Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Mobs Versus the Rockers

Were they talking about Anonymous versus Scientology? AFP writes that law professors are warning against "online mobs" bent on trashing people's online reputations are emerging in the anonymity of the Internet.

"We are seeing online mobs emerge and launch attacks... with significant consequences, both to the people online and to their reputation offline," University of Maryland law professor Danielle Citron told AFP.

The anonymity afforded by the Internet "gives people a kind of strength to be much harsher than they would be in person," Georgetown University sociology professor, and co-founder of International Reputation Management (IRM) Christine Schiwietz said.

According to some of those interviewed, among the worst offenders are bloggers on anonymous platforms, like those provided by Google. "Five years ago, you had to create a website to get information on the Internet. That site could be traced to an IP address and there was some accountability," Nino Kader of IRM said. "But Google owns blogs created on So there is a lack of accountability and that is one reason why people are getting pretty malicious out there," he said.

Of course, the anonymity provided by blogging on Google is relative. Anyone monitoring inbounds to Blogger will see the IP address of the author. And from there it's just a matter of getting the ISP to tell you who. When Mike McConnell claimed that the Government needed to monitor all Internet traffic to keep the information system safe from terrorists, he sought the cooperation of Google in especial. I doubt that people who post on Blogger are anonymous to the NSA.

On the other side of the position that the Internet provides too much anonymity are those who argue it doesn't provide enough. These range from those who sponsor anonymizers to help shield the bloggers in totalitarian states like Burma, to those who offer peer-to-peer networks to get around the DRM restrictions of the music industry. For their point of view the Internet threatens to become one large surveillance system, not an electronic frontier.

Whichever side they're on, the lawyers are right to be concerned. Many of our current usages never contemplated the existence of the Internet. Issues like the management of online reputation, the maintenance of privacy and resistance to cyber-terrorism interesect in ways that often require trade-offs. We're not in Kansas any more. Trouble is, we don't know where we are.


Blogger jj mollo said...

I've always believed that a lot of the problems in this world are due to the fact that people don't say what they're thinking. The tacit threat of retaliation has always kept things polite but dishonest. In that view, anonymity is a good thing. Speak Truth to Power and don't get offended when it happens to you.

The other side of the coin is what you are talking about. Maliciousness and vindictive disinformation are a lot easier now, whether or not you can trace it to a specific source. Reputations can take a hit from anyone with the motive and the cleverness to make it happen. Is there an answer? Somebody pointed to the e-Bay ratings technique, but that is not infallible either. I think the best protection you have is to spend your time talking to your friends and rely on them to understand where you are coming from. The other recourse is a reliance on rules of evidence and logic. A culture that insists on the distinction between authority and proof will make reputation less critical and thus less vulnerable.

The problem has been there for a while, by the way. Usenet has had nasty things going on for a long time -- mostly a lot of chest-thumping and innuendo, but also occasional acts of deliberate misrepresentation and false-flag character attacks.

1/31/2008 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

I think al-Qaeda is a creation of the internet. If the internet gives people the “strength” to be much harsher than they would be in person, that goes triple for Muslims.

It isn’t just the anonymity of the internet. It isn’t just the “send” button or the “forward” button either. The informal protocols of the internet promote “off the top of my head” writing – writing that can be used against the writer at some later time. Given that people of like persuasion congregate in online cliques, this tends to reinforce subcultural norms over assimilation and echo chambers with hive mentalities.

Etiquette, protocol, and formality aren’t necessarily about stuffiness; they’re self-defense mechanisms. If anything, criminal subcultures tend to be more polite than civilians. Why? It’s because there are consequences for online disrespect.

Proto-Qaeda existed online sixteen years ago, in the days of the newsgroup. Al-Qaeda activists aren’t much different from Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts, except that the Islamists act out their fantasies with real guns, real bombs, and real dead bodies. The suicide bomber isn’t much different from a foolish adolescent who puts on a Superman outfit, jumps out of a ten-storey window, and expects to fly.

