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It’s Not Just the Internet. It Never Has Been.

What Emily Finke says:

“Oh, the anonymity of the internet makes people behave badly!”

“If we just used real names, there people wouldn’t be as vicious.”

“Oh, that’s just 20-something guys in internet chatrooms. That’s how they all are.”

On the contrary, the viciousness we see, isn’t just a side effect of the internet. It’s a side effect of our culture.

No, I would go beyond that. It isn’t a side effect of our culture. It *is* our culture.

Why would I ever say this? I mean, everyone knows that those anonymous trolls on reddit would *never* act like that in the real world. It’s the structure of the internet that allows them to be assholes. Everyone knows that if we just avoid the problematic sites, like reddit, or the skeptics movement, or, well, anywhere else online, we wouldn’t have to deal with this.

Bullshit.

People do act like that in the real world.

 

(If you don’t know Emily’s blog, you ought to. She doesn’t post often, but what she does post is really good. This one from last year still gets me.)

Comments

  1. Ulysses says

    People do act like that in the real world.

    Many if not most of us know this from painful, personal experience.

  2. says

    From the quoted piece:

    So yes, we need to change online culture, but we also need to change the culture of which the internet is a mirror image. Only then will our online community reflect the community we want to be a part of.

    Hell yes.

    Thanks Chris: Emily Finke = bookmarked.

  3. says

    [Possibly off-topic]

    Not sure what point I’m trying to make here, really, but I actually find the slight disconnect of the internet helps me behave better. It’s not like I’m a raging arse offline or owt, but I do find that not having to reply in seconds gives me time to consider better what to say and how to frame it. If I come across nasty and snarky online, it’s (usually) ’cause I meant to, not because a snap answer went awry.

    Maybe I’m not so much making a point as just wondering if I’m the only person it affects that way…?

  4. says

    Another thought:

    Even if it were true that anonymity aids nastiness, it wouldn’t be the cause of that nastiness. Basically, all it says is that there’s lots of really nasty people out there who are sugar-coating their nastiness offline. Or, as I prefer to call it, being hypocritical.

  5. says

    And we can’t push the problem aside with a wave of our hands and an offhand comment of “Oh, that’s just how the internet is. Don’t you know better than to go to reddit?”

    Exactly! The implication is always that we’re too stupid to know what we’re doing on this wild and wacky internet machine, not that there’s anything wrong with places like Reddit.

  6. GodotIsWaiting4U says

    The Internet does not make people stupid, it makes their extant stupidity more publicly accessible.

    The Internet is basically a public place that contains EVERYBODY, so where normally people would see these trolls only in person and they would only affect those in their direct vicinity, they’re out for the entire world to see. They’d be assholes either way. All the Internet does is let them meet like-minded assholes and be assholes to the whole world at once.

    People’s actions are informed by their upbringing and their culture. The Internet is artificial; any element of culture the Internet has is either imported directly from the real world or developed from something imported from the real world, meaning that all of the racism, sexism, homophobia, and all-around bigoted asshattery has its roots in real-world culture, whether anyone wants to admit it or not.

  7. says

    Audley:

    Exactly! The implication is always that we’re too stupid to know what we’re doing on this wild and wacky internet machine, not that there’s anything wrong with places like Reddit.

    Right. There’s a whiff of desperation in the constant attempt to normalize scummy, sociopathic behaviour. “How dare you tell me trying to get some bitch/fag/insertotherslurhere to kill themself is wrong!!1!” “Whaddya mean that’s wrong? She put her pic up! Askin’ for it!” And so on.

  8. QueQuoi, traded in her jackboots for jillstilettos says

    Anonymity seems to be similar to being drunk. For the most part, you see someone’s real personality come out whether on the internet or In Vino Veritas. When all social constrictions and most punishments are erased, this is truly who this person is.
    Makes me wish I could scour the internet comments of everyone I go on dates with.

  9. Lofty says

    Most “nice” people have a nasty streak that comes out if you watch them long enough, especially if you stand well back. On the internet they often think they can be nasty becuse no-one can see them. The same way they congregate in groups and act nasty to people out of their immediate circle. I’ve seen too many of these nasty moments in meatspace to have any truly close friends. I just know its unwise to trust people with your innermost secrets, they have a habit of being thrown back at you when the shit hits the fan.

  10. John Morales says

    Chris quotes:

    People do act like that in the real world.

    This implies that the internet is not the real world.

    (It’s only part of it)

  11. Asher Kay says

    if we just avoid the problematic sites, like reddit, or the skeptics movement

    BOOM!

    Oh, that’s just 20-something guys in internet chatrooms. That’s how they all are.

    Yeah. And if you ask the 20-something guys, they say it is the 15-year-olds.

    Every single person who finds themselves down the scale from the prime privilege spot already knows that one.

    This is a great point. Even though the structure of the internet doesn’t cause the culture to be the way it is, the structure can bring people into contact with a reality they don’t usually see. The seemingly reflexive reaction is to try to write it off to something distant from oneself.

  12. says

    Asher:

    The seemingly reflexive reaction is to try to write it off to something distant from oneself.

    Yes, and that’s not any different from what people do in every day life, either.

  13. Onamission5 says

    I started getting lewd public comments and inappropriate leers from grown damn men by the time I reached the age of eleven. It’s not 20 year olds, it’s not anonymity, and it’s not the fucking internet.

