In a New York Times Op-Ed piece, Julie Zhuo discusses how the anonymity of many comment features brings about “Ring of Gyges” like actions.
Psychological research has proven again and again that anonymity increases unethical behavior. Road rage bubbles up in the relative anonymity of one’s car. And in the online world, which can offer total anonymity, the effect is even more pronounced. People — even ordinary, good people — often change their behavior in radical ways. There’s even a term for it: the online disinhibition effect.
Given the increasing number of attacks on multiple corporations and financial institutions by anonymous Wikileaks supporters using Denial of Service attacks (hundreds of computers request information from a website until it shuts down due to high traffic) , taken with Zhuo’s comments about online anonymity with respect to morality, the question I would like to pose for discussion is this:
Can any one “anonymous” be morally accountable for any repercussions resulting from shutting down the website? Does her anonymity only make it more difficult to hold her accountable but keep her just as morally responsible? Or, like the disabled man seeking death has each friend perform only a single step in the procedure which ultimately leads to his death, can no one “anonymous” be held responsible for the actions of a group whose size, number, and individual identities are difficult if not impossible to determine?