Author Topic: Inside the World of Online Trolls: article from this Sunday's NY Times Magazine  (Read 9532 times)

John Junk 2.0

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Man, gravyboat,  that whole private school, you-work-for-me mentality is very real and palpable. 




Emerson

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Don't know if you missed this story about a New York City prep school that had crazy Myspace goings-on and cyber-bullying of students, and even teachers getting bullied and canned, but it sounds similar to some of the stuff in your school.  http://nymag.com/news/features/45592/


Utterly fascinating.

I guess the best default policy is to ignore and illegitimize that stuff as much as possible. At least until they've got your SS#.
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Gilly

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I personally wouldn't have any problem if the shit was regulated out of the internet.  I mean, I'd miss the freedom to say dumb shit a little, but it's not like my life will be less nuanced if my net freedoms are impinged upon.  This is all mostly time-killing and O.C.D. habit stuff for me.

So you'd allow the government to trample on everyone's liberties just because it wouldn't bother you? That kind of attitude is why we're looking more like a fascist state these days than a democracy.

yesno

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Gilly, I think you're being a little harsh. Courts sometimes already order website operators, etc, to reveal the identities of "anonymous" posters, to the extent that IP address or other records are kept. 

There is no inalienable right to anonymously defame someone.  "Regulation" could simply take the form of requiring that IP address records be kept for certain periods.

Gilly

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When I think of regulating the internet I imagine forums like this disappearing and the internet being more like cable TV. The internet is the wild west right now and I don't know if I want that to change because with good change comes a whole lot of bad.

John Junk 2.0

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So you'd allow the government to trample on everyone's liberties just because it wouldn't bother you?

No, of course not. 

If people are going to spend a huge chunk of everyday online, it stands to reason that cyberspace be subject to the same laws as the actual world.  In fact, it already is, but there is a massive gap in enforcement, as well as a massive lowering of the standards of conduct that people expect from one another online.  This is a temporary situation.  It is inevitable that eventually lawmakers, law enforcement, etc. will become sophisticated enough of the time, on enough fronts, that they will actually be able to regulate the internet with the same success as they regulate "real life".  That is to say: In some instances they'll do a good job, in other instances they'll do a terrible job.  All I'm saying is I'm not against regulation in general, as I don't feel that being "online" should be an instant suspension of all social and legal responsibilities.  Characterizing cyberspace as The Wild West is romantic and naive.  It is a gigantic part of everyone's life and we have been  groomed, for better or worse, to become dependent on it and to think of it as something good in-and-of-itself.   There is nothing inherently positive or negative about the internet, and irresponsible or reckless behavior is not absolved or made irrelevant by virtue of it happening online rather than, say, in print.  Do I want someone to come charging in to my apartment and arresting me for calling someone a douche on the forum?  No, of course not.  Do I think, on the other hand, that one should feel confident in one's ability to press charges if one's image is being used and name is being subject to libelous slander online?  Absolutely. 

So that was what I meant. 

I'm not going to address that "fascist state" thing.

todd

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There is no inalienable right to anonymously defame someone. 

Since when is free speech contingent on revealing your identity? I understand the difference between speech and harassment, but requiring ISPs to log everyones internet activity is draconian. I'm shocked that some of you seem to support that.

Gilly

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The internet is subject to the same laws as the real world and just like the real world you can get away with breaking the law if you hide it well and aren't caught. Maybe there isn't enough enforcement but the last thing we need is more regulation.

yesno

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There is no inalienable right to anonymously defame someone. 

Since when is free speech contingent on revealing your identity? I understand the difference between speech and harassment, but requiring ISPs to log everyones internet activity is draconian. I'm shocked that some of you seem to support that.

Well, most already do keep records, which they do in fact disclose in court proceedings on a regular basis.  I think Mailinator never writes anything to disk which is about the only way to keep from creating a "record."

It's hard to think of a solution to problems like the ones described. Notice and takedown, like we have with copyright, has shown itself prone to abuse, and it really can't cope with anonymity (the idea being to make the fight be between the poster and the complainer, and keep the ISP out of it).  Another solution might be to make it easier for complaining parties to have posts removed without identifying the poster.  But this would be very burdensome for ISPs, and would almost certainly result in things being taken down that shouldn't.  Every business operator would try to get negative reviews taken down as being defamatory, in the same way that people try to get things taken down today under bs copyright or trademark claims, because takedown notices aren't reviewed by a judge.

As the law stands now, ISPs (which in this context includes website operators) are free from liability for the content they carry, if that content was put there by a user.  If you really left things "unregulated," then Craigslist et al. might be liable for what they publish in the same way that newspapers are.

My point was just that the law is already involved with this stuff, and in fact the only reason that ISPs are free from all manner of lawsuits or burdens to actively police what's posted, is because Congress stepped in.

I think the best solution is probably to just wait 15 years and see if social norms evolve.  But I don't think it's fair to characterize Junk's point as being extreme.  The whole premise of a lot of computer law has been to disintermediate ISPs.  If this is no longer possible, then the only other option may be to allow people to go directly after ISPs. I think that would probably be worse.

