Kids with Computers: Trust and Credibility in a Hacking Culture

It seems that trust, credibility and authority online are the order of the day, with this week’s media heralding their biggest scoop of news toward the major iCloud celebrity nude photo leak. Of course this particular piece of news begs the question of who is responsible. Do we blame the hackers, or are the internet-users viewing these pictures to take equal blame? Many blog posts and articles have been published regarding the dos’ and don’ts of online etiquette when it comes to a major violation of someone’s right to privacy. Clementine Ford from Daily Life touched on societies view of women in the spotlight, and many Facebook users have circulated the message, warding curious eyes away from the scandal so to avoid being associated. Perez Hilton battled the moral dilemma of posting the raw images, re-posting them with censoring, then taking them down altogether.

 

Although the iCloud leak is the loudest story in the media this week, I’d like to address one other internet privacy story that is happening within a smaller pocket of the internet. While the public figures involved are not A-listers, they are making scandalous news waves within the online gaming culture. Websites like The Daily Dot have aptly titled it The Sexist crusade to destroy game developer Zoe Quinn

It all started when Eron Gonji discovered his girlfriend, Zoe Quinn, had been unfaithful to him and he decided to write a blog post of the ordeal. While only text messages and chat logs are provided as evidence, since the original post went live the internet has lashed out at Zoe Quinn as a response. They have accused Quinn for trading sexual favours for career advancement in the game developer industry. Tumblr provided this comparison:

Capture

 

This raises the issue of privacy and public platforms. Josh Mattingly (pictured above) sexually harassed a female game developer online via his Facebook page, making his information public and accessible, whereas Zoe Quinn kept her private life off the public platforms. At least until Gonji posted it there. On top of this, 4chan.org is riddled with conspiracy theories and anger over the ordeal, and when Phil Fish posted in defense of Quinn’s privacy his own site got hacked and his social security number was leaked. The underlying issue in all of this is that the internet population was very swift and very aggressive in their response towards Quinn for her personal indiscretions. Writers like David Auerbach are using the backlash at Quinn as an opportunity to defend women in the gaming industry, and promote good causes like the Women Making Video Games for Charity project.

Kim Swift, the project lead for Portal has written a great blog post about her own obstacles in game production due to her gender. Since the recent backlash at Zoe Quinn, her family has been harassed, naked photos of her have circulated, and she has received a number of anonymous threats to her life and well-being. Why are we targeting her on such a personal level? What does all the harassment and abuse change? Gamers on 4chan and Escapist have commented:

“Trying to shame Zoe more is derailing us from useful endeavours like brainstorming more ideas for inclusive video games… which are far more productive than bitching about one woman’s sex life.”

“We need to stop focusing on her and focus on the journalists. … We need to not make this about Zoe.”

 

I can relate the Zoe Quinn scandal to the iCloud photo leak with one major point: the scandal is not in who is involved and what they have done, the scandal lies in the viral nature of the abuse and privacy violation. The reason the iCoud scandal is making headlines is not because “oh my god Jennifer Lawrence is naked under her clothes,” but because it tells the public that their privacy online isn’t private at all. The reason the Zoe Quinn scandal is trending online is not because she was unfaithful, but because of the mass abuse and harassment she is now experiencing due to a violation of privacy. Laurie Penny sums it up:

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It seems that by the pure scale of uproar surrounding Zoe Quinn’s alleged promiscuity implies that references, facts and proof are not deemed important when considering viral internet material. While there was no proof given by Gonji of her sexual relations involving career advancement, this has not stopped internet-users from believing the accusations. It seems that by this standard, the onus falls on the online audience to choose what is worthy of their attention. There will always be pockets deep within the labyrinth of the internet that enjoy trolling or posting inflammatory content, however for the most part, the publishers who can verify their sources, provide proof and show research will hopefully continue to reign supreme. David Auerbach summarises it simply: “It’s because of ubiquitous sexist abuse that the “adults” in the room have to stop the bloodshed in pretty blunt ways.” Let’s hope the adult population outweighs the children.

