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The Internet's Age of Rage

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the none-of-us-are-as-obnoxious-as-all-of-us dept.

The Internet 315

RackNine sends this excerpt from an editorial at the Guardian: "The worldwide web has made critics of us all. But with commenters able to hide behind a cloak of anonymity, the blog and chatroom have become forums for hatred and bile. ... The psychologists call it 'deindividuation.' It's what happens when social norms are withdrawn because identities are concealed. The classic deindividuation experiment concerned American children at Halloween. Trick-or-treaters were invited to take sweets left in the hall of a house on a table on which there was also a sum of money. When children arrived singly, and not wearing masks, only 8% of them stole any of the money. When they were in larger groups, with their identities concealed by fancy dress, that number rose to 80%. The combination of a faceless crowd and personal anonymity provoked individuals into breaking rules that under 'normal' circumstances they would not have considered. ... One simple antidote to this seems to rest in the very old-fashioned idea of standing by your good name. Adopt a pseudonym and you are not putting much of yourself on the line. Put your name to something and your words are freighted with responsibility."

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John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (5, Funny)

0101000001001010 (466440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36876818)

I believe the technical term is Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.
http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/3/19/ [penny-arcade.com]

Re:John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 3 years ago | (#36876882)

I wish there were a more worksafe (or pre-school safe?) term for it that captured it just as well (as opposed to "deindividualization"), because it's such a good point. If you (or your kids, or your parents) experience chat with people who are effectively anonymous, a significant portion of those people may act like jerks.

Re:John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877036)

I wish there were a more worksafe (or pre-school safe?) term for it that captured it just as well (as opposed to "deindividualization"), because it's such a good point. If you (or your kids, or your parents) experience chat with people who are effectively anonymous, a significant portion of those people may act like jerks.

Penny-Arcade also has a SFW version: Greater Internet Dickwad Theory [penny-arcade.com] .

That's still not exactly school-safe, although you might be able to get away with "Jackass" for a younger audience... at least until Democratic fuckwads and Republican shitcocks started accusing you of bringing politics into it. :)

Re:John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (1)

moonbender (547943) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877686)

The SFW version is not half as funny, though. Due to the lack of creative expletives ("shitcock"), but even more so since the original is just graphically very good.

Re:John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877446)

So are they really "jerks" or just being brutally honest and you can't handle it?

Re:John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (1)

PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877526)

I wish there were a more worksafe (or pre-school safe?) term for it that captured it just as well (as opposed to "deindividualization"), because it's such a good point. If you (or your kids, or your parents) experience chat with people who are effectively anonymous, a significant portion of those people may act like jerks.

Blizzard tried to work around this, and require real names to participate on their forums. The GIFT of online interaction proved to be too strong - people revolted, and blizzard was "forced" to re-evaluate it's initiative.

Re:John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877642)

DISREGARD THAT YOU SUCKS COCKS

captcha: anarcy (also, antifilterblurb)

Fuck you (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 3 years ago | (#36876820)

This story sucks. Your all idiots.

FOAD, assholes.

Re:Fuck you (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36876914)

U mad bro?

Re:Fuck you (2)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 3 years ago | (#36876918)

No YUO!

Re:Fuck you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877032)

Whooosh, sarcasm detector, etc.

Hey, asshat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36876954)

You forgot to post AC, you dipshit.

[Wanna bet there's gonna be a lot of knee-jerk "didn't RTFA" modding on this discussion?]

Re:Hey, asshat! (3, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877052)

Ho, person of dubious intellect! The Fine Summary states:

Adopt a pseudonym and you are not putting much of yourself on the line

Apparently they determined that a pseudonym is enough to make one behave in an uncouth manner. I would posit, however, that this depends largely on the persistence of the pseudonym. If you use throw away pseudonyms, like our good troll commodore64_love and all of his little sockpuppets, then you have less of a reason to behave in a civilised manner than if you have one that you are using consistently for a long time.

After all, your real name is just the pseudonym that the government knows - and in some cases, not even the one that most of your acquaintances, let alone friends, know.

Re:Hey, asshat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877176)

I'm sorry, but your reply bored me more than the "subject", so I stopped reading it after a few words.

It was an attempt at humor. Please get over yourself.

Pseudonymity vs Anonymity (1, Insightful)

traindirector (1001483) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877844)

I agree completely. I think most of the Internet's commenting problems don't require legal names to be revealed at all and that they can effectively be solved with pseudonymity and reputation systems. Essentially, reputation is being conflated with legal identity in most of the reports on these problems. I hope it's just accidental and short-sighted thinking and writing, but it sounds increasingly like a war drum against being able to have a voice on the Internet without revealing your legal name and having it permanently attached, in one way or another, to every comment you ever make.

