Netiquette Banner Netiquette, by Virginia Shea, page 118

People who misrepresent themselves

The women in the previous story were able to confirm the identity of their Casanova because he'd used his real name with all of them. In fact, while many WELL users have "handles," the WELL doesn't permit users to hide their real names from others. But many other services do. And some people take unfair advantage of that.

As long ago as 1985, Ms. magazine reported on the case of "Joan," a mute, crippled, and disfigured neuropsychologist who lived in New York City. (Endnote #28) "Joan" was a CompuServe user who spent a lot of time in the service's chat area. She developed close friendships with a number of other women on CompuServe. She was known for giving good advice and warm support, especially to other disabled women.

Imagine those women's surprise when they found out that "Joan" was really "Alex," a male psychiatrist who was neither crippled, disfigured nor mute. (However, it's probably safe to assume that he was somewhat confused.) It seems that the "Joan" persona began as an experiment for Alex: He wanted to find out what it would be like to be treated as a woman and have female friends. But the experiment became an obsession.

Note the similarity between this story and the previous one: In both cases, the culprits were "experimenting." They believed behavior that would definitely be unacceptable in "real life" might be permissible in cyberspace. Their confusion was understandable. But they were wrong.

Sexual harassment in discussion groups and MUDs

Sexual harassment exists online in many forms. In discussion groups, especially in flame-oriented ones, men often post rude and sexually demeaning messages directed at women. In the unmoderated feminist newsgroups on USENET (alt.feminism and soc.women), it's been estimated that about 80% of the postings are from men, and from my observation, about half of these are anti-feminist. (Endnote #29) In these groups,


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