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.


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.”

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.

To Ban or Not To Ban: A Commentary on Anonymous Commenting

One of the features of the internet that many like the most is the ability to become anonymous. There’s something extremely appealing about being able to erase your identity. In many occasions, this can be a blessing while in others, it’s a definite curse.

Anonymity in comments has many benefits. First, it gives the writer the ability to express their opinions on things free from judgment or accountability. It’s very freeing to have the ability to say your unpopular opinion on any given popular topic without fear of people being able to attack you directly for doing so. I can tell you from experience that being able to say how much you dislike One Direction without the fans of One Direction knowing who you are is a very nice experience. However despite this freeing aspect, anonymous commenting has many obvious drawbacks.

Untitled-2The ability to speak anonymously on the internet gives people power. While some can act civilized with this power, others find themselves overwhelmed and abuse it. Anonymous commenting has lead to the harassment of many individuals throughout its existence. In this article from the New York Times, the topic of anonymous commenting in news sites is discussed as more and more news sites consider eliminating anonymous commenting all together. This is due to people abusing the power anonymity gives them. Anonymous people can say anything they want without consequence as long as they don’t show who they are. They can tell someone to kill themselves over their opinion on a certain entertainer or politician if they want to. And what happens when someone takes this advice to heart?

But many argue that removing anonymous commenting completely takes away our right as Americans to free speech. This is a valid point to consider. Anonymous commenting, when not abused, is a wonderful privilege we have today. It’s an issue that will be forever debated as long as people continue to abuse it. For now, I saw we just take what anonymous people on the internet say with a grain of salt and a stiff upper lip. We mustn’t let those who abuse the anonymity of the internet win.