Brianne’s Reflection on Anonymity

A Walk Through A Slide:

The fourth slide in my section of this group’s Pecha Kucha presentation was a crying frowny face. During the slide in question, I discussed how some people use their anonymity in very negative ways. Some use it to harass and torment others. In this part of my narrative, I referenced the case we read about in which a character on LambdaMOO named Mr. Bungle trapped female users into a virtual room and forced their avatars to have sex with his avatar. While this was all virtual, it had very real effects on the victims. Just because it was a “cyber-rape” doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken as seriously as a rape case in the real world.

4This is the thing many fail to see about anonymity online. While you may think that since it’s online, no one gets hurt, you’re sorely mistaken. When someone is constantly harassed and tormented on the internet, it has serious repercussions on their mind. These cases of harassment lead to self-harm, even suicide, in those who are being harassed. Just because the harassment takes place in the virtual world doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect the real world.

I chose the crying frowny face or this part of my narrative because although it is simple, it represents the feelings of those who are being constantly tormented on the internet. It doesn’t come anywhere close to what they’re really feeling inside, but it’s a good representation of my purposes. The effects of negative uses of anonymity online are forever. They can cause permanent damage, such as self-harm, psychological damage, and even suicide. Just because you CAN say something to someone online doesn’t always mean you SHOULD say it.

What I learned about my topic:

Before starting this assignment, I viewed anonymity online as a strictly negative thing. I am a user of the blog site Tumblr where anonymous comments are usually negative and biting. I have disabled anonymous comments on my tumblr because of the amount of anonymous harassment that occurs. I assumed this was the same with all sites as being anonymous online provides a weird power that can get to many people’s heads. They use it to say whatever they want to say, and what they want to say is usually mean and rude.

Then, I was assigned this blog project on anonymity. I figured I’d be writing a ton of blogs about the suicides that occur from the anonymous harassment that runs rampant throughout the online community, but I was wrong. In this assignment, I learned that there are many different aspects to anonymity. Some people use their anonymity for good, despite the myriad of people who use it for negativity and harassment. Anonymity removes and obvious bias that may be present when writing non-anonymously. This allows users to write their opinions without anyone immediately writing them off because of any obvious bias (such as gender, age, ethnicity, etc). This is a very wonderful tool on the internet, and I feel as though it’s underused.

Overall I learned that while anonymity is used for negativity a lot of the time, it does have some very positive outcomes. Some people on Tumblr will use their anonymity to counteract the negative anonymous comments that come through. Anonymity makes it so it doesn’t matter who the positive comment is coming from, it just matters that someone says it. Though the negativity of anonymity is heavily present throughout the web, it does have its positive outcomes that I feel should outweigh the negative ones.

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Catch Me If You Can!

If you’ve ever been anonymously harassed on the internet, you may be wondering how these people can be caught without us knowing who they are? Well, I’m here to tell you there’s definitely a way!

Kashmir Hill, of the Forbes staff, has created an article with the steps to catching your anonymous harassers, in response to a man in Ireland being constantly harassed on every internet platform imaginable. This person found out a way to bait their harassers and trap them, and was able to identify them.27

Hill writes the following steps for finding your anons-

“1. Your troll-trap is a blog. If you don’t have one already, you’ll need to set one up.

2. You’ll want to be able to keep track of the IP addresses of visitors to your blog. Programs like AWStats or Webalizer will keep visitor logs for you that will reveal where your readers are coming from. Alternatively, you can hope your troll comments on your blog. If they do, their IP address will be captured and sent to you along with the comment. Yes, readers of the Not-So Private Parts, I see your IP addresses when you leave your (usually delightful) remarks here.

3. Lure your troll to your blog. Traynor did so by including links to the blog on Facebook and on Twitter. If you’re very audacious, you could email your troll directly with the link. (Keep your fingers crossed that your troll is not using an IP masker.)

4. Once you’ve captured the IP address, whether from a blog comment or from visitor logs, it’s time to see where it originates from. You can do that onIPTracker. ”It will show you the user’s Internet Provider, a fairly exact location, the map coordinates and a satellite view of their location,” writesBopp. The Google stock advice comment spam above, for example,  appears to originate from an office building in Islamabad, Pakistan, a block away, coincidentally, from Kashmir Highway.

5. Now you may know where your troll lives, and if it’s someone you know in real life, you may already know who it is. Alternately, you can try searching the address online and see if it turns up anyone who seems likely to be the culprit. “Plug the location into Google Streetview and it will give you the actual address,” writes Bopp. “You can then put the address into Google to find out more details.” ”

Now, this method clearly isn’t perfect. What would you do in the event your troll decides not to bite? What if your troll uses a public computer?

