Digital Abuse

The digital media ethics symposium featured a few recognizable faces that we have seen, or at least talked about in class: such as Luciano Floridi and the internationally known Anita Sarkeesian. Unfortunately for me, I was unable to attend the symposium when they spoke. I was interested to learn the criticism of female depictions in video games, as well as the philosophy behind media ethics. However, I was able to at least hear the words of Sara Perry, Director of Studies of Digital Heritage and Lecturer in Cultural Heritage Management at the University of York.

Perry went on to discuss digital abuse, an issue we are all familiar with, where those with sinister intention when using the internet get their way, or at least have to opportunity to hurt others in the process. What stuck out to me was the emphasis of individual responsibility. The Internet entirely is a vast universe in it of itself, where this realm works under the construct of different rules and the very nature of it, at first glance, seems almost foreign.

But as Perry went on with her speech, it reminded me of one topic in particular that the class brought up concerning how we view ourselves ethically online. The notorious rape of LambdaMOO, a topic of controversy and a Pandora’s box of the awareness that the universe of the internet and that of everyday life cannot be looked at as two separate entities with their own set of rules and enforcements.


The two overlap. Laws are being regulated to track down and punish mischievous behaviors online – such as fraud, theft, even harassment. We cannot look at the Internet as a vessel for our cruelty, a way to mitigate or nevertheless avoid the consequences of our actions. Resorting back to the LambdaMOO conundrum, yes, there was no actual rape – in the physical sense. But when looking at something like rape, the emotional and psychological trauma that comes with it, those are just as important as the physical component.

Perry stressed near the end of her speech that we must use what’s called “digital care” when handling media. The Internet is a privilege, not a right that can be taken advantage of. Instead of looking at the masses, or instead of looking at other people’s behaviors online and incorporating what is observed into how we act online; let’s look at the individual. Let’s look at ourselves and make the decision, ethically, how we use the Internet.


1) If you could create one law for the Internet, what would it be? Why?

2) Is harassment online the same as it is in everyday life? Is it different? Explain.


Written by: Alexander Lakin


One comment

  1. Scrolling through comments on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc. is always a daunting task. Whether it is something I have posted, or another person’s content that is receiving “hate”, it is often difficult to read. It seems like people of all ages post things on the Internet thinking that the same rules of real-world communication do not apply online. I’ve always been told to, “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.” Does this not apply to our virtual realities? In other words, I do think that people consider harassment as falling under different terms online than in everyday life. If I’m understanding your question correctly, I would interpret harassment to be far more demeaning online with less threatening implications for the person creating the negative content. Therefore, I would agree with Sara Perry on the idea that we can only lessen harassment and improve the online community by each observing our individual contributions, and changing the ways we approach the vast realm of new media.

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