Why is there so little talk of building systems where creating a pseudonym and establishing a reputation are important? Perhaps a real identity could be divulged to gain reputation outside of the normal system, but what benefit could it have beyond that? Such a requirement will just kill the discussion of many worthwhile (though perhaps embarrassing or taboo) subjects on the Internet.

Re:Hey, asshat! (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877868)

That's like companies, they're pseudonyms for groups of people, really. So taking your theory into account, short lived companies would behave less civilizedly than long lived companies, in general.

Where does that leave the startup culture (which is all about funding lots of short lived companies)?

Re:Fuck you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877070)

Learn how to spell "you're" you dumb fuck.

Re:Fuck you (2)

discord5 (798235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877092)

Your all idiots

+1, Accurate misspelling

Shutup. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36876842)

IDIOT! Slashdot SUCKS. The editors don't know how to edit. I thought this was news for nerds? Soulskill, you SUCK. How could you not realize that you did that? ANy idiot clearly would have.

Re:Shutup. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36876974)

You suck! You apple insensitive fanboy Bill Gates follower Google hater clod!

Re:Shutup. (1)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36876992)

Can the Slashdot editors see IP addresses?

Re:Shutup. (2)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877100)

Yes. They can see farther into the infrared and ultraviolet than humans can.

Re:Shutup. (1)

ArundelCastle (1581543) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877374)

But can they see to plaid?

Wow 20%? (2)

JDeane (1402533) | more than 3 years ago | (#36876862)

I am amazed that 20% of the people who had no risk of being caught did NOT steal... Perhaps humanity is not as corrupt as I thought.

Or they just didn't know they could not get caught.

Re:Wow 20%? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36876906)

Or maybe you are just a horrible person.
I am a bit shocked that so many people are thieves. Of course they were children so perhaps I am being a bit harsh. I would hope most adults had better morals than that.

Re:Wow 20%? (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877094)

I'm not that so many are, police know it, lawyers know it, the courts know it. Private companies specializing in employee theft know it. It's taught in all criminology courses regardless of what theory you're studying(or all of them), and basic psych courses. And the last time I made this statement based on the knowledge that I was taught. People said I was lying, didn't know what I was talking about, etc. A very small minority of people will never steal. I can't be bothered to go back through my comment history.

But, to the people who replied to my original comment back a few months ago, I'll take your apologies now.

Re:Wow 20%? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877196)

Any evidence to back this up?
Pardon me if I don't trust the police to be impartial. More thieves means more work and money for them.

Re:Wow 20%? (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#36878006)

Grab a copy of your favorite criminology journal(or hit a library for a back copy). Or you can read the canuck textbook called criminology today. It's short, weighs in at around 350 pages. It covers the crime theories, and incidence rates of theft in a given population. 80% will steal, of that number 30% will steal no matter what. The other 50% will steal if they think they can get away with it.

Re:Wow 20%? (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#36878066)

Oh and if my other reply isn't enough. You can read this [queensu.ca] (that's queens university in canada) it's rather dated, but covers the 20/80 and 10-10 on theft, and employee theft. My text books and notes are buried over yonder, and I still have no interest in digging through them. And they're more up to date based off of 99 though 2006.

Re:Wow 20%? (3, Interesting)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877190)

What I've seen is that "most adults" have been indoctrinated with the idea that morals are an outdated tool used by society to control the weak-minded. Quite often they will respond with variations of "how dare you push your moral code on me" and "I can decide for myself what's right and wrong". With that kind of self-oriented view of right and wrong, none of this surprises me.

Re:Wow 20%? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36878058)

In that case the fault isn't with the idea of deciding for themselves what's right and wrong; the fault lies with the individual who, presented with the choice, chooses incorrectly.

The thing about thinking for oneself is that one has to actually think. That there are people whose claim to think for themselves is a mask for not thinking does not invalidate the concept of thinking for oneself.

Re:Wow 20%? (2)

brit74 (831798) | more than 3 years ago | (#36878086)

What I've seen is that "most adults" have been indoctrinated with the idea that morals are an outdated tool used by society to control the weak-minded.

Indoctrinated? By who? I will admit that this sounds an awful lot like the way religious people view atheists - i.e. religious people believe atheists believe that morality is an outdated tool used by society to control the weak-minded.

Re:Wow 20%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36876994)

Given 5-10 more years (for the kids to reach adulthood/16+) the number would've risen drastically. When you're that young you don't always have a need for money (depending on parents wealth, etc).

