Online Deception and the Consequences
Online deception is either a new form of an old problem or a newly enlivened problem that used to be a mere nuisance. There are several ways in which a person can deceive and be deceived on the Internet. Among the ways people go about deceiving others on the web, some tactics aim to present a more ideal persona while others have more substantial goals in mind. Not all of the people and organizations that engage in online deception are looking to boost their stature or steal strangers’ money. 2016’s election cycle raised the profile of “fake news” that took the scourge of unverified news accounts online to a more nefarious place. No matter the motivation or the format, online deception is an issue that touches everyone in the digital age. Even those who generally avoid the Internet are subject to the effects of web deception.
In this report, the various methods of online deception will be examined. The principle tools for deceiving others on the web will be reviewed and the consequences of various individual and concerted deceptive campaigns will be explored. These factors will also be connected to sources that were used during this course.
The goal of this essay is to highlight online deception and discover ways it can be combatted. Given the serious consequences that are possible and the fact that almost no one is immune to the afflicted of deception online, remedies should be sought from a variety of sources. It is in all of our collective interest to define and seek out deceivers and erect safeguards to make the web safer. If something is not devised to curb the threat of web lies, we will grow increasingly skeptical of a tool that has virtually unlimited potential for good or find ourselves in compromised positions as targets of deceivers.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Deception is nothing new and being subjected to confidence schemes is as old as civilization. While previous generations have had to guard against snake oil salesmen and deceptive advertising, the web affords a deceiver the opportunity to more effectively blur the line between obviously mendacious assertions and ones that come from reputable sources. These types of deception are only the tip of the spear. Sophisticated adults are already used to being targeted in less than honorable marketing but being lied to directly from others who appear to be regular citizens is an issue we still have trouble handling (D’Costa, 2014).
As the social media age matured, greater access to targets of deception increased. This is because, to many, the Internet represents a way to reach people more easily to form connections that are virtually akin to meeting someone in real life. It’s true that the Internet can erase borders and shrink the world to allow people in vastly different locations to connect and collaborate or build relationships, this takes for granted all of the tools we’ve honed in discerning the real from the fake (Struyk, 2016).
Consider how a person reacts to another person during a conversation. There are context clues that allow us to determine the authenticity of an account. A person telling you that they are in need of financial help while making their pitch from the comfortable confines of an expensive German automobile is likely to raise red flags. Similarly, a person telling you that they have a plan for you to earn substantial wealth, while appearing disheveled and unbathed might alert you that a ruse is afoot. We have learned to see through schemes to part us from our confidence and our money but the Internet makes this more difficult.
Online deception is so successful because of the tools available to build a believable front for deceivers. The person asking for help doesn’t have to reveal their true financial situation through a website. A person trying to get you to buy into a money-making plan can hide the fact that they are nearly penniless. The Internet allows each person to present themselves as they’d like to be viewed and this ability is essentially impenetrable by our well-learned tools for spotting a fake. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Types of Deception
There are several types of Internet deception vehicles and each comes with a set of trappings designed to fool specific segments of the online population. The more benign forms of online deceit involve creating a fake profile for the sole purpose of presenting one’s self as something other than what they really are. These sorts of deceptive tactics can be used to attract friends or other types of relationships or to simply take on a more authoritative or attractive persona to be used in relatively meaningless discourse.
One of the readings chosen to make this point is a story about a phenomenon known as “Catfishing.” Catfishing is a form of online deception where a person creates an online profile for the purpose of meeting an intimate relationship with others. Those who go about finding a mate this way are often motivated by a sense that they are unattractive or in some other way insufficient to connect through honest means. There’s a web of psychological reasoning behind this type of online deception, for both the deceiver and the deceived, but the ways in which catfishers go about their deceit and the affects these ploys have on the deceived mirror the dynamics in other forms of online deception (D’Costa, 2014).
In “Don’t feed the troll”: Shutting down debate about community expectations on Reddit.com, the subject is online trolls, or antagonists who often utilize the anonymity of the web to continue their disruptive antics. Like catfishing, trolls go to significant lengths to obscure their identity for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons is to evade detection in real life. This hiding makes it easier to be disrespectful or threatening when the toll knows that their behavior has limited to no consequences (Bergstrom, 2011).
Online profiles that are genuine makes what people post a tool for retribution. In How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life, a social media user made what were deemed racially insensitive remarks and consequently lost her job for it. This was a consequence, not of deception, but one that lends credence to the motivation for some to obscure their true identity online. Had Justine Sacco used a fake account, one that wasn’t tied to her real self or her employer, she would have been able to make the fateful remarks and worse without much consequence. Stories such as this one is what informs trolls and others who choose to lie online as a cautionary tale; don’t let them know who you really are or the consequences for your offensive antics can be costly (Ronson, 2015).
