after one of the boy’s relative saw posted photos of the boy dressed as a girl and wearing makeup. He was crying. I wonder how many of Prado’s friends “liked” those photos on Facebook? Prado told police that Driscoll came up with the idea to dress her son like a girl as a way to discipline him, went along with it because she “did not want to cause problems with her living situation.”  Oh, well, that’s all right then, ma’am—you can go now. Driscoll, you see, is her sleep-in landlord.

Yechhh. I wonder what else she’ll do to her son to keep that cozy relationship peaceful? Cigarette burns? Whipping? Water-boarding?

The child cruelty charge is a second-degree felony. I’m all in favor of expanding such charges to apply to the parents who post photos of children holding signs that read “I pooped on the floor” and other self-incriminating screeds compsed by mom and dad, even those who aren’t doing it to interfere with their sex-for-rent arrangements. In fact, I’d expand it to include those Jimmy Kimmel fans who make YouTube videos of their children crying because their Christmas gift appeared to be old sweat socks or broccoli, in the hopes that Jimmy will make their exploitation of their own kids go viral. (An excellent discussion of everything that is wrong with child-shaming on the web can be found here.)

Using the web to humiliate your powerless children—forever, remember—is wrong, but if parents are so stupid, cruel and ethically inert that they can’t fathom this basic Golden Rule principle, it should be illegal too.

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Pointer: Fark

Facts: WFTV

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, The Internet

Here’s A First: Kansas Suspends A Lawyer For Facebook Bullying

It's unethical for a lawyer to play a sad violin over Facebook??? Why yes, it is!

It’s unethical for a lawyer to play a sad violin over Facebook???  Why yes, it is!

Eric Michael Gamble was representing a biological father opposed to the adoption of his daughter, which had been approved by the 18-year-old mother.

After Gamble deposed the young woman, he messaged her on Facebook in a shamelessly manipulative fashion, saying…

‘I wish to offer you some reasons why you should stand up and fight for your daughter. As you know, I am the attorney for [the biological father]. We held your deposition in my office. I wanted to give you the chance to make things right. This may be your last opportunity to be a mom for [the baby]. As I told you after your deposition in my office, it is not too late. You still have a wonderful opportunity to have a real relationship with your daughter if you so choose. I have attached a document for you to consider signing and bringing to court or to my office. It is a revocation of your consent to adopt. If you sign this document there is a very good chance that you will be able to call [the baby] your own and [the baby] will call you her mom. I can’t begin to explain how beautiful and wonderful parenthood is. I have a little girl myself and she is my world just like you are your dad’s world. [The baby] deserves to know her parents. She deserves to know that you love her and care for her as well. Do not let this opportunity pass you by because you will live with this decision the rest of your life and [the baby] will know someday what happened. [The adoptive parents] do not legally have to ever let you see her again after court (although they are probably trying to convince you otherwise with the idea of an ‘open adoption’). The reason why you don’t know about the trial was because they don’t want you there because that doesn’t help [the adoptive parents] case. This is your time to get rid of the guilt and standup and do what is right and what [the baby] deserves. She deserves to have her parents love and care for her. She deserves to know her grandparents and extended family. If she’s adopted, she won’t have that chance. [The biological father] wants to be her dad and to love her. She deserves that. I urge you to print, sign, and notarize this document and bring it to my office before court. Trial is June 27, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. at the Johnson County Courthouse, Division 15. I hope to see you and your father there.’

What’s wrong with this? The legal ethics rules protect unrepresented parties in a matter from exactly this sort of pressure. Rule 4.3, in Kansas and elsewhere, prohibits a lawyer from giving advice to adversaries of his or her client, which statements like “This is your time to get rid of the guilt and standup and do what is right and what [the baby] deserves” clearly are. The rules also require lawyers to treat all participants in the justice system with fairness and respect. That message constitutes neither. Rule 4.4 says that “In representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person.” Gamble has a defense, of course: his substantial purpose was to have the adoption dropped like his client wanted, but since he wasn’t supposed to be talking to her anyway (other than to advise her to get a lawyer), that wasn’t going to fly. Rule 8.4, meanwhile, says that a lawyer must not “engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

After he lost the case, Gamble reported himself for the Rule 4.3 violation. This is usually a good tactic to encourage lenient treatment, but in this case, it didn’t work. In suspending Gamble for six months, the Kansas Supreme Court seemed to invoke all three of the violated rules, as it wrote,

“…As the hearing panel noted, respondent “attempted to manipulate the biological mother and, as a result, interfered with justice.” Respondent’s conduct “amounted to emotional blackmail” of an unrepresented 18-year-old who was dealing with a process that was already “‘emotionally exhausting.'” His “electronic message was designed to embarrass, burden, and create guilt in the mind of the biological mother.” These “bullying tactics directly reflect on [respondent’s] fitness to practice law as an attorney.” Consequently, we hold that the respondent should be suspended for a period of 6 months. A minority of the court would impose a longer period of suspension. We unanimously order a reinstatement hearing under Rule 219.”

And the social media claims another victim.

Addendum: I was remiss, in posting this, not noting that the underlying issue in the lawsuit is a far more serious and complex ethical and legal one than the topic of this post: the matter of unwed mothers putting their new borns up for adoption without the father’s consent or participation. That has been a battle royale on Ethics Alarms twice, and you can review it here.

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Pointer: ABA Journal

Facts: Legal Profession Blog

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Filed under Childhood and children, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, The Internet

Ethics Quiz: The Harvard Prof and The Erroneous Chinese Restaurant Menu

Perfect! Just what you need to handle that pesky flea, Professor!