Re:Wow 20%? (1)

pjoalfa (1964942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877250)

Not everyone is a thief! Just 4 out of 5 of us.

Re:Wow 20%? (2)

jaymzter (452402) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877566)

These were American children. If the test had been in Japan the numbers would have been entirely different. IOW, this is most likely more a cultural failing than something having to do with being online.

Re:Wow 20%? (2)

brit74 (831798) | more than 3 years ago | (#36878112)

I am amazed that 20% of the people who had no risk of being caught did NOT steal... Perhaps humanity is not as corrupt as I thought.

I don't know about you, but any benefit I'd get from stealing the money would be outweighed by the guilt I felt over stealing the money.

Eternal September (3, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#36876898)

I believe this was first noticed in 1993.

Re:Eternal September (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877018)

A lot longer ago than that, sonny. ;-) It wasn't that hard to be at least pseudonymous, and even anonymous, on usenet. It was I design criterion on the computer conferencing system I designed back in the early 1980s (CoSy) that anonymous posts were, not disallowed, but not easy (and not anonymous to the sysop).

And yeah, I realize the irony that this is being posted anonymously -- can't be bothered to log in.

-- Alastair

(Now get off my lawn!)

Re:Eternal September (4, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877450)

I thought eternal september referred more to ignorance: "noobs" who didn't know what they were doing or how to behave on the internet. This is a more general "People wearing masks act worse" applied specifically to online. The general principle was noticed -long- before 1993, and was probably noticed before 1993 in online interactions too.

"You are using ARPANET chat room. The current time is 23:30, October 29, 1969.

Anonymous user: "HOW IS BABBY FORMED1!"
You: "Dr. Kleinrock? What are you doing?"
Anonymous user: "I'M NOT Kleinrock! I am anonymous!!! TROLOLOLOLOL!"
You: "Yes you are, there's only two computers on the internet at this time."
-Anonymous user has disconnected-"

Only cowards act like that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36876900)

If I insult you it will be out in the open. Not hiding like a coward behind a cloak of anonymity.

P.S. I hate all of you!

Re:Only cowards act like that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877802)

I guess it takes one to know one. Eh?

- Brandon S.

In that case... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36876926)

...let's just all have an Internet ID to be able to go online.

Actually, hang on - oh f*^k it!

Body Language (4, Interesting)

Wolfling1 (1808594) | more than 3 years ago | (#36876934)

Whilst deindividuation is a recognised problem, I also believe the absence of non-verbal cues is a huge issue as well.

When we queue for a teller at the bank, there is a natural interaction between us that is completely non-verbal. We can see the woman who is stressed by an obnoxious child. We can see the fragile old man who needs extra time. On the Internet (and in traffic), these signals are not present. We often gauge each other's behaviour and responses in the context of our own lives and emotional state.

And this all occurs in the overarching context of our progressively deteriorating grasp on the English language. Smileys, and more recently Lol-speak, are an attempt to flesh out our inability to express our emotions in the written word. Lol-speak, or meme-speak is starting to help, but its had the whole of about 10 years to evolve - compared to a few hundred thousand years of the evolution of our non-verbal communication.

Is it any wonder that tolerance is lacking?

Thankfully, we're not completely stupid, and we're starting to adapt to the problem. Hence my personal favourite phrase on the Internet: Don't feed the trolls.

Re:Body Language (3, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877050)

Your definition of "troll" is astoundingly wrong.

People who suffer from Aspergers or Autism (like many Slashdot users) are unable to read those cues in real life, much less on the internet. They are victims of a disease, but your definition lumps them in with people who try to raise the hackles of others on purpose.

If someone does not understand the nuance of your post, it does not mean they are a troll. The inability to read such nuance over the internet is very much akin to Aspergers and Autism. The person on the other end is working at a disadvantage.

It isn't nice to mock the mentally disabled, but you seem to think it's fine. You, sir, are the exact kind of person this story was written about.

Re:Body Language (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877226)

I read this and said "WTF??? WHOOSH!!", then I saw who posted it. Greets dude! Long time no see! I see you passed that subtlety course.

Re:Body Language (1)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877230)

I think you've misconstrued the meaning of his post and made a mountain out of a glass house. Perhaps you're trolling, or perhaps you just suffer from some condition rendering you unable to discern the original poster's intent. Either way the result is the same. Food, or food for though? Who can tell.

Re:Body Language (5, Interesting)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877808)

'deindividualization' is actually 'REindividualization.' IE bypassing today's increasing pressures to conform, individuals are saying what they really think, and, according to this article anyway, that's a bad thing. I disagree completely. Feelings, consensus, and politeness should never outweigh rationality, truth, and objectivity. If they do, then we've lost the whole point of communications in the first place.

