Administrative agencies throughout the world harness the power of the public to optimize enforcement. For example, agencies digitally collect, publish and analyze complaints submitted by individuals and organizations against regulated firms for instances of banking mistreatment of consumers, product defects, and environmental nuisances, among others. These firms can then be graded and targeted for enforcement by government agencies, as well as subjected to indirect regulatory enforcement through public shaming. Within the shaming enforcement framework, firms that have received many or particularly grave complaints, could face reputational harms, motivating firms to improve compliance.
Seemingly, crowdsourcing regulatory enforcement can help minimize some prominent ailments of the regulatory field: the capture of government officials by the interests of regulated firms, lack of government monitoring and enforcement resources, and a constant decline in public legitimacy and public trust in regulatory frameworks. Thus, enforcement based on information supplied by the public rather than by regulated firms is expected to be more objective, helping facilitate civic-public alliances and increasing public trust in the government.
Yet crowdsourcing enforcement can also be criticized as unreliable and biased, as it rests on public opinions, subjective reports and often negative feelings of outrage and revenge. It can generate disproportional responses from the public through digitally enhanced shaming processes and lead to over-deterrence. Additionally, boycott, demonstrations, denunciation and condemnation involved in the shaming process may gravely harm companies’ rights to due process and good name.
This research aims to evaluate the scope, characteristics, benefits and challenges of regulatory enforcement crowdsourcing in the digital age, building on both law and regulation scholarship and crowdsourcing literature, as well as a comparative analysis of several jurisdictions, including the U.S., the U.K., Ireland and Israel. Normatively, the research will thoroughly explore appropriate avenues for the future of crowdsourced regulatory enforcement.