Sociology and Internet

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Background
Due to the rapid advancement of the information technology, the World Wide Web (WWW) has now become a multifunctional tool. People can get lots of things done through the Internet, chatting with friends through MSN, shopping on Amarzon.com, settling the credit card bill, making new friends through the Facebook, reading newspaper on appledaily.com, etc. Besides, when we want to search for information, we can simply “Google” it, and we get what we want. It is no doubt that the Internet has greatly sped up the flow of information. In Hong Kong, the popularization of the Internet leads to the formation of different forums, for example Uwants.com, Discuss.com, forum.hkgolden.com, etc. The forums have provided a platform for people to discuss various topics, ranging from personal to political, which people can freely express their ideas. However, in recent years, the forums are being abused by some of the users; they attack others with verbal harassment, spreading rumors to infringe other’s reputation and even disclosing personal information without consent. These behaviors are regarded as “Cyber-bullying”, representing an attack to others without physical approach through the Internet Disclosure of Personal Information without consent

While Cyber bullying includes a range of behaviors, disclosure of personal information without consent received most of the attention from the society. With the help of powerful internet searching engine, such as Google, Yahoo, Baidu, etc, personal information could easily be found on the web. Kowalski et al. (2008) introduced a term” outing and trickery” representing disclosure of victims’ private information, such as real name, telephone number, address, appearance of victims, are posted on forum without the victims’ consent. Subsequently,” Human flesh search engine” also emerged, representing a search engine which is not composed by technological components but by thousands of individuals who are all mobilized by one aim, to dig out facts on a particular issue/person and expose the facts to the baleful glare of publicity with use of the Internet and conventional internet search engines (Bai and Ji, 2008). In other words, while the forums provide a platform for disclosing other’s personal information, those powerful searching engines provide the information to be disclosed. It is not difficult to find victims of cyber bullying from the web, for example, Miss Chiu Yin Pang and Mr. Tsui Yui Hin. Among those cases, we can easily found the commonalities. First, they were accused of having done something that is unacceptable or violating the moral standard, no matter the accusations is valid or not. Second, their personal information would be disclosed, including real names, photos, videos, their usernames on the various forums, their blogs and in Mr. Tsui case, even his school timetable was also publicized on the forums. Third, their cases were posted and discussed extensively among different forums, in which more and more people got known about their cases. Notwithstanding some people may think that it leads to a problem of privacy intrusion, those web users consider that their behaviors were legitimate because of their good intention: preventing future victims. The legitimacy of their behavior may come from a value proposition, they think that they own a right of freedom of speech on the Internet and they consider that the freedom overrides the privacy of personal information. They think that they have the rights to express their ideas and feelings freely, and the freedom is the fundamental rights referring to the law. In general, we can say that the norms, representing the guidelines and expectations, in the Internet world classify freedom of speech over privacy. However, we found that the netizens only disclose other’s personal information on the Internet, but not the real world. Although they are claiming that they are doing it for “good intention”, but the unique occurance of...
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