The Internet is a sort of Wild West land, but with mostly pictures, video and text rather than gunslinging and smoky salons. There’s the law trying to police and keep everything civil and fair, thinking that it has say over things. Then there’s the rest of the Internet – the 99 percent - where it’s all no man’s land. Every type of voice, every thought, idea, stance, like, dislike and so on can be heard by a near unlimited audience depending on how much or little the forum the poster posted on is secured.
Sometimes trolling can come back to haunt you
Anonymity not always guaranteed.
All under an anonymous handle that can be hidden behind with the right amount of caution. IPs can be hidden, e-mails made anonymous. The whole being anonymous thing was to allow people to be honest in what they say and to avoid consequences – especially net activists in not so welcome countries.
But another creature popped up in all this – the troll. Under that same guise of protection, trolls say and do things they (probably) don’t believe and would be less likely to say in public to simply cause mayhem and get a rise out of people. You try to argue them and they have your attention and have ‘won.’ You ignore them and the try and roll over your discussion. Even banning them gives them the rush of irritating a person enough to get such treatment.
So it was very odd that a very notorious troll by name of Violentacrez was after years of flourishing on large social site with thread boards such as ‘Rapebait’ and ‘Pics of Dead Kids’ was outed by his real life name. The man behind the name was exposed to the world as a 49-year-old family man, an unexpected image that most wouldn’t conclude with ‘Internet troll.’
This exposure cost the man his job and has his family shouldering threats and anger from those that were fed up with his online persona’s antics. And considering what those antics made him out to be a violent pedophile, the backlash was immense.
Violentacrez’ story is a cautionary one – that those who cause a ruckus online aren’t as safe as you’d think. Getting ‘dox’d’ (or outed) but a determined nettizen is not hard if they don’t like what you have to say. This sets both a good and bad precedent – trolls (especially the most egregious ones) will have to watch their backs because as much as they want to say ‘free speech!’ people also have the freedom to recoil and call you out on it.
But legitimate activists also hold this fear that someday someone will just as reveal their names to the public. And unlike Mr. Violentacrez where mainly a public shamming and job loss were all to knowledge occur, these people depending of where they live could face a lot worse – ask Malala Yousufzai.