Thursday, July 6, 2017

Internet Anonymity

I've been saying for years now that the power of internet anonymity is vastly overrated by many of those who depend on it. The only thing standing between online trolls and exposure is the question of how motivated someone needs to be to hunt them down.

You've undoubtedly heard or read about this:

What a public service CNN has done, identifying the dangerous man behind a silly GIF posted to Reddit! Days of investigation in the making, CNN ascertained the name of a guy who likely lives in his mother’s basement while posting to a sub-Reddit devoted to Trump.

Read the whole thing.

CNN even went so far as to retain jurisdiction over the defendant, should he ever re-offend:

CNN is not publishing ‘HanA**holeSolo’s’ name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.

CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.

In yesterday's Morning Jolt, Jim Geraghty checks in:

Deep down, a lot of obnoxious online trolls don’t want their comments and behavior associated with their real identity. They know it’s wrong, and it violates their own conception of who they are, and how they want other people to see them. If you’re doing something that would cause you that much personal and professional ruination if it were ever exposed . . . eh, maybe you shouldn’t do it?
 Nothing to disagree with there, but...

There are all kinds of things about CNN's action here that makes the hair stand up on my neck. For one, it's a clear case of "punching down." As Bethany Mandel, author of the first linked excerpt above, noted (in case you didn't read the whole thing, as I instructed),

CNN took it upon themselves to not question the world’s most powerful man about this, but to dig into the private life of the private citizen who had created the GIF.
There are surely people in this polarized political landscape that are cheering a multinational media company for raining global vitriol on an internet troll who ... made fun of it. Which leads me to another thing that bothers me here: while the trolls who infested my first blog 12 to 15 years ago undertook to harass me, hijack my comment threads, and drive me off the web, this guy ... made a joke at CNN's expense.

If I went after everybody in the world who'd ever made a joke at my expense, I would have been in prison since I was ... well, probably 13 or 14, since by then the state would have decided to try me as an adult.

As I said at the top of this post, motivation is key. CNN wasn't motivated to investigate this guy because of his other material -- they only found that because they dumpster-dived him for the Trump tweet.

I've seen claims that HanA**holeSolo's animated GIF wasn't even the same one Trump tweeted. I haven't looked into that myself but if true it only adds to CNN's ignominy. It's bad enough you go after some schmuck who made an animated GIF that a President you hate retweeted -- but to wind up nabbing the wrong suspect?

It just goes to show:

No comments:

Post a Comment