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Online Vandals and Vigilantes

Online Vandals and Vigilantes

My survey of bloggers is just 100 submissions off the magic 1,000 … or at least it would be if some clowns hadn’t added around 80 “comedy” or garbage entries.

This has lead me to think about online vandals and vigilantes …

I am not talking about the simple mistakes everyone makes, like submitting half way through and having to try again. No, these people have added swear words, “jokey” ( but not funny ) answers, abuse or ran their fingers across the keyboard.

Even more annoying, some of them added seemingly valid email addresses. So as well as screwing up my stats, they also expected to be entered into my prize draw. Those prizes are pretty neat, why on earth should I allow someone who soils my results to win a prize over someone else who took the time to fill out the survey correctly?

Now the thing is, with the email address I could go off on a rant or cause these guys problems of their own. Obviously I won’t, I am not that kind of bloke, but the opportunity is there.

On Digg you see it often. Some story appears where a school teacher has been evilly cruel to a child and next thing in the comments you have all the teachers, principals and school district contact details, leading to phone lines and emails getting clogged with complaints.

Even when you think you are anonymous online, there are ways and means of tracking you down. Especially when greed overcomes common sense as in my survey. I think this faux anonymity is the root cause of both the vandals and the vigilantes. This imagined protection allows them to behave in ways they never would in the physical world, but in the virtual they feel like anything is fair game.

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Very often the vigilantes go after the wrong target based on some faulty information, the vandals find their fun wasn’t so harmless after all, or either discover their identity is discovered and now they are on the sticky end. No matter how many times this happens, it doesn’t seem to serve as a lesson as the story is repeated over and over. I have seen people ruin their own reputations through retaliation far worse than what they were retaliating against.

Remember the guy who use DMCA to take down photographs of himself from sites who accused him of stealing other photographers work and claiming it as his own? The backlash to that was far in excess of the original accusation.

Next time you feel hot under the collar about something you see or read online, take some breaths and walk away. You never know if your reaction might cause you more problems than the thing that initiated it.

View Comments (5)
  • I recently added a question to LinkedIN. Roughly 1/5 of the responses were short, snarky and (dare I say) stupid. I don’t know enough about LinkedIN’s Q&A function to know if there is some popularity reason why someone would do this. It was mildly irritating, though.

    Trolls are as old as the internet. They were around when BBSs were the norm, they are on the forums and blogs of today, and I have a feeling they’ll be with us in the future.

    As for the virtual vigilante? I guess I’m too busy to worry about it. It’s an interesting question, though.

  • We see this in E-Commerce all the time. People who respond to contests or try to cheat loyalty programs. They don’t care who they cheat or who gets hurt in the bargain.

    Unfortunately, it’s part of the business. You can’t have an open access environment like the Internet and not have people who do this sort of thing.

    @Ed I just do not understand those trolls on LinkedIn. How dumb is that?

    As an aside, I will say that I have noticed more spam questions showing up in the Q&A in recent months. Seems like LinkedIn should spend a little bread on moderation.

  • If you let the public at large submit comments unmonitored, you can expect stupid entries.

    I wish that some of these comment sections were monitored to remove entries that are irrelevant, written incoherently, not properly punctuated and capitalized, not repetitive of other comments, and not in all caps.

  • @Ed – It might just be my memory failing but I remember BBS trolls at least being clever or funny?

    @Michael – Spelling and punctuation I don’t mind as they are not intentional to annoy or upset, it’s the stuff that is just junk or offensive that gets to me

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