I grasp your concept about cues, but it's also supposed to be understood that those on the internet are unaware and (usually) don't care about any particular user's personal problems. The user is supposed to understand this by default. This isn't a rule I made up, it's just part of the deal. There just aren't any other cues other than the language used by the user and the peers he is communicating with. I remember a time when this was considered a good thing because irrelevant attributes were not used to judge.

Whose tolerance? If anything, the tolerance of the overly sensitive, emotional types that make up the majority of society is what's lacking. This was always true, but, like the anonymous users they whine about, systems like the internet allow them to hit critical groupthink mass as well, forcing their censorious expectations on ever growing amounts of communication between individuals. No matter what they say, their feelings do not justify censoring uncomfortable truth, which is the real reason they would like to stamp out anonymity whereever they find it.

Re:Body Language (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877890)

Really, Lol-speak is a way to express non-verbal things verbally, where the language is too inefficient to use in casual conversation. My favourite example is probably the word "FAIL!", which carries a meaning that the English language can't easily express -- the closest alternative I can think of is the German borrow-word "schadenfreude".

Foolish media (1)

Niobe (941496) | more than 3 years ago | (#36876956)

Internet Rage is so last decade. In my view internet use in general has matured a great deal, where unlike a kid who's suddenly learnt a new swear word and must say it to everyone everywhere, people show remarkable restraint considering the relative (kinda) anonymity of the internet. Yes, the internet has become an extension of society itself, rather than a novelty activity for scruffy foul-mouthed juveniles. Even teenagers seem to consider it bad form to flame, rage or troll (slashdottersyou are a special case.. because you are SO damn witty when you do it). As such this article is over 10 years too late.

Re:Foolish media (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877568)

I take it you haven't visited any video game forums?

Rage is good (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36876970)

If it takes anonymity for people to say what they really think, then we need more anonymity. Many injustices happen because people in power can count on people being trapped in responsibilities and dependencies. If nobody can say what they think, then nobody can know that they're not alone with their rage. The internet is not a place where you can expect to be treated nicely. It's very honest, and that can be frightening at times, but it's necessary. You shouldn't equate rage to criminal behavior (stealing money).

Re:Rage is good (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877010)

Indeed. We live in a bad world where rage is a very reasonable reaction to many things.

Re:Rage is good (1)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877586)

rage is a symptom, not something reasoned. if there is more pent up rage in a society than there was in the past, that suggests systemic changes need to be made. the gp is right. if many individuals are acting out rage, then it is most likely the cause of those in charge of the screws making them too tight.

We can have both (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36876972)

Have an anonymous internet, with a web of trust laid over it. People can speak anonymously, in which case they might be filtered out, or their opinion given less weight. If people want to up their chances of being heard or taken seriously, they need to use their trusted identity, into which they have invested part of their personal reputation. Sound a bit like slashdot?

With an anonymous Internet, we can have both. Without an anonymous Internet, we lose the option.

Re:We can have both (0)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877414)

Like the fact that AC is scored 0, but someone like me (with Excellent karma) gets 2 automatically? :-)

Re:We can have both (1)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877536)

why would you want to base a system of trust on irrational precepts? first you have to trust that the identity wasn't forged. second, you're trusting that the fact the poster used the 'trusted identity' to post, he is more apt to be correct. he's not.. the only thing you've filtered is conviction level...maybe. The poster could still be an idiot.

You posted anonymously, so are you telling me I shouldn't take your position seriously?

Re:We can have both (1)

Altrag (195300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36878040)

Whether you /should/ take ACs less seriously is debatable, but its fairly common for most people to ignore them (even the filter option for level 1 is "most ACs" -- its so engrained in slashdot's collective consciousness that taking ACs less seriously is actually an interface option).

And this is actually a pretty decent system overall. You retain physical anonymity but you still connect a user with an identity that they have to attach themselves to and build trust with. Anyone who hasn't built up that trust with the community in question is, by default, taken less seriously.

This even happens in the real world. Try moving into any small town (small enough where most people recognize each other at least by face.. a couple thousand at most). You'll be treated with suspicion (or possibly even outright scorn if that town's had problems with outsiders before) until you've been there long enough to build up a reputation.

Yes an online identity is a lot easier to change than say, your face.. but you also lose any history you had associated with your old identity. And anyone who changes their identity frequently will be mostly ignored no matter what they spew.

