As we have learned in previous chapters, online communities have been platforms for people to start new lives, to create their own identities, and furthermore, become more presentable and accepted. We have not yet covered online communities that allow people to interact in negative lights. Rather, we have delved into how the virtual tools, avatars, and different sites are manipulated in addition to how they are consuming people’s time, emotions, and turning their online worlds into some sort of a reality.
Jessi McCabe’s article was able articulate the terrors that are made possible by online anonymity. The basic concept was that people can so easily find comfort and support by converging their individual beliefs amongst others with similar beliefs. Of course, there has been an overwhelming amount of moral and professional usage of convergence, but it has also been a portal for negative and unmoral behavior to exist. In the same way that alternative and underground music has a socially acceptable place online – where it would not in mainstream radio or reality, so do cults, positive negative support groups, hackers, etc.
The example that McCabe used of pro-eating disorders was powerful because she was able to capture how the Internet could possess such evils. The support, the tips and encouragement of such a terrible disorder gives reality to its growth and progression. I believe that the concept closely paralleled an epidemic. The only difference is that there has been no quarantine standards, no vaccination to cure and no preventative care. The Internet has very few standards. There is little to no regulation over the uncappable amount of information that is instilled into cyberspace. Every social perspective and all behaviors are welcome. Due to the ever-growing nature of information, there will probably not be any censorship to come in the near future. It puts into question, Where does freedom of speech cross the line? When it endangers the lives of online users? As McCabe stated, it is a new topic of research and there must be a lot of analytical work put into the research of how the online reality of pro-eating disorders affect real world reality disorders before any legitimate actions could be taken. However, raising the awareness of the seriousness of the issue needed to be done. Such freedom on the web allows for evil to permeate and influence such a large audience.
The article Mutilated Furries, Flying Phalluses: Put the Blame on Griefers, the Sociopaths of the Virtual World, also touches on the terror that exists amongst virtual worlds. For no reason greater than for “the lulz” or in other words laughs, reported an online hacker, or could be represented as a virtual world terrorist. The only people that take responsibility for these actions are IT professionals that work for the virtual world companies. However all they can really do is slow them down, and there is no legal, or even serious for that matter, repercussions for people who create chaos to these virtual worlds.
Ultimately, I think that there needs to be a crack down on security and censorship that exists in virtual online bases. There are several examples from the readings alone that demonstrate the terror that exists. The ripple effect will be far greater than we can even imagine. I have personally not heard any plan of action that works to better equip virtual worlds with higher levels of safety. A few years down the line – we might be sorry for not taking action.