It Has To Be Said: Pseudo-Realities

by Jessica Holyoke on 21/08/11 at 2:10 am

As reported here, two teens were sentenced to four years of prison each for using Facebook to incite a riot after UK officials monitored social media.  Prime Minister David Cameron stated that while social medi can be used for good, the same media can also be used for ill and must be monitored and controlled.  

At the same time, an ocean and a continent away, a cartoonist is being charged with cyber stalking after making videos mocking the local police department and their unethical ways. Judge Cayce in Kings County, Washington heard arguments on the warrant this week.

Meanwhile, Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao - two Chinese dissidents - are still prisoners in the People's Republic of China.

Now as I previously wrote on the Herald, Yahoo! China released the identifying details of Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao to the Beijing security services.  Wang and Shi were not operating under the real names, but as pseudonyms. Then Yahoo! was sued in the United States, brought before the U.S. House of Representatives, and made to beg for forgiveness from Wang and Shi's families.  

This was in 2008.  After the first two stories, I start noticing something.

Facebook doesn't like avatar names. Google Plus doesn't like avatar names. Second Life also looked at linking real names with avatar names.  The Kings County prosecutor, who was selected by the police to prosecute this case, is currently trying to get a warrant served after a motion to quash was filed. But the Crown Prosecutors didn't need to bother, as the youths sentenced just used their real names.  And as an added bonus, China is congratulating the UK on its internet restrictions. 

Suppose - besides providing better accuracy for advertisers - Facebook, Google and the rest are demanding real names to prevent being in Yahoo!'s position in 2008?  If the authorities already know who to come after, there is no need to turn over any information. The person is as exposed as if they were in a city street shouting the same statements, but in the online world their words are recorded forever with an arrow pointing to them.  

This approach reduces the internet service provider's liability.  When the Wang and Shi cases came around, the commentator class said Yahoo! didn't need to turn over the information.  Simply put, if a Chinese security services officer asked an employee located in China for information on dissidents, the employee could turn them away and nothing further would happen to the employee or the company. Because as anybody knows, police officers will simply go away if you tell them no.

Yahoo! was sued when they turned over the identifying information, and had to settle the suit while being called before the U.S. Congress to testify about what happened.  But if Yahoo! had not turned over the identifying information, then beyond a loss of business, Yahoo!'s Chinese employees might have found themselves arrested for anything up to being an accessory to obstructing justice.

Notice that while Yahoo! was sued and called before Congress and told they had failed, the two dissidents are still in jail, three years later. 

By moving from avatar identity and pseudonyms to legal identities, Google and Facebook can step back and let whatever authorities arrest whoever they want because without pseudonyms protecting avatars/players and involving corporate bottom lines. 

What will be truly telling is whether Judge Cayce allows the Kings County cartoonist warrant to go through. Will Google balk at revealing the identifying of the cartoonist McFiddlesticks - and then face liability themselves, or will Google comply and let a person who anonymously aired out the police department's dirty laundry without identifying the department's name be put on trial for a potential felony?

11 Responses to “It Has To Be Said: Pseudo-Realities”

  1. James Freud

    Aug 21st, 2011

    The Alphaville Herald – We Report Other People’s News Now That There’s Nothing To Talk About In Second Life Anymore.

  2. hobo kelly

    Aug 21st, 2011

    heaven is a place,
    a place where nothing,
    nothing ever happens…

  3. Nelson Jenkins

    Aug 21st, 2011

    “Prime Minister David Cameron stated that while social medi can be used for good, the same media can also be used for ill and must be monitored and controlled.” – should be “media”

    “Now as I previously wrote previously on the Herald”

    “Wang and Shi were not operating under the real names, but as pseudonyms.” – should be “under” (you cannot operate as a pseudonym)

    “After the first two stories, I start noticing something.” – should be “noticed” (“start noticing” is not the correct tense, and “started noticing” is not very logical as the process of noticing something is pretty instantaneous)

    “Suppose – besides providing better accuracy for advertisers – Facebook, Google and the rest are demanding real names to prevent being in Yahoo!’s position in 2008?” – not a question, use a period

    Burt if Yahoo! had not turned over the identifying information” – should be “But” (even though it’s grammatically incorrect)

    Did you even proofread this?

  4. Gundel Gaukelei

    Aug 21st, 2011

    We should never have tunneled the channel. There was a reason, nature put the british on an island.

  5. Yep

    Aug 21st, 2011

    Go getem Tiger :P

  6. Jessica Holyoke

    Aug 21st, 2011

    If I had properly proofread my editorial, would you still have commented?

    I think of myself as operating “as” Jessica Holyoke as opposed to “under” Jessica Holyoke. Immersionists may disfavored lately in order for service providers to avoid any liability for certain acts.

  7. Nelson Jenkins

    Aug 21st, 2011

    @ Jessica Holyoke

    Probably not. Your point?

  8. Pappy Enoch

    Aug 22nd, 2011

    I needs me one o’ them-there proofreaders. The last one up and died.

  9. Wizard Gynoid

    Aug 22nd, 2011

    @Nelson I happen to be a hard ass too when it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammatical mistakes in a blog. Here though, i say “cut her some slack.” It’s obvious to me that Jessica is not a native English speaker. I suggest you try to make thoughtful comments on the content of her blog.

  10. Paul

    Aug 22nd, 2011

    I am sorry this article received so many stupid responses. Going forward, the subject the author is attempting to broach is far more relevant to all our lives then the jlu/griefer nonsense. Thanks Jessica, although I think the much of the AH audience is reading with (at least) one eye closed.

  11. marilyn murphy

    Aug 23rd, 2011

    i congratulate the author on this evaluation of current circumstances as regards our personal privacy and the internet. i am not educated in this subject to that depth. i merely assume/believe that if a very knowledgeable person wanted to get my ss number or my bank account number, they probably can. also, i assume good computer/tool users could track me down, whether police or stalkers. am i wrong? that everything
    here is permanently attached to me does not concern me.

Leave a Reply