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University of Illinois Law Review



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People are speaking up on social media and in other virtual spaces, sometimes to spur the criminal process, sometimes in response to the criminal system’s perceived failures, and even sometimes completely indifferent to the criminal system. People are expressing moral condemnation. They are shaming, shunning, banishing, and canceling. What are the implications of punishment through virtual spaces, in lieu of the usual—and now seemingly antiquated—space of physical courtrooms? More broadly, when all the world can become a virtual courtroom, a “place” for judgment, what are the implications for how we think about crime itself? And perhaps most importantly, if social media can become the new public square, is state punishment even necessary? These are the questions taken up in this essay, which argues that we should at least open ourselves up to the possibility that punishment without the state might be better. And might get us closer to something all of us can call justice.

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