Perfect! Just what you need to handle that pesky flea, Professor!

Ben Edelman, a rather well-noted Harvard Business School professor, had this fascinating exchange with a local Szechuan restaurant:

Edelman 1Edelman 2Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz:

“Is Prof. Edelman’s conduct ethical?”

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet, Workplace

Cellphone Videos Of Stand-Up Comedy Routines Are Unethical: Ban Them

no cell phonesVulture features an interview with Chris Rock, on which he waxes forth on many topics.I don’t especially care what Chris Rock has to say about Ferguson, but I care a lot about his views on stand-up comedy, where he qualifies as an expert, and the disastrous effect unauthorized videos are having on his art.

Rock has walked off the stage in appearances when he couldn’t stop audience members from filming him, and for very good reasons. He doesn’t want untested, half-baked material to get out to the public via YouTube:

“There are a few guys good enough to write a perfect act and get onstage, but everybody else workshops it and workshops it, and it can get real messy. It can get downright offensive. Before everyone had a recording device and was wired like Sammy the Bull, you’d say something that went too far, and you’d go, ‘Oh, I went too far,’ and you would just brush it off. But if you think you don’t have room to make mistakes, it’s going to lead to safer, gooier stand-up. You can’t think the thoughts you want to think if you think you’re being watched.”

On Elahe Izadi’s Syle Blog in the Washington Post site, other comics voiced similar concerns. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Etiquette and manners, Humor and Satire, The Internet, U.S. Society, Workplace

New Link: Behavioral Legal Ethics Blog

One of these days I’m going to highlight some of the excellent websites and blogs among the Ethics Alarms links (to your left!), but for the moment I’m directing your attention to a new one: the Behavioral Legal Ethics Blog. The three professors who contribute to the blog describe it, accurately, like this:

“Behavioral Legal Ethics is a place for a wide-ranging discussion about the intersection between behavioral science, law and ethics.  The conversations will appeal to anyone interested in the ways in which empirical psychological research can inform questions about how legal institutions and practices encourage ethical behaviors in legal and non-legal actors.”

I had intended to add this superb blog to my links for some time. I confess that the fact that the current post quotes me did prompt me to finally act.

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Pointer: Legal Ethics Forum

 

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Filed under Law & Law Enforcement, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, The Internet

How Should We Judge Second Apologies?

Sure, who wouldn't think this was funny coming from a member of your school board?

Sure, who wouldn’t think this was funny coming from a member of your school board?

The most important feature of apologies is that they express sincere and honest regret for the real harm done. If the first apology for misconduct fails that test, how much credence should a second attempt have? Does it negate the first apology completely? Ought it to be read and understood in light of the initial, unsatisfactory apology? Or should it be ignored completely as a public relations document crafted to achieve a result, rather than to express genuine contrition?

The case of Chris Harris, a board member for the Hooks Independent School District in the town of Hooks, Texas, provides a fascinating test.

Lat week, Harris posted an image of a Klu Klux Klan member with the caption, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”  to his Facebook page. The reaction to this was what almost anyone with a fully functioning cerebrum would expect, a category that Harris does not belong to, or at least did not when he posted it. Perhaps after shouting, “Doh!” or perhaps not, Harris rushed to repair the damage, publishing this apology:

Harris apology 1

Terrible apology! Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Incompetent Elected Officials, Race, The Internet

Contest Entry For Most Unethical Column, Post Or Essay About The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck: Hip-Hop DJ Jay Smooth

It goes without saying that my efforts to avoid more Ferguson commentary is a failure. The race-baiters, grievance-mongers, police-haters and cynical Democratic-base-goosers are engaging in an orgy of self-righteousness, aided by an uncritical news media and encouraged by public sentimentality and ignorance. This is horrible for the rule of law, law enforcement, race relations and the nation, but to close our eyes and repress our gag reflexes, hoping it will go away, is cowardly and irresponsible. This stuff is dangerous, to be blunt. Lies always are, and public policy built on lies will always result in harm and distrust.

The onslaught is much more powerful than I expected: several member of the Congressional Black Caucus actually brought the false “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” rallying cry onto the House floor yesterday. Charlie Rangel is using the lawful shooting of Brown based not on race but on his conduct alone to re-open demands for slavery reparations.

In this context, I’m entering this video blog by John Randolph, a.k.a “Jay Smooth,” a popular and outspoken hip-hop DJ with pretenses of social relevance.  It is genuine mind-poison. “Smooth” is sure smooth: he’s articulate, facile, a good actor, attractive, and facts mean absolutely nothing to him. Here he spins a persuasive justification for the Ferguson riots based on a series of demonstrably false premises: garbage in, but insidiously persuasive garbage out, especially to his audience. It begins with an apparently popular tweet he made before the grand jury results came out, which said, “The fundamental danger of a non-indictment is not more riots, but more Darren Wilsons.” If Wilson was not indicted for lawfully protecting himself from a subject who attacked him, more police will protect themselves from attacking suspects? The tweet is cleverly misleading: it assumes, without stating, that a racist cop murdered a black youth, and the video blog proceeds accordingly from that assertion. The truth is that the danger of having an indictment would be to allow mob justice and vengeance to preempt due process and fairness. Not surprisingly, Smooth later reveals that he sent essentially the same dishonest tweet about the George Zimmerman trial. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, The Internet, U.S. Society, Unethical Blog Post