TIME Magazine and Japan Times on how online trolls (particularly Reddit) are ruining the Internet and media in general

TIME: This story is not a good idea. Not for society and certainly not for me. Because what trolls feed on is attention. And this little bit–these several thousand words–is like leaving bears a pan of baklava.

It would be smarter to be cautious, because the Internet’s personality has changed. Once it was a geek with lofty ideals about the free flow of information. Now, if you need help improving your upload speeds the web is eager to help with technical details, but if you tell it you’re struggling with depression it will try to goad you into killing yourself. Psychologists call this the online disinhibition effect, in which factors like anonymity, invisibility, a lack of authority and not communicating in real time strip away the mores society spent millennia building. And it’s seeping from our smartphones into every aspect of our lives.

The people who relish this online freedom are called trolls, a term that originally came from a fishing method online thieves use to find victims. It quickly morphed to refer to the monsters who hide in darkness and threaten people. Internet trolls have a manifesto of sorts, which states they are doing it for the “lulz,” or laughs. What trolls do for the lulz ranges from clever pranks to harassment to violent threats. There’s also doxxing–publishing personal data, such as Social Security numbers and bank accounts–and swatting, calling in an emergency to a victim’s house so the SWAT team busts in. When victims do not experience lulz, trolls tell them they have no sense of humor. Trolls are turning social media and comment boards into a giant locker room in a teen movie, with towel-snapping racial epithets and misogyny. They’ve been steadily upping their game…

Japan Times: This sort of behavior is not new. Trolls — individuals who purposely send insulting and threatening messages to comments sections and social media sites — may be an Internet-specific phenomenon, but the impulses that drive them are general and eternal. Some say the difference is less ideological than psychological: serial harassers hide behind masks to express their grievances with the world, regardless of political leanings. But ideology, or at least the presumption of a “position,” is always the delivery device for the grievance. […] Media outlets should prevent intimidation any way they can, but they’re failing their mission if they don’t stand up to it.

COMMENT: This is dangerous stuff. As the veteran of many years of online death threats myself, Cyberstalking is still stalking, and Japan no longer tolerates it like it used to outside of the Internet. Debito.org reiterates its stance that something should be done to make these anonyms into real people taking responsibility for their statements. To me, that means registering real names under traceable conditions, as has happened (abortively) in South Korea. Short of that, the trolls will continue to sour and soil the online environment, depriving others of the freedom of speech the trolls themselves allegedly cherish (and use as their excuse for abuse) by remaining anonymous, immune to the same critique and exposure they mete out to others.

BLOG BIZ: Warning to Debito.org Commenters about being cyber-stalked; don’t use your real name as moniker anymore

Anonymous Debito.org Reader: Hi Debito, I just wanted to let you know that last week on ‘tepido naruhodos’ page, I saw a thread that included a large amount of communication between some posters about the posters on debito.org. They were discussing that of that date they had collectively identified 63 debito posters through e-mail addresses and social media sites.

I don’t know if you were aware of this, or if it was brought to your attention. The posts on that subject disappeared at some point around the weekend. Quite frankly, I think that they are a strange bunch. I think tepido naruhodo/Ken YN/LB lives in my area, but I can’t identify and confront him on this issue.

I don’t know if you might want to warn your readers that they might be stalked, or if you have ideas for other action.

COMMENT: I have been cyberstalked by these creeps (and others; there is even a site devoted to the possibility of my being Jewish merely because I’m an activist) for many years now. And I am sorry that these creeps are now trying to use the same tactics towards other posters on this site. How vicious. And hypocritical. These creeps decry their lack of freedom of speech on this blog (I no longer approve their posts here; one look at the tone and commentary on the Tepido et.al sites will give you an indication why), yet are taking action not only against me, but also against others who express themselves here, just because they don’t agree with Debito.org Readers or with me personally.

I’m no certified mental health specialist, but I would say that these anonymous creeps (who remain mostly anonymous, of course, to evade any semblance of responsibility or maturity) have an unhealthy obsession with me personally and the issues on this site. Makes one wonder if they devote any time to having a real life away from the keyboard.

I suggest that Debito.org Readers, when you post, from now on avoid using your real name. Choose a unique moniker and stick with it. Protect yourself from the shit I have to deal with on a daily basis.

ELT News and Daily Yomiuri columnist Mike Guest misrepresents not only the record, but also his own academic credentials

Mike Guest, a columnist for the Daily Yomiuri newspaper, had a mean-spirited spoof interview on the ELT News website of a person named “Orudo Debiru”, a “naturalized Japanese citizen, originally from the U.S. His main claim to fame is his activism for human rights, especially the rights of non-Japanese in Japan” — and whose first choice for Japanese name after naturalization was “Martin Luther King”. (Mr Guest asserts that any associations with the author of this blog are our fault, “unwarranted connections”.) Interestingly enough, after misrepresenting in print both my opinions (there are no quotes, only apparent paraphrases) and the people who contribute to this blog, we gave him the same scrutiny. That’s how we found out that he also misrepresents his own academic credentials (which he even claimed were “similar to mine”) by publicly stating in lecture and in print that he graduated from a university he did not graduate from. Yet Mr Guest doesn’t quite seem to understand the gravity of this issue, as his antagonism, dismissiveness, defensiveness, blame-shifting, and deception continue unabated online. This pattern of misrepresenting the record is most unbecoming behavior for a columnist who deals with educational issues in trusted professional forums.