Sunday, October 6, 2013

Assignment #2: Alex Krzyzosiak

Two female teenagers Chantel Williams and Jasmine Montgomery from Louisiana were arrested for cyber stalking after threatening to inflict physical harm and to kill another female teenager on Twitter. The harassment began two years prior and the victim was forced to transfer schools but even after this she still endured threatening messages because Montgomery’s boyfriend showed interest in the victim. Both Williams and Montgomery were booked into the East Baton Rouge Prison while Williams was issued an additional charge of Simple Assault and had a bond set at $7,500. 
Of the different causes that Suler identifies as generating “disinhibition,” the particular causes associated with this case are dissociative anonymity and invisibility. The reason why dissociative anonymity is evident in and in the sense that way these two women felt disassociated from their behavior and felt like their online actions did not have to do with their real lives.

Closely related to dissociative anonymity, another cause for the disinhibition exhibited by these two teens is the notion of invisibility. Although Williams and Montgomery’s identities on Twitter were partially anonymous (their handles didn’t contain their real names) and the fact that they were not physically present in threatening the victim, essentially amplified the disinhibition effect and text only communication like on Twitter, encouraging this disinhibition even more. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Assignment 2: Noriko Yamasaki

A Denton woman named Michelle Speed was arrested for terrorizing an Oregon woman via Internet for three years. Speed was accused of online impersonation and for the breach of security. Speed not only made sure she targeted the victim’s social media websites but also sent the victim’s employer an email demanding that she be fired. It is important to note that Speed is the ex-girlfriend of the victim’s boyfriend. If convicted of online impersonation, Speed will face a maximum of 10 years in prison.
According to John Suler’s article “Online Disinhibition Effect”, there are several reasons that motivate cyber crime to be committed. The disinhibition effect most likely motivated Speed’s actions are dissociative anonymity and invisibility. Speed was able to remain anonymous by stealing her victim’s identity and use that to cover up her true identity. Speed had the opportunity via the Internet to separate her actions online and her personal life and identity. Speed also created a fake Facebook account in the victim’s name, creating an alter ego pretending to be the victim. It was possible for Speed to remain invisible for 3 years because people could not hear and see the real her and therefore, people were unable to prove that she was impersonating the victim. Speed’s identity was only revealed when Denton police investigators traced the IP address back to her.

Assignment 2: FBI arrests founder of digital black market Silk Road (Beth Powell)

The Silk Road was a digital marketplace for illegal goods. Anything from narcotics to human growth hormone to weapons could be found on this platform. Launched in 2011 by Ross William Ulbricht, the website had grown into an international hub of goods and services. The Silk Road used a system of currency called Bitcoins for all transactions. Further, the site used encryption techniques to hide the identities of all users. Ulbricht faces charges of money laundering, narcotics trafficking and conspiring to commit computer hacking offenses - all because he was the creator of the site.
In connecting this crime with Suler’s article “The Online Disinhibition Effect”, Ulbricht was most likely motivated by the disinhibition effect of invisibility. Because of the encryption techniques incorporated into the website, both the vendors and the buyers remained anonymous. The black-market, whether online or in reality, focuses on illegal goods. Those in association with such a marketplace do not want to become known or have their identities put on the line, whether they are the supplier or the consumer. Ulbricht was therefore responsible for the founding a lucrative platform based on anonymous identity and illegal trade.  His use of invisibility was what made the Silk Road so successful.


Assignment 2: Aliza Levin

Aliza Levin
Sociology 167 Assignment 1

In May of 2013, eight individuals teamed together and ultimately stole nearly $45 million from financial institutions over the span of just two days. The cybercrime organization was in no way violent or threatening, and instead did everything using just the Internet and their computers. These eight men used incredibly strategic and sophisticated intrusion techniques to make their way into online global financial institutions and organizations. Through doing this, they obtained all the information and data they needed from prepaid debit cards and also eliminated withdrawal limitations. Once they had all the card information they needed, the eight individuals used the stolen card information at ATMs worldwide, and managed to withdraw $2.8 million in just a few hours. Today, these individuals face charges of money laundering conspiracy, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit access device fraud, and seven out of eight of them are in jail.

According to John Suler’s “The Online Disinhibition Effect,” I would most likely attribute the 8 criminals’ cause of disinhibition to Suler’s notion of dissociative anonymity, in which “people can hide some or all of their identity” (322). Every illegal action that the hackers did through the Internet was entirely anonymous, and no one would have been able to identify the names had it not been for their presence at the various the ATM machines around the country. These eight men were able to log onto their laptops, use their technologically savvy skills to get into the systems of various global financial institutions, and steal all the debit card information that they needed without ever once disclosing their names or identity, aside from their IP addresses, which are out of their control. As Suler explains, “The online self becomes a compartmentalized self” (322).  The eight men were able to entirely separate everything they did on their computers from their day-to-day lives, and dissociative anonymity allowed for them to never have to reveal their identities while obtaining any of the information from the Internet. Although this act of cybercrime seems simply crazy, there are clearly people in the world that are desperate and/or crazy enough to go to extreme measures to get the money that they need or want. It is unrealistic to think that they would do such a crime if they had to disclose their identity, which is why the dissociative anonymity most likely would be Suler’s cause behind this absolutely ridiculous act on the Internet.

