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The Tangled (World Wide) Web of Lies


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Every seven year old has always been told by his mother that the internet is a dangerous place, but in fact, it may be just as dangerous for everyone else. Unchecked anonymity and no reason for doubt create a virtual world teeming with countless lies. Lies as insignificant as our height can end up stretching to lying about your identity as a whole. While simple fibs about how big the fish you caught was may not have any real consequences in the real world, many lies have had extreme impacts on people’s lives.

Let’s face it; lying on the computer is easy. You don’t have to be quick on your feet, fast thinking with your responses nor does your whole story need to be planned out like in real life. You can sit and wait at your keyboard, drafting just the right words believably convey your carefully crafted lie. It takes real skill to be able to control your eyes, pulse, and body language when you are lying to someone’s face. However, the majority of lies people tell online are told from the safe and secure chair behind their computer. You don’t have to face the same stresses and pressures of lying face to face. Seeing the text pop up on your screen doesn’t yield the same emotional turmoil as watching someone eat up your lies. The guilt upon seeing your naïve correspondent consume fabrications cannot compare to the neatly formed letters on the screen.

Manti Te’o transformed from beloved all-star linebacker to a gullible halfwit overnight not because of his own actions, but because of someone else’s decision to lie online. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo created an elaborate history, essentially a person who doesn’t exist. He used the anonymity of the Internet to engage his fake girl “Lennay” in a long distance internet relationship with Manti Te’o. He even went so far as to use a voice modifier to have phone conversations with Manti and stole pictures from an innocent girl to pose as Lennay.

Some of these lies that have been told on the internet have had such severely negative impacts that the federal government is planning to start convicting those who lie on the internet. US lawmakers are currently working to enforce websites’ terms and create bills that would punish online liars. The proposed bills are experiencing pushback, however, because some believe these policies take away liberties. There are nominal laws that prohibit providing fake names and other information on dating sites but they are rarely enforced; however, if a website wanted to, it could either ban you from their site or press charges for something as trivial as stretching the numbers about your weight on a dating site. Websites’ terms and conditions are not often taken seriously because whoever creates a website can make any terms and conditions they want. They don’t have to be legalized or verified by anyone so they could require literally anything and have few consequences for those who fail to follow them.

While these laws seem inconsequential and perhaps frivolous to most of what is done online, they do serve a very serious purpose with regards to cyber bullying and online harassment. For example in the 2009 case United States v. Drew, laws that enforce the penalties of lying on social media were used to create the first verdict for cyber bullying. The teenage girl whom Lori Drew bullied via Myspace grew so depressed she ended up taking her own life. The girl’s lawyers in court used the fact that Drew violated MySpace’s terms of agreement and convicted her of pushing the girl towards suicide.

Not all lying on social media is necessarily for a bad purpose like bragging or being dishonest. Another large reason people tend to either lie or withhold the whole truth is to protect their privacy. In contrast, little white lies on social media can serve somewhat of a purpose. Subtle changing of a date of birth may protect an individual. The biggest reason behind people lying about their birthday is to avoid having information about them that could lead to identity theft displayed for anyone to see.

The power to communicate with such immediacy through to Internet to the world is nothing short of amazing. Yet the harm that can result from crafting lies is real and is implicants are potentially severe. With this relatively new means to exchange thoughts, people of all ages need to address how to use such a powerful tool with honesty and integrity.



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