  14. left0ver1under says

    The internet only changes the distances and the number of people involved, in both positive and negative interactions. Most people are going to behave the same way in any circumstance. If it does change how people interact, it’s only in the facelessness and anonymity or pseudo-anonymity it provides.

    The saying goes, “A drunken man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.” There probably are some who keep their mouths shut in person and show their true nature or “feel brave” when online. That’s not the fault of the internet any more than phone companies are to blame for obscene phone calls or the post office is to blame for Ted Kaczynski.

  15. rapiddominance says

    “If we just used real names, there people wouldn’t be as vicious.”

    Perhaps not AS vicious. However, I think that not seeing the people that you’re talking to still makes it easier to be mean than in real life.

    As for asking people to use their real name, should you? Yes–if you want to. There are always these “trade-offs”. Bloggers have their purposes and they have to do what’s right for them.

    Just out of curiosity, have the FtB’s ever given serious consideration to the restricted use of real names? If so, what were the drawbacks?

  16. John Morales says

    rapiddominance, try Googling my name.

    It’s very common.

    (That would give me a comparative advantage in terms of anonymity to someone with an unusual name)

  17. rapiddominance says

    John Morales

    Good answer. So some people are going to have a degree of cover, regardless.
    But problems can be lessened by degrees, wouldn’t you agree?

  18. rapiddominance says

    In otherwords, John, you wouldn’t be particularly affected either way; but the blogger might experience a better (or worse) blog atmosphere.

  19. butchpansy says

    Masks are very liberating, allowing the “real you” to be expressed. The internet is just another mask, and every day is Halowe’en.

  20. rapiddominance says

    #21

    If not the “real you” then at least “another you”. You got to keep in mind that some people switch personalities, even in real life, like a change in wardrobe. Baggy jeans to english class. Shorts to PE. A tux to the prom. Then jammies to bed.

    Why people choose to live that way, I don’t know. Maybe its for amusement or maybe its a coping strategy. But where I think we would definitely agree is this: If you see a trollish personality that is nasty or out of control on a blog, then there is probably something to it that they take with them everywhere.

  21. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    I wouldn’t want my name out there because I’m a teacher who regularly blogs about my sex life, kink, anti-theism and…oh yeah, I write ladyporn. So no, I would not advocate having to put my real name* on stuff.

    *My name *is* distinctive.

  22. ck says

    @rapiddominance

    Unfortunately, there are people out there would stalk and harass some of the people who post here if real names were enforced. Even if you enforce the use of real names here, you cannot enforce the use of them everywhere.

  23. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

    By asking for people to use their real names, PZ wouldn’t lose determined assholes proud of their ignorance and hate, since they come dime a dozen. He would lose some good commenters.
    Or people would just all call themselves Ann Johnson, Jim Black and similar, therefore retaining anonymity by using common names instead of their own. I would rather just let them call themselves r2d2 or whatever else, if they want.

  24. ck says

    Anonymity seems to be similar to being drunk. For the most part, you see someone’s real personality come out whether on the internet or In Vino Veritas.

    I think this was exactly right. People don’t become suddenly different just because they’re anonymous or drunk. Certain social filters are simply bypassed, and you get to see the side of the person that they would normally make some effort to conceal.

  25. chigau (違う) says

    If I couldn’t be anonymous, I wouldn’t be on the intertubes at all.
    [except for email]

  26. vaiyt says

    Privileged assholes have no problem attaching their real names to their assholery, especially if their victims are “acceptable targets”. Said targets, on the other hand, can be more easily stalked and harassed.

  27. says

    John:

    try Googling my name.

    Mine comes up with some sort of male sports star. So, my cover is pretty good in that regard, however, it’s not the issue. (My nym comes up with a fair amount of the nasty shit assholes have said about me.) Forcing people to use their real names isn’t any sort of solution, there are a million ways around it, and it certainly wouldn’t affect nasty behaviour in any way. The majority of people who ended up hurt wouldn’t be the assholes.

    Look at what happens when a person is targeted, and they use their real name – they’re often driven off the net, at least temporarily, need to shut down their blog, site, feeds, etc., and also don’t feel safe in offlife, either, due to a flood of threats.

    Look at what happens when a person is targeted, and they use a nym – they’re often driven off the net, at least temporarily, need to shut down their blog, site, feeds, etc., and also don’t feel safe in offlife, either, due to a flood of threats, and the dropping of their offlife information, name, address, and so on.

    The solution isn’t to change what decent people do – it’s to refuse the attempt to normalise such behaviour.

  28. DLC says

    The Internet is really a productivity magnifier. Unfortunately, what allows one researcher to check through 1000s of sources in an hour also allows one jackass the ability to spam 100 messages in an hour, and to find like minded scuzzballs to club together with so as to multiply the effect.

  29. says

    @ John Morales

    try Googling my name.

    Oh dear. Mine is fairly common (in Dutch anyway) – but all, bar one, of the entries on the first page are about me. (The single other being my grandfather.)

    :(

  30. redwood says

    This reminds me of something that happened in college. I went to a lecture by Bill Russell, the basketball star. He was really cool, really nice and met with a group of us afterward to talk more. Someone asked him about how having a lot of money affected him. He said that in his experience, being rich was only a magnifier. If someone was a jerk before they became rich, they were a jerk afterward, but it was more noticeable because they were more known or had more influence. I think the Internet works like that too, as a kind of magnifier of who people are. They aren’t any different, just more noticeable because they have a forum they didn’t use to have.

