Roberts Essay 1

In our first group lead class, one of the questions was “Should people be held responsible for their actions online?” Since I spend a lot of time on the Internet, and have had my fair share of interactions with the dregs I felt like this was something I could respond strongly to. While some people just view the Internet as a wealth of information, like Wikipedia, or a social networking tool, like Facebook, it also happens to be the home to terrible monstrosities like 4chan.org or the community of Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games like World of Warcraft.

The mere existence of 4chan makes me worry about society and the people that spend large amounts of time on the Internet. No one on that website cares about how anyone views them thanks to every post being anonymous. They often post pictures and personal information to get their “legion” of viewers to harass someone they feel has wronged them. People receive death threats and are attacked in various ways that aren’t directly violent thanks to this. They also initiate denial of service attacks, protests, and harass random message boards. 4chan is also home to many of the popular memes that we see spread all over the Internet.

Normally, people acting like idiots on the Internet wouldn’t be too large of an issue. The problem is when these dregs begin to attack innocent people that have had their information posted on the Internet. While someone might be able to feign innocence, IPs should still be logged on these different websites. If someone is unwilling to confess to the problems they’ve caused thanks to the anonymity of the Internet, they could just be tracked down. Sadly, this isn’t always a perfect solution since many people leave their wireless unprotected or with an easy to crack password. This would lead to more innocent people being targeted because someone was illegally using their Internet. This issue would be the same in other situations involving people taking advantage of their anonymity.

While I haven’t had any personal experience with attacks from 4chan, I have had experience dealing with poor situations on World of Warcraft. Large portions of the Warcraft community have extremely poor social skills. They often feel like they can say and do whatever they want. In the time that I played, one person I knew on my server broke up one marriage and ended up dating the woman online. In the time since I quit, he has broken up two more marriages and is close to wrecking the relationship he has with his fiancée (who happens to be the woman from the first ruined marriage). His ability to get away with it repeatedly boggles the mind. Somehow, people are still drawn to him even though he is probably the scummiest person I have ever talked to. He is only one example of the kind of person that needs to be held responsible for the kind of things he can pull online.

Another commonality on Warcraft is harassment. Some players will play a character on each faction in the game in order to send messages to anyone that kills them. These messages can range from a simple “F*** you” all the way to racism and repeated messages threatening to kill them. If someone doesn’t have to take responsibility for what they do online, they become monsters to the point where they can begin to break other people. When I used to use voice chat to talk to a few of the other players I played with, I often heard people screaming at each other and even people crying. People also enjoy doing what is called “vent harassment” where they use a soundboard to harass people that are voice chatting using an application like Ventrilo. One good example may be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IE3KdcTgrno.

It was near impossible to spend time on Warcraft and not end up stressed out thanks to the number of people that take the game far too seriously. They begin to yell mercilessly and do whatever they can to try and make you snap or ruin your day. This is made even worse by the fact that they will almost never end up getting banned. There are supposed to be Game Masters (GMs) that you may report problems to and have them take care of it by fixing a glitch, moving your character, or banning other players. Sadly, these GMs are paid very little and are extremely difficult to actually contact. More often than not, they will consider warning the other person but will never do anything to make them actually think twice about their actions. There is no system in place to make people regret their actions or be held accountable. Players are almost completely free to say what they want thanks to their anonymity.

Blizzard Entertainment, the creators and managers of World of Warcraft need to spend more time controlling their game. When their game starts affecting the number of lives that it does, something needs to happen. Marriages shouldn’t be ending just because of someone on the Internet who decides to coerce someone into cybersex or other situations they probably shouldn’t be in. Possible solutions would be account banning, IP banning, or IP tracking to report some of these people to their local authorities.

While it may sound like Warcraft is nothing but a meeting place for the dregs of the Internet, Blizzard has actually used the information they receive to help the authorities track people down.

“The virtual world of online gaming seems like the perfect place to hide. There is plenty of anonymity, and it’s almost impossible for someone to trace activity back to its source, right? Wrong.
Two weeks ago, Howard County Sheriff’s Department deputy Matt Roberson tracked down a wanted fugitive through one of the most popular games on the Internet — World of Warcraft. And he got his man.”

This is an article about how a man wanted on drug charges was found thanks to Blizzard and the information they supplied about his account and the IP address he was accessing everything from. If Blizzard was more willing to take actions to report people who talk about illegal activities on their game or give authorities information when asked for it, it would help start progress toward people taking a little more effort to hide what they’re doing or stop hiding behind their anonymity as much as they do now.

The downside to all of this is that these things will never end. While we may think that it might be possible to control people online and convince them to behave with fear tactics, they’ll just move on to another location. It’s also nearly impossible to dig through the massive numbers of users to pick out a few troublemakers. World of Warcraft has over ten million active subscribers. This would cause massive problems if Blizzard decided they wanted to take action into their own hands. It would require a massive time sink with large numbers of employees focusing solely on trying to find the sources of problems. I would love to be able to say that you could hold people responsible for what they do online, but that is nothing more than a dream. There is no way that many people could be controlled without completely clamping down on the Internet in every way imaginable. We would have to have ISPs limit access, every website and game be completely monitored, and even more that would just be impossible or require too many people and too much time to be effective.

Article(s) used/quoted:
http://kokomoperspective.com/news/local_news/article_15a0a546-f574-11de-ab22-001cc4c03286.html

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