Monday, February 20, 2012

Anonymity: A Scary Thing

Dear Ms. Debbell,

Your article called "The Assclown Offensive: How to Enrage the Church of Scientology," exemplifies some of the major issues surrounding the anonymity that the internet provides.  The numerous examples of horrific trolls that are on the internet like the images of cats in a blender, shows how the anonymity of the internet changes that ways people act and the restrictions they put on themselves. The lack of restrictions on these sorts of sites is interesting in comparison to Second Life which has little restriction also. In many ways Second Life users follow societal norms, and on websites like 4chan, the rules of normality seem to be lifted. I read an article, which at the moment I can't site, that discussed the patterns of racism that take place in Second Life. I thought it was interesting that your article also talked about racism that exists by users of the internet due to anonymity. It seems as though the anonymity of the internet allows people's worst side to come out in many cases. What I found most offensive in this article was the example of the flashing animations that were posted on an Epilepsy websites.

image borrowed from
The concept of competing for laughs by delivering the most obscene display of annoyance possible seems like something that could be done without the anonymity of the internet. The internet however allows for a broader audience for these "pranks" to reach. Calling these acts "online activism" doesn't seem appropriate. Online activism has a positive connotation, whereas a lot of these events are negative. This display of trolling shows a very negative side to online anonymity. It is similar to some of the illegal practices that go on online, for example, the pedophiles that surf the internet for victims. Hiding one's identity in order to do wrong is an abuse of the internet. When Pubeit executed his offensives scandal it made me question how in some situations anonymity is not what gives people courage. He came out in the public eye and was willing to leave the confines of the internet in order to achieve his goal. This is an example of how the internet can provide not only anonymity, but also purpose. The purpose of the scandal was to get laughs online, which demonstrates how important the internet is to some users. I disagree with how you described the troll as epic. This makes it sound like you condone it. Personally, I fully believe in freedom of speech and freedom of protest, but the manor of this troll was extremely offensive. Death threats are not a joke and neither is the kind of hate that led internet users to post dangerous material on the Epilepsy website.


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