  31. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Huh, NONE of my first page results are about me even with my middle name spelled out. >.>

  32. says

    Real names on the internet are also used as a bullying and silencing tactic. We have seen this on Pharyngula over the years. Take this troll for example:

    By employing my full real name in this multiple libel, you, as well as Paul Zachary Myers, have committed an actionable offence in law. I request that the legal owner of this web-site redacts my name from this list.

    Down with real names!,

    ¡Viva la Revolución!,

    ¡Viva el Nym!

  33. says

    My name is a link straight to my face and I’m still a strikingly bigger asshole online than in person. I can put my finger on the exact rule in my head that makes the worlds so different: online I spit out entire paragraphs in a go and then people can just read it or not, but in person they have to interrupt me if they want to stop hearing me prattle on, or even if they just want to add something. This is actually a phenomenal hurdle for me that had kept me quiet for a majority of my life, and I struggle against it just to express myself.

    Although I know this isn’t as big of a game changer for other people I would still say that it is probably has a bigger impact than the actual anonymity granted by the medium.

    Now, speaking of people that are assholes in a more toxic way (I go too far sometimes but alerting me to this gets results,) I know some people that take advantage of the internet to not face punishment for their actions and I know some people that compulsively try to police the behavior of others (I don’t think someone could function if they did that in person,) but nobody seems to think that they’re wrong for behaving the way they do online. The best you get is recognition that society wouldn’t normally allow it, but I’m hard pressed to point to an internet asshole that doesn’t think society should make an exception in their case. Give them ‘a louder voice and silence their critics’. I’ve even been guilty of it (if I didn’t read this particular blog I would probably not only hold those views, but think that there was no serious opposition to them.)

    So anonymity on the internet only really stops you from expressing shock for things that you’re long since desensitized to. What people really mean is that in person you can shut people up because you’re used to being the majority, and can physically harm people if they’re not sufficiently intimidated by your numbers.
    There are less extreme measures available but if you can manage to knock the frame of reference out of the status quo any imbecile will be able to recognize that they’re really no hindrance to hate.

  34. pensnest says

    I don’t understand why people assume that a pseudonym, a name the user chooses for hirself, is any less ‘real’ than the name on a person’s birth certificate.

    I’m proud of ‘pensnest’, it’s the identity I’ve chosen for myself, and I don’t use it to behave like an asshole online. And if you were to Google ‘Penny Whitmore’ or ‘Eve Robinson’ or ‘June Pendleton’ (two of which are names by which I am/have been known), you would certainly find more individuals with those names than you’d find individuals called ‘pensnest’. But would those individuals be known by those names in ‘real life’? Is any of them = pensnest? How can you tell?

    Our words and behaviour are our identities, online as well as off, and whether we’re creating our identities using a name or a pseud doesn’t make any difference to who we are.

  35. Ulysses says

    If someone insisted on me using a “real name” I’d set up a gmail account with “John Smith” or “Abul bin Albana” and use that “real name” instead of my actual name. Prove I’m not Chandosol Pharulacka or Josef Rosokolovich.

    Sincerely,
    Hans-Pieter von Schickberg IV

  36. =8)-DX says

    “If we just used real names, there people wouldn’t be as vicious.”

    That’s the bullshit, right there. The main difference from our meatspace interactions is that online interactions have been molded by many new types of culture that haven’t had as much impact on meatspace, or the older nonline generations.

    Anonymity doesn’t remove personal responsibility, what can remove that is a feeling of artificiallity. Most people will have probably experienced playing a computer game where one either on purpose or inadvertently massacres innocent bystanders, children, farm animals, or later insults, assaults and robs some old granny/postman/ends the world (it happens). But it’s just a game. A sensible, mature person (no not necessarily just adults) can tell the difference between playing make-believe in a computer context and actually interacting with people.

    So yeah, I’d say the problem is people (because of indifference or general ignorance) being unaware of how their online interactions effect others. Learning to treat a tweet like you would a casual encounter at the checkout, or meeting your neighbour in the hallway. I think a lot of the youngsters nowadays are actually ahead in this respect, but the important thing is consent. The internet is big and there are places one can go to shout obscenities, post pictures of one’s genitals and engage in surreptitious sextual liasons. There are places for that in meatspace as well, but I don’t have to know your name, remember your face or care about what town you live in, if you do these things in the middle of the street. Anonymity is irrelevant there because modern civilisation is held together by countless people who don’t know each other pretending that they do, and acting as if they were neighbours.

    (And to think of all the times I’ve gone red with shame or frustration being frowned at by some anonymous lady or gentleman in the train who I never met again in my life, how many assholes I’ve met whose fist I am very happy not to have had a more intimate conversation with).

  37. says

    I don’t understand why people assume that a pseudonym, a name the user chooses for hirself, is any less ‘real’ than the name on a person’s birth certificate.

    I’m proud of ‘pensnest’, it’s the identity I’ve chosen for myself, and I don’t use it to behave like an asshole online. And if you were to Google ‘Penny Whitmore’ or ‘Eve Robinson’ or ‘June Pendleton’ (two of which are names by which I am/have been known), you would certainly find more individuals with those names than you’d find individuals called ‘pensnest’. But would those individuals be known by those names in ‘real life’? Is any of them = pensnest? How can you tell?

