Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt
"...Trolling, defined as the act of posting inflammatory, derogatory or provocative messages in public forums, is a problem as old as the Internet itself, although its roots go much farther back. Even in the fourth century B.C., Plato touched upon the subject of anonymity and morality in his parable of the ring of Gyges.
"That mythical ring gave its owner the power of invisibility, and Plato observed that even a habitually just man who possessed such a ring would become a thief, knowing that he couldn’t be caught. Morality, Plato argues, comes from full disclosure; without accountability for our actions we would all behave unjustly.
"This certainly seems to be true for the anonymous trolls today. After Alexis Pilkington, a 17-year-old Long Island girl, committed suicide earlier this year, trolls descended on her online tribute page to post pictures of nooses, references to hangings and other hateful comments. A better-known example involves Nicole Catsouras, an 18-year-old who died in a car crash in California in 2006. Photographs of her badly disfigured body were posted on the Internet, where anonymous trolls set up fake tribute pages and in some cases e-mailed the photos to her parents with subject lines like “Hey, Daddy, I’m still alive.”
"Psychological research has proven again and again that anonymity increases unethical behavior. Road rage bubbles up in the relative anonymity of one’s car. And in the online world, which can offer total anonymity, the effect is even more pronounced. People — even ordinary, good people — often change their behavior in radical ways. There’s even a term for it: the online disinhibition effect...."
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/opini … ef=opinion
Thanks for the post. I'll be reading it several times.
I post under my real name - with some misgivings. Anyone with moderate computer skills (or $20 if he's too dumb to search public records) can find me and my family.
But I refuse to post anonymously because I am confrontational and I will not be accused of being cowardly and offensive - just offensive. Not that everyone has (or should have) the online (or real) gunslinger mentality. If you don't have that attitude, you can and should post rationally under a pseudonym. (China Man & Pretty Panther come to mind.) But if you are going to be provocative, do it under your real name. Otherwise you are hiding under a hood and robe, and you're just a 2-bit internet terrorist.
Good article and post - describes the sh@tty mentality of trolls and illustrates the position of the person being 'trolled' exactly.
I just read the article. she has some good insight as how to control it, at least to some degree. It's so true that when your name is next to the post that your real live friends or family, employers, co-workers will see, such as on Facebook or other social networking sites, you think twice about what you're putting out there. even here, people can read through Hubtivity if we have links coming in from FB or other sites, potential clients, etc.
I think at some point in the future, there will be tighter moderation here.
I'm surprised the Times published this, since it's so self-serving for Facebook.
One of her calls to action was to "Look into using comment services to improve the quality of engagement on your site." She's pre-selling the "public commenting widget" that she says Facebook is working on.
It's ironic that Facebook would slam anonymity, since Facebook does practically nothing tp prevent anyone from setting up a fake Facebook page, using someone else's name or a completely fictional name. It addition, a LOT of the unwanted behaviour (e.g., profanity, cyber bullying) happens every day on Facebook pages, and Facebook does nothing to discourage it or police it.
Anonymity isn't the problem. The lack of civility is the problem. Simply put, public websites need to be moderated to keep them civil, regardless of whether the posts are anonymous or not.
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