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Internet brings new meaning to the concept a veil of ignorance

Bethany Hargrove

The Broadside

The Internet is notorious both for good and bad things.

Pro: Staying connected. Con: Trolling and flame wars.

Pro: Easy sharing of ideas. Con:Cyber-bullying .

Pro: Finding people and things you never could have without the web. Con: Finding out certain other things you never would have without the web.

Although the Internet is an intimidating place, with a little knowledge, you can avoid most unpleasant web experiences, such as trolls, flame wars, and cyberbullies.

Forums, such as the World of Warcraft official forums, have “earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild,” said Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft.

“Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment,” continued Blizzard’s announcement concerning the new Real ID feature, which would require posters both in the World of Warcraft and Starcraft II official forums to display their real names.

However, the backlash over privacy caused Blizzard to recall its Real ID feature, which, when implemented for a short while, did not reduce the undesirable behaviour.

“Blizzard fans expressing privacy concerns–as well as those dismissing such worries–have flocked to the company’s still-anonymous official forums, combining to produce more than 40,000 messages in a 2,000-pages-long thread.” This thread has since grown.

Blizzard, however, is not alone in dealing with users angry over what they view as privacy violation.

“Although the advancement of technology means that ‘privacy rights’ are more and more in danger and open to abuse,” said Yaman Akdeniz in his article “Anonymity, democracy, and cyberspace” in Social Research, but “the Internet does not create new privacy issues. Rather, it makes existing ones–such as confidentiality, authentication, and integrity of the personal information…difficult to control and secure.”

However, according to Vladimir Rimskii in his article “The Influence of the Internet on Active Social Involvement and the Formation and Development of Identities” for Russian Education and Society, behaving different on the Internet than in person is not an issue of anonymity, but rather anonymity changing identity.

“The changing nature of personal identity in Russia during recent decades shows stability in identity influenced by close social relations and marked changes in relation to more remote factors,” said Rimskii, “The Internet’s anonymity contributes to changes in identity.”

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, cyberbullying is  “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.”

Cyberbullying is closely related to trolling, only anonymity plays less of a role. Unlike trolls, cyberbullies often know their victims in real life, and don’t limit their bullying activities to one medium.

Ultimately, trolls, cyberbullies, and flamers will exists no matter what, and the only things you can do are avoid them and not give them a reaction. Participating in flame wars never gets your point across. The only way to get across to trolls and flamers is to be calm, not react, and ignore them when they bother you.

According to the Cyberbullying Reasearch Center, the best ways to deal with cyberbullies are to save evidence of their actions, and “please be careful not to retaliate – or do anything that might be perceived by an outsider to have contributed to the problem.  Do not respond to the cyberbully except to calmly tell them to stop.”

If you are concerned for your safety due to threats of physical harm or something similar, contact law enforcement.

You may contact Bethany Hargrove at beth.m.hargrove@cocc.edu

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