    For the record, I am fairly consistently a variation of Rutee Katreya. It’s not that hard to find what I’ve said. I’ve actually had one troll in the past who tried to impugn me with… my posts here actually XD

    If we’re reserving vaguely realistic fake names, mine is Schtolteheim Reinbach III.

  38. Ing:Intellectual Terrorist "Starting Tonight, People will Whine" says

    Um I actually don’t know of any game that let’s you slaughter children

  39. carlie says

    It comes to mind that there is considerable overlap between the people who say “it’s just the internet” and “just stay away from (x)” and the people who take a single tweet or facebook pic from a person they don’t like and try to use it as a cudgel to destroy that person’s life. So really, even they understand that it’s not just the internet.

  40. says

    Fallout 2, top of my head. They’re not valid targets for weapons fire, IIRC, but there are some pick pocketing scamps from Oliver Twist who will happily steal dynamite that is primed to go off if you finagle it slightly. Kids were made immortal in future iterations, because the developer was aware this was a thing. There was also a super-classy ‘kick a pregnant woman in the stomach’ pic that was removed from actual use in the game, within the files, because Fallout 2′s devs were classy like that (There’s a ton of stupid shit they left in, but that one, at least, was considered too far)

    There’s a ton of games where kids will actively fight, and by extension, can be beaten to within an inch of their lives, also. they’re just pretty much always on the protagonists’ side.

  41. QueQuoi, traded in her jackboots for jillstilettos says

    Now I’m gonna be hearing Ministry in my head all day.

  42. QueQuoi, traded in her jackboots for jillstilettos says

    Borked the quote! Argh!

    butchpansy @ 21
    “everyday is Halowe’en” will now be my earworm for the day.

    Time for more coffee.

  43. says

    @ing. The “kill the children” mod was one of the most popular Skyrim downloads. Right up there with giving all the females “improved” boobs. (I hate my geek family sometimes)

  44. Pyra says

    I like my name. It is my main connection to the realest “me” there is. I have a nickname I’ve used since I was 15 floating around and I don’t disconnect from it completely, though I don’t go out of my way to claim it everywhere. That one is the old me, who is still fighting off mental illness. But no, it isn’t just the internet. It never was. It’s a distillation of personality, though.

  45. shala says

    Um I actually don’t know of any game that let’s you slaughter children

    Fallout 1 and 2. The UK versions removed the children but you can put them back in with a patch. Killing a few of them makes basically everyone in the world despise you.

    They’re pretty much the only games that have ever allowed it without third-party mods, too!

  46. shala says

    There was also a super-classy ‘kick a pregnant woman in the stomach’ pic that was removed from actual use in the game, within the files

    Yeah, the Childkiller reputation was going to have that…rather “lovely” picture associated with it in Fallout 2. In some fairness to the devs, it was both rejected and the guy who drew it said that he had no idea what he was thinking at the time.

  47. ChasCPeterson says

    If someone insisted on me using a “real name” I’d set up a gmail account with “John Smith” or “Abul bin Albana” and use that “real name” instead of my actual name.

    ha, yeah, or “Rodney Nelson” or something stupid like that.

  48. frog says

    Googling my real name without the middle initial gets nothing. Lots of people, alive and dead, have my name. (Oddly, many of them are in similar industries as I, including a famous historical person who is in exactly the same industry.) Googling with the middle initial gets a professional publication by me as the first hit and a couple of later hits, but again, mostly just genealogical sites talking about dead people with a similar name.

    I have spent twenty years keeping my name off the internet. There is exactly one photo of me which can be found by googling my full name with middle initial…and it is a 3/4 of the back of my head.

    I have three nyms: one which I use most of the time, and a nickname that is closely associated with that nym and well known to people who know me in meatspace. My third nym is “frog,” used exclusively on freethoughtblogs, because I decided the troll/asshole quotient over here was high enough that I didn’t want any connections made to elsewhere. (Not that this is FTB’s fault; just it’s an obvious problem with a controversial website.)

    ———-

    While I think that assholes on the internet are probably assholes in meatspace, too, there is a slight difference of degree. They have a little more caution when speaking to someone who’s within striking distance (consider the terrified schmuck who trolled boxer Curtis Woodhouse), and I think the asshole-lack-of-empathy tendency to forget that there is a real person on the other side of the screen is mitigated sometimes by seeing a real person standing in front of them.

    Not that this makes any difference; clearly assholes are everywhere, and just because someone is hiding their assholitry doesn’t make them not an asshole.

    ———

    What the internet needs is an organization in meatspace of people who will go after online bullies in their proximity. (And whitehats to help trace these guys.) Imagine a crowd of even 10 people demonstrating in front of the home of some rape-threatener. Come armed with printouts of screencaps and let their parents know what their kids are doing. Or let the neighbors know what their adult neighbors are doing. Or let school officials know what their students are doing.

  49. chigau (違う) says

    frog
    You work hard to maintain your own anonymity but you want meatspace vigilianties to break anonymity for others?

  50. cyberCMDR says

    A lot of good points here. One more point about the Internet however, is that there is no visual feedback based on body language. As social animals, that is a key cue for human interaction, and that is missing online. I’m sure that has an effect.

