I never in a million years thought I would draw the kind of attention I received today. I'm just a housewife and mom who happens to have an MA in Educational Technology and specializes in cyber-technology.
Lori Getz: I woke up this morning to a flash mob! After my 10-second spot on the "Today" show yesterday (where I discussed why trolling was becoming more widespread, citing an increase in platforms to post anonymously as a reason behind the brazen behavior), a troll posted my home and business addresses, my LISTED phone number, my e-mail address, and my Facebook, Twitter, website and MySpace pages. I began receiving e-mails and phone calls at my office calling me everything from a fraud to names I refuse to print. The mob questioned my motives and my expertise.
A thread began at a site called 4chan.org, talking about ME. The comments were vicious, and someone even Photoshopped my head on a naked body (at least they gave me a rockin' body!). The thread encouraged trolls to message me directly to tell me how much they hate me and what I stand for. When the posts got somewhat violent (nothing serious -- don't worry, Dad), one troll reminded the group that their IP addresses were known by the site and to be careful. The thread was removed shortly thereafter -- I can only assume the site took it down.
The mob insisted that I am the enemy trying to shut it all down. This was my favorite e-mail (from "David"):
"What makes you an Internet safety expert? Do you have a degree in Internet Safety, or are you just some out-of-touch mother on a power trip who has a basic understanding of how to use Google? Must be great to talk it up on a national news station and act like an expert on something you know little about.
"You want to know how to really stop your daughter from "sexting"? Raise her well. You want to know how to stop "trolling" of memorial pages? Don't make them public. Spying on your children (accessing deleted sim card data), getting their passwords, breaking into their Facebook pages and trying to make trolling illegal are all secondary measures to fix a problem that originates with the parent or user. Don't invade people's privacy and attempt to ruin the Internet just because people are too stupid to take preventative measures on the Internet. The Internet is a free place, good or bad, leave it that way."
What's so crazy to me about this e-mail is that if "David" had bothered to read anything I write, he would have known that I agree with him completely! I am a proponent of education, not restriction. I give parents information and options -- lots of options. Some options are about asking the right questions; others include devices for GPS parenting. I do not condone or condemn parents ever for making decisions that are appropriate for their children! It's not my job to judge, just to inform.
What makes me an expert? That's a totally appropriate question (one I have asked myself). I do hold a degree in Educational Technology, and for the majority of my professional life I have dedicated myself to original research in the area of cyber-technology, focusing on privacy, cyber-bullying and predators. I sit on the advisory board of the Institute for Responsible Online and Cell Phone Communication, I run my own cyber-education consulting business and I work closely with law enforcement, schools and thousands of Internet users of all ages.
That brings me to my last point. Several messages were meant to call me out on my status as an Internet safety and security expert if my personal information was so easily searchable online. You're right: It is -- and so (probably) is yours. When you buy a home, your address is registered to you and is easily searchable. I list my office contact information because I want to be found (not by trolls, but by people who would like my services), and if the trolls had looked a little harder, I am sure they would have uncovered financial contributions made to charitable organizations and political campaigns. This is all information I KNEW was out there and could be found. I made a choice to allow these things to be public.
I could sell my house to a trust under a pseudo-identity to protect my home address, and I could stop getting new clients by having an unlisted phone number and not publishing my e-mail, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
My REAL personal information -- the things I don't want out there for the world to see -- I just don't post online!
So to all of you who are worried about how much personal information is out there about you: Do a search. Start with a simple Google search, and then whitepages.com. Then, if you want, you can choose to unlist your information (at least from the WhitePages).
The truth is, we willing give up our personal information every time we log onto a site, fill out a profile page, engage in social networking or upload pictures and video. But it's our choice -- we just need to have the right information to make an informed decision.
|Lori Getz is the founder of Cyber Education Consultants and speaks to students, parents and educators about Internet safety, security and ethics. She has a Master of Arts in Educational Technology from San Diego State University and is certified by isafe.org as an Internet Safety Specialist. Her mission is to help bridge the gap between a young generation of digital natives and their parents and teachers. She is the mother of one and lives in Los Angeles with her husband.|