The History of Social Media, and other Short Stories

 When I started high school it was unimaginable that my friends’ web-presence could be more compelling and entertaining than their physical presence. The year was 2005, and Facebook was barely one year old – not at all a competitor against MySpace for my love and attention. Even when I moved to Sydney and began my degree, it was only between 2011-2014 that I really started to notice the migration to online social networking. By now, Facebook has 1.25 billion users worldwide, shadowing all other social networks. My aspirations of print journalism were swiftly swallowed whole by the ever-looming presence of social media, and I turned my attention to more technological pursuits. Indeed, all we need do is look to Brian Solis’s ever-updating Conversation Prism in order to understand the range of social media at our fingertips. So why is it that we have made the transition so effortlessly into online media? In order to answer my own questions, I need to look at what’s behind us.

Brian Solis and JESS3’s Conversation Prism, 2014

Blogging

In the 1990s the word ‘blog’ was coined from the words ‘web’ and ‘log’, and became a relevant cultural format in 2006. Initially the primary genre of the blog was the online diary, but then it expanded into business news and developer diaries. Particular characteristics of the blog include: dynamic content, individual ‘posts’ (with text and ‘embedded’ media, and their own individual URL) that are traditionally organized in reverse-chronological order. Blogs are ideally easily navigable and well documented, and offer ease of connection between blogs and bloggers (permalinks, blogrolls, trackbacks, and specialized search engines).

With the rise of political blogging in 2001, the popularity of blogging gained momentum. In 2002 political bloggers broke a story about racist comments made by Senator Trent-Lott, leading to his resignation. Blogs soon became a credible source of news to the public. Google purchased Blogger in 2003 under undisclosed terms. In 2004 bloggers were given press badges in order to cover US elections. As of August 2014, the Huffington Post is the most popular blog, with estimates of over 110,000,000 unique monthly visitors.

Blogging is the earliest established platform as a ‘representative’ social media. They are acknowledged to have a major impact on journalism and politics, as well as many other genres and uses.This is both an excellent outlet for communication between people around the world, but also gives way to the negative effects of the ever-growing internet ‘over-share’. 
tsndrunkblog

Social and Mobile
The major online social platforms are:

  • Flickr: 87 million users, 8 billion photos, 3.5 million new photos daily
  • Facebook: 1.25 billion users and climbing
  • QQ: 800 million users
  • Reddit: 4.8 billion monthly page views
  • Tumblr: 200 million blogs
  • Twitter: 500 million users
  • Sina Weibo: 503 million users

Major mobile statistics:

  • 7 billion mobile phone subscriptions globally by the end of 2013
  • 5 billion mobile phones/subscriptions sold in 2012
  • 60% + all of new mobile phones are smart phones
  • Over 1.2 million apps in the iPhone app store by mid-2014
  • Added at a rate of 25,000 per month

In 2006 Time Magazine named their person of the year as ‘You’, celebrating the social media boom, also referred to as the Web 2.0 ‘revolution’. Over time, Web 2.0 played a major role in political movements and protester agendas. In 2011 Time Magazine named the ‘masked protester’ as their person of the year, in blatant reference to the democratic uprisings across the ‘Arab World’. Social media played a particularly important role in the Egyptian revolution of 2011.

The more intertwined social media becomes with our world news, the more connected the world will become with the medium. Between 2011 and 2014 alone, the number of Facebook users has risen from 700 million to 1.25 billion, and this number is still climbing. We are in the motions of transitioning to an online world, and whether it is spent gaming or surfing the net, the average ‘screen time’ for a child is up to 35 hours a week. It seems that as early as the 90s, more and more people have become aware of the uniqueness of online media, and it is only a matter of time before blogging and micro-blogging replace print media completely.

So what are your concerns? Do you think that along with the social media boom will come an unwelcome and unstoppable flood of ill-informed opinions, or are we all entitled to a public platform? Can any old blogger with a screen and an internet connection have their say, or will we still respect the opinion of an elite few?