    As for myself, anonymity provides me a buffer for my ego. I will, as everyone does occasionally, hit the submit key for something I later really wish I hadn’t said. It could have been something that struck me at the moment as insightful, but after further consideration (and some Pharyngulian feedback), I realize how monumentally stupid it was. Or I may say something that, in my mental cocoon of privilege, I did not realize how it might offend others. Because it is not my meatspace name out there, I can sit back, regroup, and try again later. I’m sure the day I’ll stop saying things that I later regret (not from anger, but from lack of enough neural processing), is the day they crisp my body and hand my wife the ashes. Until then, using a ‘nym provides enough mental body armor that I can try, try again.

    Of course if I totally, totally embarrass myself, the Internet does allow a form of reincarnation under a new ‘nym. We can re-invent ourselves, if necessary. New mental body armor, and hopefully more wisdom points.

  51. Maureen Brian says

    You have to be careful saying things like your paragraph one, cyberCMDR, or some d00d will be along to complain that saying not all information available in real life is also available in a verbatim transcript of the words = woo! And is therefore very bad.

    See comment 1836 in the Adria Richards did everything exactly right thread. No, I’m not linking to him – the guy is clearly deficient in the “understanding what is going on” department.

  52. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    frog
    You work hard to maintain your own anonymity but you want meatspace vigilianties to break anonymity for others?

    I’m pretty sure he wants people to be locked up for murder but not for criticizing the government, too. There may be valid criticisms of his suggestion but accusations of hypocrisy that ignore relevant differences aren’t one of them.

  53. khms says

    I pretty much started out (1985) with a BBS network that, to avoid toxic BBS behavior, insisted on real names.

    It didn’t work.

    Pretty much the same could be said of the early German Usenet.

    Or Google+.

    Back in my BBS days, I remember people meeting some of the more prominent assholes in meat-space telling us that, face-to-face, they were nice people; pretty much the same discussion as the current post back around 1990. In all that time, I don’t think I’ve seen a single new argument.

    As for connecting my “nym” to the real me – if someone really wants to, it isn’t particularly hard to do.[*]

    And while I no longer inhabit the first several pages of search results for my real name, much of that info is still there when you look for it. I’m sure there re my instances when I’ve said something stupid.

    Of course, I also happen to work for the same employer since 1991, so I’m not all that concerned what future employers might find out bout me … :-)

    The worst thing I remember, I couldn’t find records of even a few weeks later, as apparently that segment of Usenet hadn’t made it into DejaNews’ archives. (After spending a while cooling down I wanted to see what the exact sequence of events and the exact wordings were, to see where I had gone wrong and by how much. No go, the one time when the permanent memory of the net was personally important …)

    [*] That profile pic was one of the first digital pics of myself I ever had, scanned in from a paper photo, back in the BBS days, and what you can probably only make out when you already know it’s there, on the right side, in red, is a bit of source code from that BBS I wrote. So that pic is something like twenty years old.

  54. cyberCMDR says

    Maureen,
    Noted. Still, there are lots of examples of issues mis-communicated in e-mails because it is inherently more difficult to clearly express emotions through text. Not impossible, but a lot of communication is non-verbal and we are wired to read those physical nuances as context. We “read people”, rightly or wrongly, and incorporate that as part of our assessment of the argument.

    That said, I think that as we are immersed in the on-line universe our “voice” changes to compensate for this lack. We use smileys, incorporate modifiers, and (hopefully) work perhaps a little harder to compensate for that lack of physical feedback. Some are better than this than others.

  55. cyberCMDR says

    Hmm. I put in an angle bracketed /snark tag before the word “modifiers”, and it disappeared. I wonder how the html engine handled it?

  56. Maureen Brian says

    Agreed, cyberCMDR. I may just be getting old or something but I feel as though young people these days are not learning to have a repertoire of writing styles and vocabularies so that the chance of the reader working out whether the writer is joshing, making a political argument forcefully or is Seriously Very Angry is upped by a few percentage points.

  57. says

    chigau:

    You work hard to maintain your own anonymity but you want meatspace vigilianties to break anonymity for others?

    I’m wrestling with that too. Closest I’ve come is regarding online anonymity as something like a privilege that is issued to everyone that meets an absurdly low initial bar but which can be lost if abused. Vaguely analogous to a drivers’ licence in California.

    Of course the question of who constitutes the DMV in my analogy is something I haven’t worked out yet.

    But I do kinda see treating people who rely on anonymity to abuse others as equivalent to people who rely on anonymity to protect themselves from abuse as something like a category error. And I do see a few gaping holes in my argument as well. Do Jane Feminist and the government of Crackdownistan have the same rights to “defend themselves” against “abuse”?

  58. says

    Chris:

    But I do kinda see treating people who rely on anonymity to abuse others as equivalent to people who rely on anonymity to protect themselves from abuse as something like a category error.

    So do I. There’s a fine line between consequences of your actions and mob mentality, unfortunately.

  59. chigau (not my real name) says

    frog #51 said

    What the internet needs is an organization in meatspace of people who will go after online bullies in their proximity. (And whitehats to help trace these guys.) Imagine a crowd of even 10 people demonstrating in front of the home of some rape-threatener. Come armed with printouts of screencaps and let their parents know what their kids are doing. Or let the neighbors know what their adult neighbors are doing. Or let school officials know what their students are doing.

    How could this possibly work?

  60. frog says

    Yes, it’s difficult to walk the line of what is right. But if I learned that, for instance, the guy who created the beat-up-Anita-Sarkeesian game lived next door to me? I would fucking well knock on his door and give him one day to publicly apologize or else be outed.