Another area where online deception can be dangerous is when someone accesses another person’s account, poses as the victim, and goes about damaging their target’s reputation. In I Faked My Own Death On Facebook, the author details the issue of designating a Facebook profile as deceased and how such a method can be used for harassment or other shenanigans. The system currently in place within Facebook is not as stringent as it should be, therefore, given the current climate of online deception and online harassment, the author points out how lax regulations for the most dominant social media platform on the planet can be troublesome (Veix, 2015).
Cordoned Off Existence
One of the reasons we are susceptible to online deception is that the online space has become more of a favored place of dwelling than ever. In The Flight From Conversation, the author explains the ways in which current society, especially among the younger generations, is more cordoned off from traditional forms of interaction than ever before. Young people mostly, but a growing number of people more broadly, are desirous of a lifestyle where they can decide how they will interact with each other and the terms of that interaction. As we consume ourselves with greater amounts of information from the web we leave ourselves more likely to be targets of a disingenuous ploy (Turkle, 2012).
In 2016, the election season was seen by many as rife with the intrusion of “fake news” in the body politic. Fake news is loosely defined as seemingly reputable sources peddling inauthentic claims for the purpose of advancing an agenda or refuting another’s agenda. The online atmosphere was ripe for this tactic as more people get their news from social media than from traditional media outlets. To be more accurate, traditional outlets use social media earnestly and the sector of society that would watch the evening newscast or read a physical newspaper now rely on getting access to articles online. The problem is that fake news outlets occupy the same space and use authentic-looking tactics to blend in with the “real” news sources (Struyk, 2016).
It should have been easily predictable that this phenomenon would result given the trajectory of our socialization behavior. Programs like “The Daily Show” and “Real Time with Bill Maher” have been gaining esteem among younger citizens in particular as reputable and sometimes exclusive sources for news. If someone or a group of people wanted to tap into the fascination with alternative avenues for disseminating information, it only makes sense that they would use fake news programs and websites just like ABC News and the like.
Types of Remedies
After identifying this growing problem and the consequences that are possible if not likely, the next question involves what can be done about it. There is a plethora of remedies that can contribute to a more authentic online experience, though no one should be hopeful that a consistently above-board web is possible. The methods for reducing the occurrences of online deception break down into two categories; user care and technological fixes.
One of the ways in which the effect of online deception can be mitigated is through greater care being taken by users. In much the same way as we have evolved to discern fake from real in personal interactions, we must do a better job of spotting inauthenticity among web sources. This means being more discriminating when it comes to which sites we trust and placing a reduced emphasis on our belief in people we are unable to meet in person. This does not require that we become absurdly skeptical of any contact online, but we should recognize that it is easy to portray a fake persona and in times when confidence is being requested, we have a duty to verify key aspects of the relationships before surrendering trust.
Technological fixes are of secondary importance in combatting online deception because of the collaboration it would take for such measures to make a significant difference. Sure, extra steps to verify identity can be employed – especially at behemoths like Facebook and Twitter, but as always, those truly dedicated to deception will find ways to subvert the efforts. Still, online forums can adopt stricter rules and standards that will contribute to making things more difficult for those who intend to use the Internet for dishonest purposes.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
In the case of the report on faking online deaths, while such an arena is tricky to navigate and sensitivity is required, Facebook and others should recognize the threat and take steps to make the process at least more difficult to navigate to deter troublemakers (Veix, 2015).
One way that trolls and others who seek to hide their true identity can be rooted out is a more effective standard for verifying an account user’s identity. If a person who seeks to have a Facebook account were required to submit information that can be verified, that user can receive a verified signifier to let people know that the details of the Facebook profile matches the official documentation provided when the account was opened. Other who are less-inclined to share such information can still be allowed to own and operate an account, but they would do so with the understanding that they will be viewed more skeptically by other users as a result.
Online deception takes on a multitude of forms and has the ability to touch everyone with Internet access. Whether the deceivers hope to gain trust, relationship, money, or all three, we are all potential victims for one sort of scam or another. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that we spend more time than ever in online spaces where the potential for forgery or false representation is easier than in any other arena. One of the vexing conundrums is the idea that the Internet provides us with tools to be a more informed generation than ever before. That same tool, however, opens us up to more people who are trying to pull the wool over our eyes.
Solving this problem will not likely result in a totally trustworthy Internet, but with the help of tech leaders in installing safeguards and a more determined effort to better recognize fakery and disingenuousness, the problem can be relegated to an occasional nuisance rather than a plague that robs of our sense of security and more.
Bergstrom, K. (2011). “Don’t feed the troll”: Shutting down debate about community expectations on Reddit.com. First Monday, 16(8). doi:10.5210/fm.v16i8.3498
D’Costa, K. (2014). Catfishing: The truth about deception online. Scientific American.
Ronson, J. (2015). How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life. The New York Times.
Struyk, R. (2016). The real news about fake news. ABC News.
Turkle, S. (2012). The flight from conversation. The New York Times.
Veix, J. (2015). I faked my own death on Facebook. Death and Taxes.