Cyberspace is a lot like the real world except in one major field, privacy. In the real world, people have privacy. In cyberspace you are a series of identifiable numbers often being watched from many directions at the same time. Your email, “private” chats, and the website’s you visit are all read and/or recorded in one way or another. Paradoxically, people operating in cyberspace tend to feel more anonymous than a person walking down a crowded public street. They are not, as is proven by the number of vigilante sites being established to bust suspected pedophiles, scammers and other social miscreants. Recently, a site known as Perverted Justice was established to lure and catch pedophiles in chat-rooms. What they do is pose as a minor and seduce older males into agreeing to meet. Once an arrangement is made and solidified, members of Perverted Justice set about finding as much information on the alleged pedophile as possible. They then use that information to harass the alleged pedophile in any way possible. Postering his neighborhood and calling his employer are two of many means of harassment.
Sometimes cited as being online heroes, the vigilantes often forget a central tenant of law in a free society, the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Another extremely important right that is a pillar of our justice systems is the right to face your accuser in court.
I hate pedophiles and would personally like to see them jailed and forced into counseling. My love of western democratic values however forces me to say that vigilante justice is often justice perverted.