“Fire in the hole” and YouTube apologies

Good Morning Silicon Valley reports that a judge ordered several Florida teens to post an apology video to YouTube after they “threw soda at a Taco Bell worker through a drive-through window and proudly posted their actions on YouTube.”  This sorry conduct is called “fire in the hole.”

According to The Today Show:

The “fire in the hole” prank is popular on YouTube, and even today it’s not hard to find plenty of examples there. But [victim Jessica] Ceponis didn’t know that then; she thought it was a personal attack on her. Then a co-worker told her that it was a video prank that was posted online, first on a prank site and then on YouTube.

Ceponis went from feeling victimized to being very angry. She viewed the video and tracked one of the boys to his MySpace site, where she befriended him. She eventually found out where he lived and called his mother, who gave her the name of the other boy.

Thanks to Ceponis’ detective work, both boys were charged with assault as juveniles and were ordered to perform 100 hours of community service, pay the Taco Bell restaurant where Ceponis worked for the costs of cleaning up the mess, and post an apology video on YouTube.

There’s no doubt that the instant notoriety of YouTube and other Web 2.0 sites can encourage those wanting their 15 minutes of fame.  But it also shows that victims might use those same sites to track down wrongdoers.

What about the shaming aspect of this case, i.e., the mandatory YouTube apology, found here?  I understand why the teens — as juveniles — weren’t ordered to show their names or faces.  But it’s hard to see how anonymous YouTube apologies serve much in the way of either specific or general deterrence.

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