Despite these drawbacks, this method is definitely something to keep in mind in the event of an anon harassing you. People who use their anonymity for evil instead of good definitely deserve to be brought to justice.

Social Number

Imagine having a social media website where your identity remains completely anonymous, unless, of course, you share it? An up and coming social network called Social Number gives its users a number by which they are identified by. There is no name, no handle, and no thumbnail photo of yourself, just a number.This forces users to be completely anonymous when interacting with others. The mission of this website is to have people talk about everything and anything to each other, not knowing a thing about them; they’re complete strangers.

In January this past year, CNN did an article on the website named The social network where no one knows your name.This article takes its time to thoroughly explain the website and how it works. To sign up, you need to enter your “social number”, which has a ten character limit to the spaces available per number. You also need to enter a valid email address and your date of birth. The requirements for this website are fairly normal. Once you log into your account, the home page comes up. This is where users have posted discussions. These discussion reminded me of tweets. Some can be questions for others to answer, some can be feelings. The possibilities are endless. When you see a discussion that intrigues you, you click on that discussion and input your two cents.

social_number

Though my initial reactions to this website as that it was very creepy, after researching it a bit and reading up on it, it just reminds me of an anonymous version of Twitter and Facebook combined. For the people who want to stay completely anonymous, this is the social networking site for them!

Servin’ Up Some Realness

How do we know if someone’s being their real self on the internet? Do we go by the selfies they post, the facts they say about themselves, or the way they talk? Do we judge someone’s authenticity on what they stand for or how they interact with others? The truth is that because the web makes its users faceless, you will never know.

In his presentation, Identity 2.0, Dick Hardt explains that you can say anything you want about yourself and no matter how true those things could be, your identity will still be questioned on the internet. He explains that on the internet, there are fewer “trust cues” that indicate whether what someone is saying is to be considered trustworthy or not.honesty On the internet, you can never truly prove who you are. I could tell you that my name is Brianne O’Leary, I’m a 19 year old student at Rowan University, and I love cats, but how would you know that I was being authentic? I could easily be a 40 year old man who wants nothing more than to make college students think I’m one of them so I can lure them into a secluded area and murder them.

This clearly presents a huge problem with the web today. There are those who are smart about what they believe on the internet and those who aren’t. Those who aren’t easily fall prey to online scams, predators, and catfishers. It’s been made pretty clear by some popular web scams that a lot of people seem to trust anything they read on the internet, like the famous email scam where a Nigerian Prince suddenly wants to give you, a stranger, his riches- for a fee of course. While not all scams are as obvious and stupid as that one, they still get people every day (like the infamous Craigslist Killer), just because the anonymity of the internet allows you to say you’re someone you’re not, and many people have no qualms with taking advantage of that.

What we should take away from this is not to immediately distrust anyone who’s on the internet. We just need to keep our guards up. Take the things people say about themselves with a grain of salt, for sure, and avoid falling for those who may be altering their identity in a negative way. The internet does a good job of stripping us of our identities. It takes everything that makes you who you are in real life and erases it in a sense, allowing you to claim to be anyone you want to be. When we enter the web, we all become no one, a ‘John Doe’ in a sense. The trouble is, we can never fully and authentically identify our ‘John Doe’s.

Perks of Being an Anon

There’s a huge negative connotation to being anonymous on the internet these days and with all of the people who abuse their anonymity, you may be thinking what possible positive side to anonymity there could be. How could there possibly be something good about something that allows people to facelessly harass and generally annoy the shit out of others? Well, as I’ve always been told by heartfelt movies and TV shows, every cloud has a silver lining.

In an article by entitled “In Defense of Internet Anonymity”, author Wendy McElroy brings up a few major perks for anonymity. First, the anonymity of the internet allows you to be who you truly are without the fear of being judged. This is a huge plus for many ranging from LGBTQ people who are afraid of people who will judge them based on their sexuality to those who just want to get their stories and experiences out there into the world without showing their faces.

Another large perk to internet anonymity is the power to say anything you want. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t that one of the negative things about anonymity? You’d be correct, dear readerUntitled-1. However, when used correctly, anonymous words can be extremely powerful in a very positive way. Have you ever complained about your looks or your personality and had a friend reassure you that you were fine? I know when this happens to me, I always think about how they’re my friend, and they’re supposed to reassure me, and that makes it mean less. Well with anonymity online, this removes that thought entirely. If I go on Tumblr and post about how fat I think I am, I’m undoubtedly going to get anonymous messages reassuring me that I’m perfect the way I am. Could some of those be from my real life friends? Perhaps. But the fact that they say it anonymously proves that they mean it. I know, it sounds silly, but it’s true. It removes the friend-obligation we have to reassure our pals that they’re wonderful. Everything’s coming from the heart.

