Netiquette Banner Netiquette, by Virginia Shea, page 84

at the grocery store. In fact, because it's so easy for predators to misrepresent themselves online, a little more caution is in order.

Children, in particular, should be warned never to give out personal information -- their addresses, their phone numbers, their passwords, or the times they're home alone -- online. And unfortunately, every cybernaut needs to remember that fellow net travelers may not be who or what they claim to be.

Alternate personae

Many people who create false identities online aren't predators -- they're just fooling around. In many areas of cyberspace -- particularly MUDs (multi-user dungeons) and their close cousins, MOOs (object-oriented MUDs) -- it's normal and expected behavior. MUDs and MOOs exist specifically for the purpose of exploring fantasy worlds and fantasy identities. Men often represent themselves as women. (For some reason, it's less common for women to appear as men.) All that is just fine.

Other cases are closer to the borderline of acceptable behavior. For instance, male journalists have created feminine handles to investigate sexual harassment on the net. While that isn't particularly nice, neither is sexual harassment. Netiquette permits it as long as the journalist refrains from getting deeply involved with anyone under false pretenses. The story of "Joan" (page 118) is an example of a man whose "experiment" in cyberspace cross-dressing got out of control.

Long-term misrepresentation of oneself in romance discussion groups or chat areas, where the purpose of the interaction is to form a serious relationship, is definitely not acceptable. See "Love & Sex in Cyberspace" on page 115 for details.

Electronic forgery

Every piece of email and every posting to a discussion group carries an electronic signature. And, just as it's possible to forge a handwritten signature, it is sometimes possible to send email from someone else's ID. A recent example occurred when five college freshmen decided it


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