Saturday, September 28, 2013

Laura Bolton - Assignment #2: Analysis of an Online Crime

Laura Bolton -Assignment #2

To summarize the LA times article titled “China teen arrested for controversial crime of spreading rumors online”, in Beijing, a 16 year old boy (Yang) is currently being detained by authorities due to his excessive postings and criticism of his local police force as he sees that they were useless and acting suspiciously in the investigation of a recent suicide in his area. The reason for the arrest is that the police claim the boy was “disrupting social order”, however the case is proving controversial due to the accused violation of free speech.

Firstly, while not explicitly an extreme case of Toxic Disinhibition, the young boy’s expression of negative language and criticisms of his local police force. Also, as Suler explains the concept of blind catharsis and “acting out of unsavory needs without personal growth”, the boy’s actions were undoubtedly “unsavory” towards the police as he rhetorically exclaimed: “Where is the justice?” The Middle Schooler is not a victim of the Disinhibition Effect due to the legitimacy of police authority in China; they are the higher power and have no need to act inexplicitly. The main reasoning behind his actions is due to Invisibility. While Yang’s name was alongside his posts, he was not invisible in that sense, however due to the comments being made online, he was not face-to-face with the police. Therefore, one would imagine that he would not make these comments in front of a live crowd of people or even in a police station.  For Yang it was simply typing on a keyboard and clicking “post” to the free-range forum alone in his room, the comfortable and non-instantaneous consequential environment gave his the courage to blatantly citizen the Chinese authorities, yet consequences soon ensued.

A common use for social media is as a platform for expression – it is a space where users can, to a certain extent, post anything they like. However, as Yang is currently experiencing, when brought to the attention of the authorities, online actions can have real-life consequences. The “new rumor regulation” (if a rumor is posted/shared more than 500 times then the poster can be punished) enforced by the Chinese police is a law that one might imagine to be difficult to enforce, yet unfortunately for Yang, the disinhibition effect is not working out in his favor.

John Suler. CyberPsychology & Behavior. June 2004, 7(3): 321-326. doi:10.1089/1094931041291295.

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