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In a few private conversations today, some folks have wondered – what’s the most painful thing you can do to someone in new media? There is the example of the modern day pirates off the coast of Sumatra, who will tie your children to a boat anchor and slowly submerge them, then cut off your fingers joint by joint, but electronically, there’s not much that has an impact except a very, very old punishment – exile. In any kind of community in the old days, exile was tantamount to a death sentence, since it meant you had to forage and survive on your own.

Suppose you were to exile someone from the new media community? What would that look like?

  • Immediate deletion from your address book
  • Immediate deletion from every form of contact you have with them – defriend them on Facebook, stop following on Twitter, remove Google Alerts about them
  • Add their email addresses to your spam blacklist, sift through your WordPress/Typepad comments and flag all their comments as spam
  • Remove or rewrite any links you’ve given them on your blogs to someone else or digital oblivion
  • Fire off a note to anyone you’ve connected them with on LinkedIn or similar reputation/trust services, telling the connection that the person has been exiled from your community and you can no longer vouch for them or consider them trustworthy
  • Delete their name and any relevant content from your blogs, sites, and social networks, unsubscribe from their materials and presentations
  • Block them on your instant messenger services by using the block or abuse feature
  • Most important of all, team up with the rest of your personal network and ask others to exile the person as well

Exile from the digital community might or might not have an impact on the person’s life, but some measures (flagging things they do as spam, for example) might have tangible effects. Obviously, digital exile would be reserved only for the most serious violations of community standards, just as it was in pre-modern times. You’re essentially declaring the subject a non-person.

Food for thought.