    I would be perfectly happy to let legal authorities take care of the situation (as with PZ’s famous Canadian stalker with mental health issues). The problem is when the perpetrator and the victim are in radically different jurisdictions, or the local authorities of the perpetrator do nothing.

    Steubenville would never have come to such prominence without people making an internet stink and inspiring the state-level law enforcement to get involved when the local authorities were doing nothing. I think that model points to an effective strategy.

  61. says

    Chigau:

    How could this possibly work?

    I could see it happening, but I wouldn’t want to be part of it – it’s too much mob mentality for my comfort level. There is a similar thing happening, though – remember that notorious reddit troll/asshole who was outed recently? The harm he was causing on a daily basis stopped immediately. Not that aren’t others who howled terribly about it, or carry on in the same vein, they do. A fair amount of egregious behaviour was stopped by simple identification, though. It’s something to think about, at the very least.

    I can’t say I’m personally comfortable with the idea of outing people. However, given the amount of innocent people who end up outed for bad and stupid reasons, I might have to get over that one of these days.

  62. daniellavine says

    frog@67:

    Yes, it’s difficult to walk the line of what is right. But if I learned that, for instance, the guy who created the beat-up-Anita-Sarkeesian game lived next door to me? I would fucking well knock on his door and give him one day to publicly apologize or else be outed.

    That dude never made any secret about who he is. Bendilin Spurr. You can easily find out far more than you’d like to know about that person on the internet already.

  63. Pteryxx says

    That dude never made any secret about who he is. Bendilin Spurr. You can easily find out far more than you’d like to know about that person on the internet already.

    *goes to look*

    And a woman in Toronto organized public shaming of him, which resulted in… wait for it… death threats against her. Apparently she ’caused the uproar’ and was ‘overly harsh’ in her shaming of a guy who released a beat-up-Sarkeesian game.

    Thanks, internet.

  64. cyberCMDR says

    Virtual vigilantism could bring some level of satisfaction, but it depends on who is on the receiving end. Who decides?

    Anonymity on the Internet is a little like airport security, it might give you a warm feeling of safety but an intelligent and determined adversary could get around it. Look at Petraeus, he was the director of the CIA and he couldn’t keep his internet activities secret.

  65. daniellavine says

    Pteryxx@72:

    Spurr and his game are actually a great example of Emily Finke’s point. It never even seemed to occur to him that making the game should be something he should be ashamed of.

    I didn’t know about that shaming campaign but again it’s just more evidence for Finke’s point. The internet is just a series of tubes — a conduit. The sludge that pours out of those tubes is real life.

  66. says

    Daniel:

    It never even seemed to occur to him that making the game should be something he should be ashamed of.

    Which pretty much sums up the whole problem. We’re now dealing with a whole lot of people who grew up feeling very entitled, and seem to think there is absolutely nothing they can do which is beyond the pale.

    I’ve never been a huge fan of societal shame, given as how when I was growing up, it was primarily used against women. On a societal level, though, I think there was such a backlash against it that it resulted in people coming of age thinking they are special snowflakes indeed and can do no wrong.

  67. says

    Daniel:

    The internet is just a series of tubes — a conduit. The sludge that pours out of those tubes is real life.

    “They have parasites! Parasites in their…tubes!”

    Sorry, just saw The Hobbit.

  68. cyberCMDR says

    Caine, he did something idiotic that is true. But idiots generally don’t get the level of responsibility that he was entrusted with. Periodically we are all idiots, but we try our best to minimize those events.

    He knew enough to try to cover his tracks, but it was not sufficient. All it takes is a simple mistake (like perhaps, trusting Thunderf00t before he grabbed all those e-mails and threatened to out people?) and people’s identities can be put at risk.

  69. says

    But idiots generally don’t get the level of responsibility that he was entrusted with. Periodically we are all idiots

    I get the feeling you don’t pay much attention to politics. At any rate, this is not about Petraeus, so if you wish to continue this, probably should take it to Thunderdome.

  70. daniellavine says

    Caine@78:

    Sorry, just saw The Hobbit.

    Arggh, I still need to see it! Thank you for reminding me actually.

  71. cyberCMDR says

    Caine,
    OK. I will end this by stating that the selection process for advancement in the military has a few more checks and balances than politics does. Some people advance who really shouldn’t, and some don’t advance although they should, but the successive filtering processes as you go up in rank weeds out the bad apples more effectively than general elections do.

    On topic, I think that the Internet and its associated communication technologies are enablers. Whatever you bring to the party, either good or bad, is amplified by the reach and anonymity of the medium. As QueQuoi noted in #10 and Redwood in #32, it allows us to drop our social masks a bit and let the real us emerge. For many people though those social masks are there for good reason, because all too often it hides a lot of ugly. In meatspace we often don’t see that until we get to know the person better, sometimes after its too late.

    My daughter’s ex was a perfect example. At first he seemed fairly intelligent and decent; later you find out the true character: emotionally abusive, control freak, and an aggrandized belief in his own intelligence with no correspondence to reality. On the Internet, we often get to see that true person a lot faster, because they’re not worried about making a lasting good impression.

  72. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Not impossible, but a lot of communication is non-verbal and we are wired to read those physical nuances as context. We “read people”, rightly or wrongly, and incorporate that as part of our assessment of the argument.

    We?”

