Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Crowds...or mobs?

It is common to address the positive achievements of collaboration on the internet.

I wonder: Can collaborating on the internet lead to a mob mentality?

There are obviously those who use the internet with malicious intent. What would happen if a group of these people collaborated with one another?

One such group comes to mind: Anonymous. The group is united through the internet by their anonymity, hence their name. The power of this group is actually frightening. Essentially, th
ey pick a target, and then using collaborative efforts, they attack their target. For example, they 'raided' Epilepsy Foundation of America's forums, covering it with seizure inducing animations.

A few fliers from other efforts.

Another unique feature of these groups is that a mob on the internet can easily become a mob in real life by ways of the internet. Because the internet allows people to contact each other instantaneously and spread information around quickly, these groups can organize 'flash mobs.' A collaborative effort that leaks from the internet out on the streets.

At the moment Anonymous and similar groups are more of annoyance than something to be taken seriously, but, I believe that groups like these shouldn't be overlooked. They have potential to cause some real damage. It's just harassment now, but more serious cyber-crime and cyber-warfare is not out of their reach.

This leads me to the conclusion, at the risk of sounding cliche
, that collaboration and crowd-sourcing on the internet seems to be a blade which can cut both ways.


  1. Is there a "reason" why Annonymous raided the Epilepsy forums? That seems like a terrible thing to do, regardless of whether they had a reason or not... But out of context, this act makes them sound like an online terrorist group that targets randomly, which may or may not be true.

  2. Good point. Anonymous seems to have a kind of strange moral self-righteousness, but no well-defined moral code. I'm cool with them attacking stuff like Scientology, or ordering 100 pizzas for someone on TV for the lulz or whatever, but they have hunted people down and ruined lives online. They have a lot of power in numbers, and their anonymity provides them with a lot of internal protection, but the frightening aspect of crowdsourcing is that it's difficult to make a crowd self-regulate.