In this particular act of cybercrime, the victims (either those in the financial institutions or the owners of the debit cards) were not even aware of the crime that was occurring until they checked their accounts. Because of these circumstances, a disinhibition effect cannot be associated with them, because the cybercrime was entirely one-sided and did not directly involve the victims when it was in the process of being done.

Assignment 2: Kimiya Hojjat

This September in China, a new law about spreading rumors on the internet has taken place in light of recent events. A 16 year old middle school student, Yang, known as Brother Hui, posted rumors about a police case of a recent 'death accident' on his personal social media network, QQ, where presumably, he thought that only a private network of his friends would witness. However, his rumored statements questioning the police's actions have gone against the societal grain as slander, gaining the attention of hundreds of viewers who gathered at the scene of the death and chanted slogans, totally disrupting social order and bringing in the police to investigate. In a ruling on September 10th this year, the Chinese Supreme Court has declared that online rumor - spreading would be considered illegal and punishable if a message was reposted 500 times or more, or if it had been viewed over 5,000 times. Now, Yang's parents are fighting vigorously for his defense and claiming that "he does not have any hatred of his society." Others seem to be floored that the government is taking this case so seriously, claiming that they are "even scared of middle school students," and exalting Yang as the poster-child for free speech. Ultimately this crime seems more consequential for the government and their ability to save face, than it does for the public. However, it does go so far as to show the extent to which digital communication can cross the line when people feel...a little too free.

Many of the disinhibition effects come into play in some way or another here – however subtly – but I would say that Suler's idea of the Minimization of Status and Authority plays the largest role in Yang's actions and the subsequent consequences he faced. On the seemingly 'private' social forum of QQ, Yang, expressed some opinions about the recent death of a man who fell from an upper floor of a karaeoke building. This would have probably gone unnoticed otherwise if it weren't for the fact that he suggested the 'victim might have been beaten to death and then thrown from the building' among other rumors. In many digital environments, most everyone has a relative freedom of expression regardless of their status. After all, how could anyone efficiently gauge a member's authority or intelligence on the internet? And for that matter, how could anyone truly exert authority over another in cyberspace? These grey lines blur boundaries and allow for a nuanced interpretation of what is legally and socially appropriate. Yang's passive sense of disinhibition allowed him to voice his controversial opinions, influencing others via a "skill in communicating...persistence, the quality of [his] ideas, [etc.]," to either agree or at least be aggravated enough to take some sort of action. Ultimately, the factor here that makes this story so interesting is the fact that it took place online. It is not as if Yang would have the same feeling of confidence and social leisure to spread rumors in real space; he has no authority to do so and is surely well aware of the consequences that could arise. In fact, "he comes from a poor family that runs a noodle shop." Online, the feeling of a minimization of status along with a sort of dissociative anonymity(distancing himself from both the public domain and the socially expected identity of a common Chinese middle school boy) lubricates the motivation to stir up governmental trouble, whether that motivation honestly resided in expressing innocent opinions or spreading rumors. Suler sums up these ideas cohesively in displaying how people are reluctant to express themselves honestly in front of authority figures in the public domain for fear of disapproval, punishment or what have you. However, when entering an online domain surrounded by peers, "the appearances of authority [are] minimized, people are much more wiling to speak out and misbehave." This story poses a lot of interesting ideas about the social psychological effects of digital space and how consequences can leak into the real world. 

Assignment 2 : Daniel Perry Skype Threats (Siddhant Puri)

A seventeen year old, Daniel Perry killed himself after he was targeted in an extortion scam through Skype. Daniel had a conversation with a person who he believed was a girl his own age. However, a gang hijacked the chat and threatened to show his family the video unless he paid them off. However, a gang then hijacked the chat and threatened to show the video to his family and friends, unless he paid them off. Within an hour he went to the Fort Road Bridge and committed suicide. His family said that he felt
Within an hour of the threat and fearing for the repercussions he went to the Forth Road Bridge where he jumped to his death last month. His family said that he Daniel felt that he had let everyone down.

Cyberbullying has become more rampant with the rise of social media. This is an example of dissociative anonymity because the criminals got Daniel’s skype id from his twitter account and lured him by using a girl. It was a case of cyberblackmail and Daniel felt helpless and was too ashamed to approach any of his loved ones. The oversharing of private information amongst teens has given cyber criminals an opportunity to exploit them. It is very difficult to be tracked and especially in cases like these where the biggest threat is their own parents.

- Siddhant Puri