Platform for Public Court on WoW Acquaintances

Most recently I once again pointed out my assertion that internet anonymity is a thing of the past in comments regarding an article (reLink) in the Harvard Business Review. I’ve just finished reading a New York Times article on C|Net, “Online throngs impose a stern morality in China” (Link), that documents our increasing move into a non-anonymous and highly-connected world; some of it facilitated by social software (like MySpace) and MMORPG’s (in this case, World of Warcraft) that bring together people who might not otherwise interact in meatspace. Here are some clips from the article:

It began with an impassioned, 5,000-word letter on one of the country’s most popular Internet bulletin boards from a husband denouncing a college student he suspected of having an affair with his wife. Immediately, hundreds joined in the attack.

“Let’s use our keyboard and mouse in our hands as weapons,” one person wrote, “to chop off the heads of these adulterers, to pay for the sacrifice of the husband.”

It was just the latest example of a growing phenomenon the Chinese call Internet hunting, in which morality lessons are administered by online throngs and where anonymous Web users come together to investigate others and mete out punishment for offenses real and imagined.

“We call on every company, every establishment, every office, school, hospital, shopping mall and public street to reject him,” it said. “Don’t accept him, don’t admit him, don’t identify with him until he makes a satisfying and convincing repentance.”

Impassioned people teamed up to uncover the student’s address and telephone number, both of which were then posted online. Soon, people eager to denounce him showed up at his university and at his parents’ house, forcing him to drop out of school and barricade himself with his family in their home.

I especially noted what sociologist Zhu Dake had to say: “On the other hand, the Internet is being distorted”. Distorted? That depends on which biased camera through which someone views it. I’d put forth that the internet is becoming less distorted; more a reflection of humanity. It’s just not very pretty.

Meanwhile, on the Second Life forums, a heated discussion surrounding the alleged piracy and resale of skin textures proceeds unabated. Last I checked, the perp is unnamed, although some of the suspician has fallen on the person who claims to have purchased the original source and who refuses to name the seller. Virtuality mirrors reality. None of it is very pleasant.

{Update: I’ve not read it yet, but Blue’s News pointed me to a relevant article, “Why Web 2.0 will end your privacy” (Link); first couple paragraphs sound familiar so it might be worth checking out.}