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Robin D. Barnes and Paul Wragg

This chapter addresses the phenomenon of social media use to hold sports personalities to account for perceived lapses of moral judgement. There have been many examples, in the US and UK, in which sporting figures have been outed and then pilloried through social media for privately held racist, sexist or homophobic outlooks. These mob-handed campaigns ridicule and ostracise, and coerce repentance and conformity. Although the problem straddles public and private law issues, this chapter explores the adequacy of private law to afford either meaningful protection or compensation to those affected. To keep matters manageable, this chapter will focus on UK law. It will be argued that although the threat to individuality raises genuine issues of privacy invasion, the law offers only thin protection to victims. Building upon the work of Wragg, it will be argued that the misuse of private information tort may be developed so that victims are protected from coercive uses of social media to regulate their moral behaviour. This chapter expands upon the meaning of coercion for these purposes. Keywords: social media; privacy; freedom of expression; human rights; harm; liberty