And get away with it. Now anyone can.
Because new media are cheap and easy for anyone to use, we could all do things that formerly only billionaire playboys who owned media could do (see, for example, the Citizen Kane story). So we need media literacy and good judgement even more than in the past.
Why? How about fake Web sites? Made up science journals and science citation scams? How about spying vs. parenting, apparently malicious manipulation of Internet data, turning fiction into fact (once enough canards are in circulation), photoshopping (an older trend given new life in “fake but accurate”?) , courts can alter documents without notice, It also helped sponsor the rise of the campus brownshirt, enforcing “diversity” (everyone who thinks like me is okay, everyone else not), with predictable results. Meanwhile, high tech parents do low tech childraising. And this is only a start. I didn’t even mention attempts by governments or criminals to get control of our accounts.
People are not less honest today. Or not in particular. Rather, the opportunities available to the average person to just make stuff up or change the meanings of words—and have it all accepted as real—are so much greater now.
In this environment, the rise of doxxing (sharing personal information for harm and damage) is worth a note:
Doxxing for good?—?as in sharing someone’s personal information online in the name of social justice?—?has started to happen more and more recently. Bloggers are bragging about the creative ways that they are exposing racists, misogynists and homophobes; Ordinary people on Twitter are calling for the doxxing of those harassing them; Whole sites are dedicated to showcasing the mean, idiotic, and bigoted messages people post online just so us weary travelers can share some cathartic laughter at their expense. Just last week a university baseball player was kicked off his team when his offensive tweet about 14-year-old pitching phenomenon Mo’Ne Davis was blasted online.
It wasn’t long before the inevitable happened to Racists Getting Fired; an innocent person was doxxed. Brianna Rivera found herself on the receiving end of threats and harassment after an ex-boyfriend impersonated her online with posts that made her look like a racist. A few minutes of investigation showed it was fake, but the Internet doesn’t self-correct: People ride the wave of fury and then move on to the next target. By the time a retraction was posted, she had already faced investigations by both her employer and the university she was attending. Even now, people are still sending her hateful messages for her nonexistent bigotry.
The linked story shows that some people are, very very slowly, beginning to get the message that, as a supermedium, the Internet cuts both ways.
Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.