Just as Palestine has become the Arab League’s Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, al-Qaeda and its rivals such as Hezbollah present themselves as Islam on LSD (or meth). Although they present themselves to be attempting the conquer all of humanity, their principal reason for existence is to provide entertainment for Muslims. They may think they are fighting a holy war, but they function as Islamic gladiators ready to die for television glamour.

Scientology is an extraordinarily obnoxious and totalitarian cult. It is one of the best foils for those who seek to act out a fantasy of destroying an evil villain. For those who seek the thrill of adventure, an online “war” gives people a sense of power, fantastic power, to defeat a community’s “devil of the month”.

It wouldn’t surprise me if al-Qaeda banned video games, for video games are among the worst rivals of Osama bin Laden, at least for attracting the attention of children.

1/31/2008 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger gumshoe said...

Wretchard -

apropos of a recent posting of yours Re: Sibel Edmonds,and this "online reputations thread"take a look at these links re: Sibel Edmonds story/non-MSM story:

Treason at the State Department: A Whistleblower's Story
January 31, 2008
-Pajamas Media

(have a scan thru the comments...especially the mention by clarice feldman of Edmonds and possible links to
Valerie Plame/Larry Johnson and VIPS who are said to be involved in the Whistleblower organization Edmonds "chairs")

another commenter(in the Pajamas artile above), Peter Johnson,
links to a site(His own??) with a "gallery of the accused" so to speak..."trial by internet webpage"???...
and from this site:
'Sibel Edmonds 'State Secrets' Portrait Gallery' -

1/31/2008 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Towering Barbarian said...

There may be a number of things one can blame on the Internet but I would argue that Al Qaeda is not among them. The terrorist social network of which they are a part goes back to the very late 60s and the early 1970s which is when the heyday of international terrorism really began. Even then the fortunes of Marxists and jihadis were pretty much intertwined as seen by the Japanese terrorist group (The Japanese Red Army) that ended up being the expendible minions of a Muslim terrorist group and continues to be so unto this very day. IMHO, that's the real reason the Left is opposed to the War on Terror in general and the continued liberation of Iraq in particular - Socialists have a vested interest in the continued existence of terrorism.

As for the suicide bombers and such? I think if you take a closer look you'll find that they tend to be hardcore Mundane which is about what you would expect from scum and villainy who are recruited from the dregs of society. Their resemblence is less to the LARPers than to the poor noobs who waste their time with the National Enquirer and the Globe. Think of them as living proof that "reality" is a crutch for people who can't handle Science-Fiction! ^_~

1/31/2008 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

towering barbarian:

Hi! Nice to hear from you.

You're probably right about the Left being unable to reject its terrorist past. It's very suspicious when, right after the September 11 attacks, the Communists were far more interested in opposing any American response than even sympathizing with the victims of that atrocity.

I do agree with you that al-Qaeda's roots go back to the international terrorist social network; I think its roots go further back to the Muslim Brotherhood's involvement in the Arab Cold War in the 1950's and 1960's.

I would argue, though, that a tree isn't only found in its roots but also in its branches. The internet by its very nature promotes social fragmentation and by extension, political extremism. Not only that, but the earliest electronic pioneers of politics tended to be extremist. Not only were the Islamists well established on the internet, but so was the far left and so were the neo-Nazis. The internet is a great place for nutcases of all stripes.

It was the leftist presence on the internet that pushed for American intervention in Somalia in late 1992. If it weren't for a media campaign coordinated from the internet, I doubt the intervention in Somalia would have happened.

Of course, al-Qaeda does attract its share of the flotsam and jetsam of humanity, but I'm under the impression that al-Qaeda is particularly attractive to dilettantes from the Sunni aristocracy. I do agree, though, that the Arab popinjays of al-Qaeda lack the imagination one would normally expect from science fiction. It's worthy of note that the National Enquirer was attacked in the Anthrax attacks, not the trekkie conventions.

2/01/2008 12:41:00 AM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

I hope to GOD it wasn't an internet campaign that got President I-Can't-stop-exposing-myself-to-women-in-my-chain-of-Command to drop bombs on civilians from 10 kilometers in the air.

2/03/2008 08:36:00 PM  

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