When the Internet Leaves Nowhere to Hide

I wanted to expand upon a topic I mentioned in passing during my previous post: the right to anonymity. Anonymity as a legal right is something of a Catch-22; if you need to assert it, then you probably have no way of getting it back. Although this can be said of many legal remedies (the harm is irreparable so we compensate with monetary damages) with anonymity the harm is uniquely intangible, and often seems contrary to the common good. After all, the opposite of anonymity is transparency and freedom of information, two fundamental values to any free society. So while anonymity certainly has many benefits, its tendency to infringe upon other rights has relegated it to a lower tier on the hierarchy of American civil rights. Continue reading

Tor: The Dark (Online) World

This week marked the beginning of the trail of software designer Ross William Ulbricht, accused of being the progenitor and operator of the online black market “Silk Road.” Silk Road was arguably the most prominent of several anonymous online black markets, all facilitated by Tor. Tor, short for “The Onion Router,” is a free online software package that enables online anonymity and is renowned for being one of the most difficult to wiretap methods of communication on the internet. Through a system known as onion routing, Tor allows people from anywhere in the world (even in internet restrictive countries like China) to communicate completely anonymously, and has served as a bastion for both unhindered free speech and difficult to track illegal activity. Continue reading

Gamergate and E-Harassment

I’ve wanted to talk about Gamergate for quite some time now. As a self-proclaimed casual gamer, seeing the ugly underbelly of the video game world exposed is both harrowing and eye opening, and necessarily provokes a lot of thoughts. For those who don’t know, Gamergate is a social media phenomenon (see also #gamergate) wherein a critique of video game journalism rapidly descended into a misogynistic free-for-all involving widespread harassment of female game designers and game critics. While discussions about sexism and misogyny in gaming did not originate with Gamergate, the extremity of the backlash in this instance does seem to be unique, and has led to numerous discussions about gamer culture, internet culture, and the host of problems they present. I don’t want to oversimplify what is inevitably a complicated issue, but it’s hard to deny that the reason #gamergate became such a big deal is because of its implications for gender politics. Continue reading