  73. cyberCMDR says

    Azkyroth,
    Quite true; in fact a lot of the description reminds me of me, especially when I was younger. I was never diagnosed with AS, but seemed to exhibit a lot of the characteristics. For much of my life I had a lot of difficulty with social situations, and my mind always seemed a bit “different”. I was always understanding the more complex subjects, and repeatedly missing the obvious. That was one of the reasons I became very interested in body language when I was younger, to help figure other people out.
    Of course that might only be my trying to put a label on my problems, but I do identify with many of the characteristics.

    I did find that raising a family helped, a lot. A concerned parent always tries to figure out what is going on in their children’s lives, and I think I mastered a bit more social empathy that way. I’m not the social butterfly my wife is, but I’m better than I used to be.

    I hadn’t considered how the Internet would appear to someone with moderate to severe Aspergers. Something for me to think about. Thanks.

  74. stanley0 says

    I disagree. I think anonymity is a major cause of bad Internet behavior, and I have evidence for it. I used to be active in a Usenet newsgroup dedicated to fly fishing that was full of the most appalling, gratuitously cruel content you can imagine, and this was about fly fishing! It got so bad that many of the reasonable people left. Then the group largely migrated to a Facebook group. Facebook discourages anonymity (not always successfully). The Facebook group is comprised of much of the same people, with everyone using their real name as far as I know, and the behavior is polite and respectful. I think this question could be resolved with a controlled experiment, if it hasn’t already. It could make an interesting study in psychology.

    If anyone is interested in my real name I’d be happy to provide it.

  75. says

    Facebook discourages anonymity

    Sure, sure. Keep telling yourself that.

    If anyone is interested in my real name I’d be happy to provide it.

    Y’know, if you aren’t trolling, you’re seriously impaired in the thinking department.

  76. cyberCMDR says

    Facebook does discourage anonymity (at least, they say the do). It is ridiculously easy however to create a false account, and they come in quite handy with all the web sites asking for you to log on using a Facebook identity. Happens all the time.

  77. stanley0 says

    Caine, Fleur du mal, do you believe that Facebook doesn’t discourage anonymity? Where have you been?

    I’m not trolling. I’m expressing what I think is a reasonable opinion. By your rude reply you seem to be trying to prove my point.

  78. stanley0 says

    I think Facebook is sincere in discouraging anonymity, but as you say, cyberCMDR, it’s very easy for someone to get around it. I haven’t seen that on the Facebook group I mentioned. If someone came to the group anonymously and behaved badly they would be shunned and probably banned. I’m not claiming that anonymity is the ONLY cause of bad Internet behavior, but that it’s a major factor. Public shaming is powerful.

  79. says

    Facebook discourages anonymity (not always successfully). The Facebook group is comprised of much of the same people, with everyone using their real name as far as I know, and the behavior is polite and respectful.

    In my experience what Facebook’s name policy does is cause people to call me “Mr. Clarke” before they hurl invective. But I guess that’s CIVIL!!!1!!1

  80. says

    Chris:

    In my experience what Facebook’s name policy does is cause people to call me “Mr. Clarke” before they hurl invective. But I guess that’s CIVIL!!!1!!1

    That’s civility, alright. Back when I was on FB, I was there as Caine Only. My real name that, you bet.

  81. says

    That’s civility, alright. Back when I was on FB, I was there as Caine Only. My real name that, you bet.

    Weren’t you afraid people would figure out that was an anagram of your real name, Lacy I. Neon?

  82. says

    Weren’t you afraid people would figure out that was an anagram of your real name, Lacy I. Neon?

    Damn it, Chris! You weren’t supposed to let that slip. Oh well, it’s true, I’m Lacy I. Neon and no, I’m not going to say what my middle initial stands for, that’s private.

  83. says

    Oh well, it’s true, I’m Lacy I. Neon and no, I’m not going to say what my middle initial stands for, that’s private.

    “Initial,” shirley.

  84. stanley0 says

    “In my experience what Facebook’s name policy does is cause people to call me “Mr. Clarke” before they hurl invective. But I guess that’s CIVIL!!!1!!1″

    That’s a start. :-)

    I’m not arguing for the effectiveness of Facebook anti-anonymity policy. Obviously, it has weaknesses, despite what Faebook’s motives might be. It seems to be working in this fly fishing group I referred to.

    I’m frankly disturbed by Caine, Fleur du mal’s rude reply. I don’t think I did anything to deserve that. I think he owes me an apology.

  85. says

    Yes, absolutely. By the way, did you hear the utterly shocking news that there are trolls on usenet?

    How horrible of you to point that out.

  86. says

    I’m frankly disturbed by Caine, Fleur du mal’s rude reply. I don’t think I did anything to deserve that. I think he owes me an apology.

    Good to meet you, Frankly, though we didn’t really ask you for your real name. I’m Chris, and this *gestures broadly* is the Horde, and this lovely person here covered with adorable rats is Caine, who is not male, and who actually was remarkably nice to you given your kind of presumptuous entrance. Feel free to make yourself welcome after getting over your feels being hurts. And remember the old Usenet maxim: “read before lurking before posting.”

  87. stanley0 says

    “Good to meet you, Frankly, though we didn’t really ask you for your real name. I’m Chris, and this *gestures broadly* is the Horde, and this lovely person here covered with adorable rats is Caine, who is not male, and who actually was remarkably nice to you given your kind of presumptuous entrance. Feel free to make yourself welcome after getting over your feels being hurts. And remember the old Usenet maxim: “read before lurking before posting.””