Its not a perfect system, but it works. Most people prefer being "in" than "out". And those that prefer being "out" for whatever reason are free to do so. And heck, you can have people who do both -- choosing who they want to be depending on the nature of their post (again, slashdot handles this concept outright in the form of the "Post Anonymously" checkbox).

Overall, slashdot has a pretty good setup. It builds community where people who want to be asses are welcome to be asses without overly affecting those of us who prefer (semi-) useful conversation.

Yes we'll probably miss a gem that got downrated inappropriately (to our minds) and there'll be the odd nightmare that gets upranked inappropriately (again, to our minds) but overall the combination of a desire to maintain a reputation (Karma) with a reasonably good filtering system (Moderation) allows the S/N ratio to remain fairly high. Unless you like the dark places.. but the system lets you visit the trolls as well for those so inclined.

The obvious point that no one ever talks about (5, Insightful)

cstec (521534) | more than 3 years ago | (#36876978)

This article like many others before it continues to miss the blatantly obvious - that once anonymous, people are finally saying what they actually think

Re:The obvious point that no one ever talks about (3, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877082)

people... actually think

I can tell you've not spent much time on the Internet...

Re:The obvious point that no one ever talks about (2)

instagib (879544) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877186)

Yes, this is the most "scary" part. Sure there are many trolls who disturb for "fun", but one can spot if someone actually is as full of hate/stupidity as their comments look.
The first time I looked into this abyss was many years ago when Yahoo had commenting enabled. Tribalism, racism and religious fanatism are all around us.

Re:The obvious point that no one ever talks about (3, Interesting)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877814)

I don't know that that is what is actually going on. Based on what I observe from others, and what I observe in myself, I think the type of communication we are talking about encourages us to think differently. Are you voicing a hostile thought, that you always had, because it is now safe to do so or are you now having a hostile thought (which then gets voiced) that you would not have had before because only now it is safe to think like that?

eing true to oneself (2)

bug1 (96678) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877048)

Perhaps anonymity just helps people act according to their true nature.

Its a bit out of my depth, but there are theories of "moral development", children learn what they can do, then if its safe to do it, lastly if its _right_ to do it.

I guess these kids morality wouldnt be as evolved as adults, so perhaps the experiment is just measuring moral development of the sample, rather then reflecting the moral position of the greater human society.

Anonymity can make it easier to get away with being irresponsible, but a responsible person wouldnt want to get away with being irresponsible (bad way of saying it i know).

If Anonymity allows people to show their true self, and we dont like what we see, its not anonymity thats the problem.

Re:eing true to oneself (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877434)

Anonimity is not the problem when nice people are using it.
The thing is, even Slashdot has to "punish" anonimity with a negative mod modifier to keep the noise down.
There must be some kind of filtering, either for selecting the nice people who are allowed to be anonymous, or a default negative reputation modifier for all anonymous posts.

Re:eing true to oneself (1)

joh (27088) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877462)

Perhaps anonymity just helps people act according to their true nature.

Of course. It lets them abandon all culture and just lets them act according to their nature.

This is not neccessarily a good thing, mind you. The "true" nature of man can be seen in all wars and everywhere where society and responsibility is suspended. Taming our true nature is civilisation.

Re:eing true to oneself (1)

bug1 (96678) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877720)

'The "true" nature of man can be seen in all wars and everywhere where society and responsibility is suspended. Taming our true nature is civilisation.'

I think you are being pessimistic to claim that war reflects our true nature.

Our true nature is a balance between different emotions, love and hate being two of them.

Re:eing true to oneself (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877768)

Rather than tame it perhaps we should learn to alter it. I've always thought that if the average person was as well behaved (for their world) as the average dog is (for its world) then we would be living on a much better planet.

Or put another way, perhaps people are just irrational and sometimes nasty in a way that most animals aren't. Of course once you watch a cat play with its food - until the food finally dies - it's hard to look at them the same way again.

Re:eing true to oneself (1)

Onymous Coward (97719) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877776)

Interesting idea.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Kohlberg's_stages_of_moral_development#Stages [wikipedia.org]

Un-"principled" behavior.

If Anonymity allows people to show their true self, and we dont like what we see, its not anonymity thats the problem.

That's insightful. But let's not fall into simplistic thinking. The problem doesn't exist -- things go badly by means of a variety of influences. And as you're suggesting, the lack of principled ethical motivation in people is probably a major player.

Re:Being true to oneself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36878008)

> If Anonymity allows people to show their true self, and we dont like what we see, its not anonymity thats the problem.

Great post and exactly the way I feel.