Being anonymous online is a freeing experience. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to express your opinions without being immediately judged by others. I tell all of my friends that I hate Glee because they think it’s the dumbest show on television. On the internet, however, I can talk about how I’ve seen every episode and am heavily invested in Rachel and Finn’s relationship ups and downs. I can join this online community of people who like something I have to pretend to hate in real life, and I can talk about it freely. This is the beauty of the internet and its facelessness. As Wendy McElroy says in her article, “the right to withhold your identify, like the right to remain silent, is not the sign of a thug or child predator. It is the sign of a free human being.”

Sneaky, Sneaky.

Online anonymity has skyrocketed. Over the last couple of years, keeping your online identity within seems to be the new thing? Why? Because people out there are scary. With the internet becoming more and more complex, there are people out there who know a lot more than your Average Joe. These Average Joe’s can be tricked into fraud. Believe it or not, it happens more times than not. Here are some steps to lay low when surfing the web.

internet-safety-classes_250

1. Gain the Knowledge. The internet looks simple from the user’s viewpoint, but in reality the protocol to make something like the Internet happen is very, very complex. Every connection to the Internet has one thing in common. This is known as an IP Address. The data sent and received from your computer will always contain an IP Address of where it is going or where it came from. This IP Address can be traced back to you through help of your Internet provided. This means that if anything is done illegally, like stealing  music, your IP Address can be suspended and you will no longer have access to the web.

2. Know what has to be done. In order to gain online anonymity, a lot of things has to be completed. The most important thing is obfuscate your IP Address. That simply means to just hide it. Cookies must be removed frequently. Some people say to do it as frequently as once a week. Removing your cookies will just insure that there are no harmful files on your computer and make it so that your computer can run at optimal speed.

3. The Proxy. There are many ways to change your IP Address through different proxy servers. A server can be configured in your network settings. When you use an online proxy, your browser will send all data requests to the proxy, the proxy will route you to the destination and will send you back the data. This is invisible to the user because we only see the destination.

There are three ways to stay safe and secret online. We all know that it can sometimes be a scary place, but many good things has also come from the Internet as well. Overall, the most important thing to do online is to be safe, but taking even more precautions can only help the user out in the long run.

Online Relationship? That sounds fishy.

In the Fall of 2010, a man named Ariel Schulman released an independent documentary he made following the tale of his brother, Yaniv Schulman (Nev for short) on his quest to meet the “love of his life”, whom he had only spoken to online. Sounds cute right? How about when this love of his life ended up being a completely different person, hidden behind a fake picture? The movie was called “Catfish” and since its release, it’s started a worldwide phenomenon. People everywhere decided to contact Nev to see if he could help them meet THEIR online flames. And thus, the wildly popular MTV series ‘Catfish: The TV Show’ began.

Catfish (film)

Catfish (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


‘Catfish’ (also known as ‘catfishing’) is now a term that means to engage in an online relationship with a fake name, personality, and photo, for the sole purpose of deceiving someone. This leads me to address a huge issue with the anonymity of the internet: How do you know someone is who they say they are? Hiding behind the computer, you can pretend to be anyone you want. This gives people endless opportunities for deceit and revenge. What better revenge than making someone fall in love with someone who isn’t real, forcing them to become vulnerable and to open up to a fake person? Such great karma, am I right?

Now, not all cases on the show Catfish are of deceit. Some are genuine people who have genuinely fallen in love with each other. However, this is not common. One particularly interesting episode, one young woman was being catfished by another young woman who simply wanted the first woman to stop flirting with her boyfriend. Is that really worth the two years of time and energy she put forth to make this fake person seem real?

Now what can we learn from this, people of the internet? First, you don’t know who anyone is online. For all you know, I could be Fidel Castro instead of a mild-mannered college student. There are certain warning signs you need to look out for when engaging in online relationships so you know if you’re a victim of catfishing. Luckily, this article from the Boston Better Business Bureau breaks them down for us. In general, be cautious if the person you’re talking about seems absolutely perfect. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If they claim they love you but refuse to talk to you on the phone, get out of there. That’s some true shade. If you try to meet them but things keep “coming up” that prevent them from meeting you at the last minute, honey you probably have yourself a catfish. If they have very few friends on their social networking site of choice, they’re probably not real.

Look, the internet makes it so easy for people to become anonymous or pretend to be someone else. It happens every day. It could even happen to you, if you’re not careful. Be mindful of who you’re talking to on the internet because they could be anyone. Don’t fall victim to a catfish.