An amazing investigative journalist named Mattathias Schwarts came to one of my Media Studies classes this spring. He wrote a hot article for the NY Times regarding “Trolls”. Trolls are the folks who for some reason or other find harassing and manipulating people on-line as a delectable treat. I asked him if he would be willing to give me a few minutes to record a “micro-podcast” regarding Trolls on Future140. He gladly did so, and you can listen to it here.
Schwartz tells us that we see more troll-like behavior on the Internet because of anonymity. We can’t mask ourselves in public face-to-face interactions where antisocial behavior most certainly brings shame. Masking ones online identity in order to cause others is a power we are all capable of. He urged us to develop a “thicker skin” when engaged in online social interactions. He made no mention of OpenID’s or other online credentialing systems that enable high value online identity’s for users to carry across multiple platforms.
I personally feel online identity should be at least as clear as public identity.
A friend of mine invested hours of his time into an online relationship with a girl on Myspace. He spoke with her on the phone and eventually he was going to go visit her after a relative had died. It turns out she was faking the entire thing. He found out she was fooling him after he called her phone and a boy answered to inform him that his love interest had died. In complete distress my friend followed up on the matter by calling the police in her hometown. They had never even heard of her.
The Internet also provides the means for real criminals to steal others identities, track down victims, and carry out other illegal activities. The Internet should be a safe, secure, and simple place for us to grow into better people.
Of course we shouldn’t be forced into revealing all of our private data to the public through our digital identities, but we should be able to select the option if it makes our lives easier, and if we can control how much of our data is revealed.
It is easy for anyone to talk about the way things “should” or “shouldn’t” be, and I acknowledge that there are a myriad of concerns regarding the issue of digital identity that I haven’t even brought up.
As a techno-optimist I believe there is good reason to believe that we can unite in a more transparent society. Like most people I believe that hate, violence, and deception have no place in society and should be reserved solely for video games and sports.
Identity 2.0 is one of many labels that explores how our futures selves will interact with the Internet. Dick Hardt gives an amazing lecture regarding the subject -without mention of trolls – which I think you’ll like. He believes that Identity 2.0 is inevitable because
“simple and open wins”