Preventing anonymity, which is what /. does, is to assume man is mostly a monkey which will destroy things for pleasure. While I understand where this comes from, two bad things will happen in this scenario:
1) you lose "the voice of the crowd", when a layman and an expert can agree on things for their own value... and not because someone "says so"; also it's easy to ridicule the proverbial child crying "the emperor is naked", which will be a loss for all;
2) you'll never have responsible people... this is hard to understand, but it has to do with the biblical teaching: "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

Perhaps an easier way is this: treat morons as adults and you shall have adults, treat adults as morons and you shall have morons.

This... (2)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877086)

This is a carefully orchestrated war on anonymity. It started with facebook, now Google, and now we have a "paper" saying that "anonymity is killing the internet" and "making your hair curl."

Make no mistake about it. I'm waiting for my g+ account to be nuked.

--
BMO

Re:This... (2)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877436)

at least there is one other here who sees this.. it truly shocks me that the average poster here doesn't see this trend.. I think it started with those 'single signon' advocates about 10-12 years ago.

people need to realize that hiding the truth under the filthy rug of political correctness does not make it go away, full of bile or not.

Re:This... (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877666)

You know, to be honest I just assumed you could never actually be anonymous on the internet. The way I figured it, phone calls could always be tracked via which line you were using to make a call. Similarly, someone's online identity could always be tracked based on whatever utility bills your were using to access the internet. Of course, that's not really the most technical way of phrasing it, but I never once assumed that my identity was hidden in any effective manner on the internet.

Maybe I'm just paranoid like that though.

Re:This... (2)

bmo (77928) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877914)

I have never assumed that either. If you look hard enough, you can probably tie this alias to my meatspace address. I've had it that long.

But I do not wish to remove all barriers to that by being required to use my real name everywhere. My parents have an unlisted phone number, and mine is too by way of cellphone.

Locks keep honest people out and are not really a deterrent to actual hardened criminals. This does not mean I should remove my door from its hinges.

--
BMO

Re:This... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36878116)

There are ways to get more-or-less complete anonymity on the internet, but they almost all involve illegal and probably unethical breaches of others' computers, so you use their resources instead of your own. Every layer (i.e. owned box) between you and the target is a dramatic reduction of their chances to trace the whole chain before you cut the link.

Other than that, it's a question of probabilities, and of who's in a position to trace it, and how bad they want to. Badmouthing other people in a forum? you're pretty much anonymous, because nobody who can trace you (i.e. your ISP) cares, and those who do care seldom care enough to sue you for defamation and subpoena them. Posting pirated content to foreign-based filesharing sites? Decent anonymity, because the police rarely care at all, and even when they do, international coordination is quite rare and difficult. Posting government-embarrassing or classified material to domestic sites with a registered account? Kiss your ass goodbye, because the information is stored, and they are interested in tracing it. Bittorrent on public trackers? Not very anonymous, because your IP is exposed to everyone, including MPAA lawyers who can subpoena your ISP to get your identity from that.

Like me, I'm posting this as AC, and I'm completely anonymous. Not because the information's not out there, but because the odds of the people with the information and the desire to know cooperating to piece it together is vanishingly small. Maybe if you want to know who I am, and you're good buddies with cmdrtaco (who has my IP), and a guy at my ISP (who could resolve that to a customer), and the IT guy here (I'm posting from work -- if he's not logging it, he could at least start tracking who posts to /. at this time of day over the next week), you could track me down. But I'd bet against it.

War on anonymity (3, Insightful)

traindirector (1001483) | more than 3 years ago | (#36878016)

I'm not so sure the "war on anonymity" is carefully being orchestrated, though I certainly hear the loudening beat of its drums. And there are certainly forces that are very much behind the cause.

What worries me most is the support for it I hear from those who aren't very interested in the topic. I think many people see horrible comments on websites or blogs, hear something like the "Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory", and just assume that's the problem, with the obvious solution being banning anonymity without thinking about the negative consequences for true expression of the unpopular, embarrassing, and taboo.

Systems using pseudonyms and reputation systems are up to the challenge--while not obvious at first, a little thought into the problem shows this. You could even have adding your legal name give you a reputation boost (doesn't Amazon do something like this?). But with all the blaring bile about how humans are not capable of having the power of anonymity without reverting to sub-human pseudo-demons, too little attention is being paid to the real solution that doesn't stifle discourse.

I hope that the problem is that the pseudonym+reputation solution isn't obvious to the person who is first confronted with this problem, and that over time it will become clear and a consensus will build that anonymity doesn't need to be removed--we just need to add a reputation element. There are certainly forces that will push against this and favor getting rid of anonymity as soon as possible, but I'm far from convinced they will succeed. [Perhaps this is too hopeful?]

