Monday, November 05, 2012

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Doxxing: Only Right To Save Real Lives -- But Even Then, It's Hard to Know When You Should (Comment of the Week)

Shockwave Yareach on doxxing

My post on the ethics of publicizing an pseudonymous Internet user's real life details (or "doxxing") provoked a really interesting reader conversation, perhaps most provocatively in this comment by longtime SLer Shockwave Yareach, who lays out a clear rule on when to dox -- and examples (some funny, some dark) where following that principle are difficult:

"In my humble opinion, the only justification for doxxing (I'm used to calling it outing, but I guess that was a different era) is to a) prevent a suicide, murder or other heinous bodily crime, and b) expose real life child molesters/rapists to the authorities.

"This is the only time I'll cross that line -- to save lives. If someone is bragging about stealing a car, how do I know he isn't talking about playing Grand Theft Auto? But someone has pics of naked children in their SL home, yeah, I'll call the cops and tell them anything I know.

"The difficulty comes in knowing whether or not someone is honestly suicidal or not. You have to actually know the person well to make this judgement call. Likewise with the question of murder -- I'm sure my wife has said she's gonna kill me when I get home countless times. That's not enough to summon the long arm of the law. Someone talking about X or Y property crime may just be talking about some game they play, just like someone overhearing you talking about AD&D game and the woman you slowly slaughtered with a glaive to get the information you needed ("Hello? Police? Listen, there's a couple of nerds talking about mutilating some poor girl...")

"I won't out people just because they are talking smack about some property crime. But, if I believe them when they talk about a rape or murder or suicide or other bodily crime, that's when I have to make the harsh decision. I've had to make the call a handful of times: a few, the police got there in time. One, the guy wasn't really suicidal and didn't appreciate the police hassling him."

"And one time, I didn't make the call because I didn't believe Hitz was really suicidal -- I was wrong."

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Extropia DaSilva

I think if you are psuedonymous you should be honest about it. I state very clearly on my second life profile, facebook page, Google+ account and blog that I am a 'digital person'- a character created and developed in online spaces that is not meant to represent any real life person. That way, everybody knows I am sort of fictional and can choose to connect with me or ignore me.

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