    Here’s another problem with Internet forums in my opinion — the establishment of an “in group” mentality that is implacably hostile to “newbies” who don’t give deferrence to long-time posters.

  88. stanley0 says

    I apologize, Caine, Fleur du mal, for assuming you were male. Given your anonymity, I had no way of knowing, and I was using “he” in a generic sense, since the English language doesn’t have a non gender-specific pronoun other than “it”, which I suspect you would find even more offensive.

  89. says

    Here’s another problem with Internet forums in my opinion — the establishment of an “in group” mentality that is implacably hostile to “newbies” who don’t give deferrence to long-time posters.

    Were we asking for deference? Caine gave you an admittedly impatient reply that was mildly insulting. You decided to plant a flag on it. You could easily have shrugged it off and decided she’s an asshole and ignored her and moved on without paying “deference.” But no, you had to demand an apology, then cap off your misgendering with a slam against women in general.

    You’re not being bounced because you showed insufficient deference. If you don’t back down, though, you’ll be bounced because you’re upset we aren’t sufficiently deferent to you.

    Your choice. Think carefully.

  90. says

    I have thought about this very carefully. I love a good bounce.

    OK then. Mind the door on the way out: it’s got a hell of a backswing to it.

  91. says

    Chris:

    OK then. Mind the door on the way out: it’s got a hell of a backswing to it.

    And no assprints! The quality of trolls these days, they make usenet trolls look like geniuses.

  92. Brother Ogvorbis, Fully Defenestrated Emperor of Steam, Fire and Absurdity says

    Here’s another problem with Internet forums in my opinion — the establishment of an “in group” mentality that is implacably hostile to “newbies” who don’t give deferrence to long-time posters.

    Remember. All of us were newbies at one point. Some of the ‘regulars’ have been here a few months. Some a few years. Your ‘reception’ may have more to do with what you write than who the horde is.

  93. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    105
    stanley0

    I apologize, Caine, Fleur du mal, for assuming you were male. Given your anonymity, I had no way of knowing, and I was using “he” in a generic sense, since the English language doesn’t have a non gender-specific pronoun other than “it”, which I suspect you would find even more offensive.

    1. That’s totally a Notpology and 2. There are gender neutral words in English. One set is has even been around for a very long time!

  94. JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness says

    113
    Caine, Fleur du mal

    Here’s another problem with Internet forums in my opinion —

    Why you should have used your real name, that would have fixed it right up!

    *snort*
    I love you Caine.

  95. Brother Ogvorbis, Fully Defenestrated Emperor of Steam, Fire and Absurdity says

    Caine? I thought it had been established that Nerd was the only ‘she’ on Pharyngula.

  96. says

    I apologize, Caine, Fleur du mal, for assuming you were male. Given your anonymity, I had no way of knowing, and I was using “he” in a generic sense, since the English language doesn’t have a non gender-specific pronoun other than “it”, which I suspect you would find even more offensive.

    Given Frankly’s troll status, I shouldn’t bother, but…

    1) See that pretty picture by my nym? Big huge hint.
    2) The ‘Fleur’ in my nym? Big huge hint.
    3) When uncertain, a civil person uses “they” or “them” in place of gendered pronouns.

    This has been a module of Internet 101.

  97. says

    JAL, right back at ya. ♥

    Ogvorbis:

    Caine? I thought it had been established that Nerd was the only ‘she’ on Pharyngula.

    Yes, but it’s very rude to address me as a man, given that accident with the mechanical rice picker and the loss of my testicles. Very rude indeed.

  98. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Here’s another problem with Internet forums in my opinion — the establishment of an “in group” mentality that is implacably hostile to “newbies” who don’t give deferrence to long-time posters.

    Maybe that is caused by arrogant newbies who think their unevidenced OPINIONS count for more than well evidenced opinions of those who post regularly. Sounds like you in fact.

  99. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Dang, posted before reading the bounce/flounce. *goes off to sell more grog*

  100. says

    Yes, but it’s very rude to address me as a man, given that accident with the mechanical rice picker and the loss of my testicles. Very rude indeed.

    Well, perhaps if you presented yourself more appropriately. Here, put something on.

    <span class="teehee" style="color: pink">YOUR TEXT HERE</span>

  101. says

    since the English language doesn’t have a non gender-specific pronoun other than “it”

    lol, no.

    and “he” as generic is antiquated at this point, and the only people who still use it are those determined to not let men no longer be the default human, consciously or otherwise. more common now is “he or she”, or (random) alternation in longer texts. The singular “they” is probably best when not sure tho.

  102. cyberCMDR says

    Caine,
    Well, he got the pointed ears, and you got the sharp tongue. Can’t be too evil.

  103. says

    There’s another odd way to get around the pronoun thing. If you don’t know X’s sex, you can refer to, “When X said “________”, I got the idea X’s opinion was ___________.” Which not only avoids offending the person you are referring to, but also helps avoid issues of people losing track of who is being referred to. The way I see it, a pronoun is just a replacement for a proper noun, so when in doubt– or when a discussion has reached the point where the antecedent may be unclear– use names.

  104. left0ver1under says

    Caine, Fleur du mal (#104)

    Yes, it’s true, I have no balls, therefor I cannot man up. It’s a tragedy.

    Hence why I prefer guts, stomach or spine when speaking of character and toughness. They’re not limited to a single gender, though they are limited to certain people within each. Between you and stuttering Stanley, it’s easy to tell who does.