Dkunk man's words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877098)

are a sober man's thoughts.

I hate to say it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877108)

Sadly I agree.

But these days it seems that it's only on facebook the comments does not go completely insane because they are attached to people's accounts and the rest are easy to block. Most blog / news comments are not worth reading.

Re:I hate to say it (2)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877342)

That doesn't mean we should build that police state this author obviously wants by eliminating anonymity. It is needed, especially when what needs to be said falls outside the social 'acceptability' arena.

dumb insane right wing crazies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877116)

ya somehow someone got a computer and found a way to turn it on and give there hate to others.....
beng anonymous has ZERO to do with your character and nature , if your a prick your a prick and trust me if your in p2p look up someone called fishy2 and Nimueh BOTH are admins of sites and or staff and both are utter assholes and fishy2 even accused me of hacking his torrent site with no proof and got me kicked form a site i joined where all iwas going to be doing was uploading. SO again its the right wing rich insane deprived jealous of your success that gets these types....just smile and keep saying your loss not mine.

group vs individual behavior (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877124)

Is this really the behavior of groups or individuals? I find it hard to believe that 80% of people, even cloaked with anonymity would behave in this manner. I do believe that 80% of members of a group would succumb to peer pressure, as it were, and steal.

Everyone Pretends This Is a Problem... (2)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877172)

There is a rather simple way to see that it is not.

Young people, brought up on the Internet: currently less likely to vote, yes, but not generally given to being mired in the standard polarizing bullshit that boomers ruin the world over, are they?

Given that it is well-known that the American political system currently runs on spite, it should be wonderful news that our nations' youth have found a much less destructive place to vent their spleen.

Obviously... (1)

TafBang (1971954) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877178)

It doesn't take a scientist to know that most thieves and robbers wear a mask.

What's in a name? (1)

ivandavidoff (969036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877188)

This^ is not my meatspace name, but after decades of use, more people know me by this name than by my birth name. So now I have an on-line reputation to uphold, such as it is. Ivan has evolved from troll into Mr. Nice Guy. Occassionally, I log on using my real name and act like a complete ass. It's liberating.

Candy and Comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877198)

Stealing and saying something are two different things. I don't see the relation. Unless you're saying that straight opinions with no evidence and no signature are taken seriously by anybody - which is their fault.

This doesn't mean that people who make you angry can't have a good argument. A good troll might as well not be a troll.

Anonymous? (1)

mjoseff (792283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877262)

So, Anonymous wouldn't be as active if their masks were removed?

it's not about responsibility (1)

epyT-R (613989) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877280)

Adopt a pseudonym and you are not putting much of yourself on the line. Put your name to something and your words are freighted with responsibility."

not about responsibliity. more like fear of retribution.. whether that retribution is righteous or not is based on subjective view points. I have a problem with this article because it suggests that anonymity is inherently a bad thing. It's not. Anonymity allows people to take positions that need taking, social 'conventions' be damned.

The psychologists call it 'deindividuation.' It's what happens when social norms are withdrawn because identities are concealed.

Ironic, considering that the author is basically saying that anonymity shields individuals from whatever collective groupthink is in play. I'd call it 'REindividualization.'

Similar story from San Francisco (1)

joeflies (529536) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877298)

Phil Bronstein of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a retort to the reader comments [sfgate.com] regarding several deaths over the past few weeks

Anonymity isn't the same as it was 160 years ago. (3, Insightful)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877426)

Yes, anonymity could be a cloak for someone who fears reprisal (social, physical, legal).

People can and do build reputations around their pseudonyms online, where they reinstall the social norms. You see it on forums every now and then (for example, heavy posters who fear losing their reputations making apologies for bad behavior). Like any society, the internet has it's own behavioral controls - whether they're remnants from offline controls or new ones like 'troll' flags. We're just developing them - some of us are still kids in costumes again really.

Re:Anonymity isn't the same as it was 160 years ag (1)

joh (27088) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877606)

Only works if you chose a pseudonym and then stick to it. In which case it just becomes another "real name" over time. But many people don't want to have a "real name" they can be recognized by. They want to be truly anonymous, just a bodyless voice spitting bile and hate without having to stand up for it. They change their pseudonymes more often than their fucking passwords.

I totally agree that this is becoming a problem. The right to be anonymous is in many cases very important, but these situations are exceptions, not the rule.

Re:Anonymity isn't the same as it was 160 years ag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36878056)

Most people don't ever change their passwords (unless forced), ergo if they EVER change their identity (or pseudonym, whichever you prefer) they meet your requirement. Now the ones who change it more often then their underwear, those are the ones you have to worry about!

