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Tech Talk

We’re all Internet victims sitting in wait

8/26/2015

The Internet can be the ugliest place in the world. Anonymous online posting is the No. 1 plague of the 21st century. The list of horrible things people can do on the Internet reads like a rap sheet for aliens to exterminate our species: hacking, child pornography, revenge-porn, hate speech, gamergate, outright racism and sexism, and my least favorite of all, doxxing.tech

Before we get too far down the rabbit hole of despicable web behavior, let’s clear something up — the Internet is not all bad. It allows us to communicate in ways that were unimagineable just 25 years ago. The Internet has changed the way people learn with online college degrees and free, in-depth tutorials with topics ranging from programming to quilting. The Internet has enlightened people across the globe to causes and issues that are completely disconnected from their everyday lives. The list of good uses and things on the Internet is so long, we virtually need the entire Internet to list them. But in all honesty, even though 51 percent of the Internet is wonderful, 49 percent of it is unquestionably awful.

For some, 49 percent may seem a little high. But when you include the amount of pornography online, the number may actually be closer to 75 percent. Grading on the curve that is online pornography, the Internet might be the biggest force for evil since the Third Reich. That’s not hyperbole. For instance, doxxing (or doxing, depending on your persuasion to the letter “x”) is the online act of anonymously taking someone’s entire life and basically throwing out into the middle of the street for all to see. I’m not talking about embarrassing photos or stories, I mean the information that could literally destroy you.

Doxxers share your home address, contact information, medical records, passwords, financial records, purchase history, private photos and videos, tax records, social security information and virtually anything else you might store away in a safety deposit box online for the world to see. Of course, this is illegal and comes with some serious felony charges, but the problem is that the Internet allows many perpetrators to doxx anonymously. In fact, some of the most popular online forums can be used anonymously.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube all have the ability to be used either anonymously or under pseudonyms. Twitter and YouTube have thrived for years on commenters and posters anonymously spewing their thoughts, many of which are horrifying. Still, the absolute Internet petri dish of anonymous posting are Reddit and 4Chan. Reddit is an extremely popular online forum where users anonymous post and rank Internet content. Posts either rise in popularity based on up votes or fade into obscurity. 4Chan is basically the same thing except with images and much looser moderation, so content can get obscene quickly. These two sites have been ground zero for some of the worst episodes of doxxing and revenge porn posting in the last decade.

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If done “correctly,” doxxing victims have little recourse but to contact authorities and pay large sums of money to change their personal information. One of the bigger web stars, Felicia Day, has been doxxed twice in recent history, and she is one of the Internet’s biggest champions. Despite having a fervent following of gamers, sci-fi geeks and comic book fans, Day was doxxed. I mean if an Internet queen is not safe, who is?

We’ve all been caught up in the moment and said or posted things we’ve regretted, but doxxing is unforgiveable. So if you feel you’ve been wronged and want to hurt someone, don’t risk jail by posting someone’s private information. Get yours the old fashioned way — pull your nemesis’ pants down and run. It’s much funnier and not as illegal. CV

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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