Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Facoltà di Giurisprudenza

Reputation in the era of social media

On the occasion of the presentation of the book by Arianna Visconti, the Graduate School “Federico Stella” of Criminal Justice promotes a conference on ‘a scenario of the social and legal implications of the notion of ​​reputation in a context dominated by new technologies’.

The book, Reputazione, dignità, onore (Reputation, dignity, honour) traces the aforementioned scenario of the social and legal implications of reputation, privacy, human dignity and personal property in an ever more complex social media realm that is increasingly dominated by new technologies.

Confini penalistici e prospettive politico-criminali (Penal boundaries and political-criminal perspectives - Giappichelli, 2018) is written by Arianna Visconti, researcher on Criminal Justice (Asgp) from the Graduate School “Federico Stella” of Criminal Justice. The book, which was presented at Università Cattolica on 24 May 2019, was the springboard for the conference: La reputazione al tempo dei social media e dell’intelligenza artificiale (Reputation in the era of social media and artificial intelligence.) The moderator was Professor Gabrio Forti, director of the Graduate School, which promoted the initiative. “As bearers of various disciplinary languages, the participating scholars are crafting an “interdisciplinary” rather than “overdisciplinary” conference that intends not only to dialogue but also to build something positive, to share knowledge for a common goal”, said Professor Forti, stressing the strong relevance of the issues and their link with the primary branches of the Graduate School’s research, from the themes of economic and organisational crime to the reflections on Giustizia e Letteratura (Justice and Literature) seminars.

The symposium focuses on the concept of reputation and its links with honour and human dignity: a precious and, at the same time, fragile good that is 'deposited' in the mind and in the attitudes of the persons with whom one enters into a direct or indirect relationship. An asset that is capable of opening up perspectives and opportunities but equally, where it is implied in negative terms, of generating ostracism and loss of chances. It is a "social capital" with exceptionally far-reaching consequences and the protagonists of economic and institutional life are increasingly aware of its multi-faceted value in our present hyper-connected and hypermedia society and  they are progressively refining techniques to build, promote or repair (where necessary) its reputation.

Today, however, many of us often unintentionally and thoughtlessly expose our reputation and privacy to increasingly pervasive risks, boosted by instant sharing and the Internet’s eternal memory.

The disintermediation offered by the web, with its promise to disengage itself from any form of control over freedom of information, has turned out to be a source of new and unforeseen threats to fundamental rights and freedoms.
In a world in which the collection, accumulation, management and sharing of personal data is becoming a resource of primary economic and political importance, the extremely rapid spread of dis-information (so-called fake news) and the advent of algorithms - able to draw up instant information rankings of the human and social value of each person - open new challenges and new horizons that are difficult to decipher at the moment, both in the human and social sciences and, perhaps even more so, in law, particularly criminal law, which is increasingly more inadequately equipped to meet the demand for 'justice' which also faces the world of the internet. These themes were discussed by a number of professionals, each with their own expertise and scientific background : Fausto Colombo, Head of the Department of Communication and Performing Arts at Università Cattolica, Carmelo Fontana, Google's Senior Regional Counsel, Adelmo Manna, professor of Criminal Law at the University of Foggia, Vittorio Pelligra, associate professor of Economic Policy at the University of Cagliari, Luca Pistorelli, Counsel of the Supreme Court of Cassation and Francesca Rigotti, philosopher and Professor of Institutional Communication at the University of Switzerland Italian in Lugano.

The discussion confirmed the pressing need for a coordinated and interdisciplinary approach to the problem, the relative weakness of national legislators in the face of rapidly evolving transnational phenomena and, consequently, the need for coordination - at least at a European level - with the experimentation of innovative models of regulation and accountability of all players in the game, from individual users to the big Internet companies.

Only a combination of the following - investments in education on the critical use of social media, strengthening of awareness and social control over the distorted uses of old and new media, activation of technological environment control resources available for service providers, and careful, meditated and responsive regulations by the institutions - can open up perspectives in which the potential for opportunities and freedom of the 'new digital world' prevails over the risks (already present) of disintegrating, anti-democratic and, ultimately, 'inhuman' drifts.