Retribution for abused victims: How the internet brought justice? A case of Online Activism

In 2002 a sex abuse scandal rocked the Catholic Church. During this time it became known to the world that a catholic priest by the name of John Geoghan had abused and maybe was still abusing a number of young boys. The sick thing is that he had been doing it for over thirty years and all that had been done about the situation was just to transfer him from one parish to another. However in 2002, his sick habits and the Catholic Church’s covering up of his dirt and diabolical habits became known to the whole world.

But why did the story only break out in 2002. Didn’t people care about the issue before this time? Did the victims only decide to report the issue in the eventful year? Well not exactly.

Didn’t members of the parish try to protest these injustices done to those kids. I’m sure they did, but there was one thing limiting their voices and thus preventing the world from knowing; geographically restrictions. Even if they protested, it would only be restricted to a small geographical location. Traditional forms of communication just did not have the capability to allow them to effectively reach beyond their locality.  And even if someone heard, and wanted to take action how much effort would it require? And how much payoff would result from his efforts.

However by 2002 a new force had emerged on the scene. It was one that allowed an individual to instantly broadcast his message and also allow others to take action and voice their feelings on that message. Yes we are speaking about the internet. By the year 2002 people were creating their personal blob and websites and were able to write about anything they desired. Even better, the internet allowed an unlimited number of people to see and hear these messages and voice their feelings. What even better, as these people voice their feelings, others get to know of these feelings and also voice their feelings and take action. What we now have is a group of people voicing their opinions and feeling on a subject and taking action. Hmmmm, this sounds very much like some form of civic action, which is now taking place on the internet.

This is what faced the Catholic Church in 2002. The church had made several attempts to stop its members from meeting to complain about the matter; however the internet ensured that this did not happen. The meetings did occur, and resulted in more members that anyone could have anticipated.  The whole world now knew of the scandal and it could no longer be hidden. Justice would be served.  Read more on this story and the role of the internet in online activism. See Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky.


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