On a more serious note, if anonymity really is a right (your words, not mine) then we (as a society) have accepted that the role that it fulfills is more important then the problems it causes. If that is the case, then we have to protect it, even if it means a never-ending influx of trolls. I'm not so certain it is a right myself, but if it is we have to realize what that means.

Are they mad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877558)

Its because most of what we are saying makes you angry. You don't like it so you call it bile. Let us be free. Not having to deal with being put in jail for the things we say.

I run forums (1)

DCFusor (1763438) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877614)

And we make people use their real names. When we didn't we got too many nut-cases and almost-real bots. As a result, discussion is polite and stays more on topic. The rest of the web can have the lusers with weird handles, suits me fine. Flame wars don't.

Re:I run forums (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877766)

I investigate people. Thank you for requiring real names, Miss/Mr./Ms DCFusor. It makes my job easier.

It's amazing how the most mundane thing one says can be offensive to another and many times means not being hired for a job. Expressed admiration for Richard Dawkins and the HR manager is a Christian? You'll find that you don't have the "skills" for the job. Good luck finding one though!

Re:I run forums (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877878)

shutup noob

And then there (2)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877704)

and then there are the ones who don't give a crap who sees them because they only think about themselves to start with... hard to feel guilty about anything when your core belief is that you are the only person in the world that matters.

As an example we grow several flowers in our unfenced front yard and also have a bench out at the edge of the side-walk so people can sit and rest a minute and enjoy the view. Twice in the last two weeks I've seen people just stop and grab a handful of the Lilies for themselves. The last time I got to the front door before they left and asked them WTF she was doing... this woman replies "well I was just going to sit on your lovely bench and admire the view." - a complete non sequitur. I said "So you are rewarding us for putting out the bench by stealing our flowers?" She just repeated the same lame statement and sat on the bench for a minute then left.

The entire patch of lilies has been stripped over the last month. Since we don't get to enjoy them and the neighbours and passers-by don't get to enjoy looking at them we will just stop growing them. The other result is that we now feel like we have to spend time and money to put up a significant fence around our vegetable garden because hearing "Hey I was going to sit on your bench and I was hungry" can't be far off.

Netiquette courses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877748)

We could learn from the Koreans and teach kids netiquette before they get online.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/learning/schools/netiquette.html?play

I believe that although internet anonymity leads to an increase in dick-headed-ness, we still ought to have access to anonymous forums for sensitive political debate, and to be able to talk shit about bad movies and stuff.

Anonymity in 2011 Stanley Cup Riot (3, Insightful)

cimmerian (59932) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877852)

Another interesting analysis with anonymity in the Internet age could be done with the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots from a couple of months ago. People were openly destroying vehicles and commercial property while knowingly surrounded by cell phones and professional photographers recording every move they made. Video and photos were uploaded in real time to the Internet, eventually assisting the police and the public to identify a large number of locals.

It was a bizarre case of cognitive dissonance where these criminals would pose in front of their crimes without a thought to the fact that they would be easily identified and charged with the said photo.

the myth of "real names" (1)

NuShrike (561140) | more than 3 years ago | (#36877940)

"People hold online anonymity up as a virtue and necessity. I say it is the root cause of a social disease, and should be greatly limited." — Matt Greenfield

That is the root of this "holier than thou", aka koolaid, disease. When somebody thinks freedom of speech is evil and needs limitation. Yes, anonymity equals freedom of speech. Otherwise, every post should be 100% public to stamp out hidden grumbling disease; it also begs the question of why does Google Circles, or Facebook FriendLists even exist? It also assumes you can trust a "real name" more than any pseudonym. Where's the CV and double-verified references first?

There's a great amount of historical, anonymous authorship, besides old and new revolutions, that back this.

Draconian, Stalinist policies have no place in continued history.

Would be interesting to see qualtity also... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36877970)

The article raises an interesting point, but doesn't really explore the whole story. If everyone was 100% accountable to everyone for every opinion they expressed, and knew it, I would imagine there would be a whole lot less discussion, period. In particular, virtually no dissenting, politically unpopular, or controversial opinions would be expressed online, for fear or immediate or future repercussions. Ask any people living in a repressive regime if they think this would be a good idea.

It would be beneficial to have the option of specifying fully-verifiable identification information, and for the reader to have a way to filter and show only comments providing such. However, I fear that if everyone moves to requiring identification information, the [popular] internet will become a very poor sample of people's actual opinions.

Fuck all of you neckbeards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36878104)

Eat a whole rack of dung you suckbeasts!

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