Given the tremendous amount of law and regulation the internet is already subject to, to characterize it as the wild west overstates things. Also, you could say that if we can't make antiharrasment and defamation law enforceable online, we may as well just give up on it entirely.  That may be right.

AllisonLeGnome

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I've heard cases of schools punishing kids for things on the internet when it really wasn't justified- things like criticizing the principal on a private blog, or someone I know was made to remove his Livejournal for some weird reason that wasn't even related to school. My sister said kids with Myspace profiles were disciplined just for having them at her middle school (not that they should have them, but it's not the job of the school to regulate that). Yet Facebook consists largely of evidence of drinking/drug use and I've never heard of any consequences of that, so I guess there's some limit.

Josh

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I've heard cases of schools punishing kids for things on the internet when it really wasn't justified- things like criticizing the principal on a private blog, or someone I know was made to remove his Livejournal for some weird reason that wasn't even related to school. My sister said kids with Myspace profiles were disciplined just for having them at her middle school (not that they should have them, but it's not the job of the school to regulate that). Yet Facebook consists largely of evidence of drinking/drug use and I've never heard of any consequences of that, so I guess there's some limit.

Private or public school?
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AllisonLeGnome

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Public! I'm not fancy.

John Junk 2.0

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Given the tremendous amount of law and regulation the internet is already subject to, to characterize it as the wild west overstates things. Also, you could say that if we can't make antiharrasment and defamation law enforceable online, we may as well just give up on it entirely.  That may be right.

I agree with you.  I was admittedly being flip when I was saying "regulate the shit out".  I don't know much about this stuff to be honest, but I guess I meant that I wouldn't be sorry to see real-world enforcement of libel laws etc. carried out on the internet. 

I was thinking about this more, and I believe that there is a problem where one party considers something private, and another considers it a vast public forum.  There are things I've said about my teachers that are certainly worse than what is quoted in that article (though it's hinted that there was much worse stuff on the site) but for the most part this slagging manifested itself verbally, or on pieces of paper, or on audio tape (I actually knew some kids who did a "radio show" on tape in their attic and would sell it to kids at school the next day--total Opie and Anthony style.  Totally stupid and racist/sexist --everything.  And pretty much harmless, if also idiotic) all of which would be scandalous and horrible if actually received by the faculty in question, but all done under the assumption that they never would.  And certainly we would've just done it all online today.  But it's true that if it's online, it's accessible by an enormous swath of humanity.  So I guess these are just things that need to be ironed out.  I still think that if you're spying on your students as faculty or staff of a school, you're really asking for trouble and almost always overstepping.

On the other hand...
Incidentally, when I was in grad school some students started a myspace page under the name of a professor.  This prof. was african american and there was a racist angle to this fake myspace page.  Basically the professor got wind of it (a student told him about it) and sent a cease-and-desist style e-mail or letter to the person running the site.  Basically the prof. simply asserted his legal rights, alerted the person running the site that if he continued using his name he would sue him for harassment etc., and the guy took the thing down.  I'm sure the prof. had the support of the school, but I'm also not sure the school had anything to do with it.  It was the threat of a civil suit, and did not manifest itself academically, as far as I know.  The f'd up thing about that new york piece is that the Board of Directors was completely interfering with student/faculty relationships at the school and that there was basically no integrity to be found in the whole situation. 

Blah blah I'll stop now.

Josh

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Ah. Susannah (you look BEAUTIFUL in your avatar btw!), I think what you described is borderline. Parents are paying money to put their kids in a safe place, and anything outside of school the administration or faculty is aware of that could affect a student in school (bullying, drinking, etc.) is fair game in my eyes. If you saw a student drinking a 40 behind the gas station, wouldn't you alert the parents? Then again, with stuff like this, I more and more think that even folks our age don't understand kids or law enforcement.



Quote
On May 20, Alex Phillips, 17, of LaCrosse, Wis., was charged with possessing child pornography, sexual exploitation of a child and defamation after he posted naked pictures of his 16-year old ex-girlfriend from his cell phone onto MySpace.

At Westerville (Ohio) South High School, at least 30 students received the image of a teenager fondling himself when he sent a cell phone video to female classmates in April.

In Pennsylvania, state police were dispatched to Allentown's Parkland High School in January to remove video and photos of two high school girls from the cell phones of at least 40 students.
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Gilly

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That professor did the right thing and that's what people should do if they find themselves in that situation. I don't think any more regulation is needed because it's obvious that libel laws apply to the internet and just like any person who's libeled it's their decision if they want to go to court with it. Same goes for copyright law. I don't think we want anything written in law that criminalizes copyright infringement. It's a civil matter.

I just don't see how the internet is any different from real world. There are going to be a ton of people who get away with breaking every law in the book because they've dedicated their life to it and are professionals and the people who get caught are always the small potatoes who didn't realize how to hide. It's sad, but it's the truth and no matter how you police the net people are going to find out how to break the law and hide.

 

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