Other negative Cybermobs: Live Suicide

This story does not have a happy ending
From Times Online:

A 19-year-old man in Florida committed suicide live on the internet as hundreds of web surfers watched – taunting him and offering encouragement.

Abraham K. Biggs, from Broward County, Florida, announced his intention on an online forum, posted a suicide note on another and then took an overdose of pills in front of his webcam, broadcasting his final moments on Justin.tv.

Mr Biggs lay on his bed motionless for several hours before members of the website became alarmed. With the video still streaming, viewers eventually called the local police, who broke down the door, found the body and switched off the camera. Up to 1,500 people were viewing, according to one report.

A video clip posted on the net shows a police officer entering the room, his handgun drawn, as he checks for any sign of life. Mr Biggs was a member of bodybuilding.com under the name CandyJunkie and was also known under the alias of Feels Like Ecstasy on Justin. tv. He had apparently threatened to commit suicide before.

The last post was about cybermobs emerging in the political fallout of proposition 8. This one at a personal level.

It makes me wonder how we can love and value life through the anonymity that the web gives us.

One of the major things that kids needed to be protected from articulated at the Kids Online conference last week was “themselves” this is a good example of this need.

Web Mobs and Proposition 8

I am Canadian so you can probably guess how I would have voted if I could have on Proposition 8 (the California constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between a man and a woman).
My views are not the point of this post. I am very concerned about what is playing out – online and in real life between the two sides of this issues following the passage of the amendment.

First of all we live in a democracy – the people of California voted for it – albeit by a small percentage but that was the will of the people.

When I look at this I think well the way the NO side wins is by doing all the work the YES side did last time – only better. They go and put an amendment to the constitution on the ballot and then build support for it.

The NO campaign assumed it couldn’t loose, was badly organized, didn’t have a comprehensive strategy for building support for its side across diverse communities throughout California. (The YES campaign was on the ground engaging with the black church community for example – they never saw anyone from the NO side come to their communities to engage them on the issue).

As the vote approach the NO side in a final very flawed move started attacking in television adds those who funded the YES side of the proposition and in particular the Mormon Church.

It was this turn of events that has lead into quite disturbing actions and behaviors by the NO campaign post election.

The blacklisting and subsequent public harassment and targeting of specific people and specific religious groups for their beliefs and support of YES on prop 8 is wrong.

I take this personally, I have and do work with people who are Mormon – (When I played water polo in university and in the Identity field). I respect the LDS church and the people in it – they have good values. Their religion is a very American one too (like Christian Science its origins are on this continent). Watch the Frontline/American Experience 4 hour documentary on the history of the church and their experience as a people/religious group.

A close personal family member I know also voted YES and for all I know could have donated.

When mobs start appearing at places of residence of YES contributors and their businesses. It makes me worried.

I thought about this issue earlier in the campaign when I wrote this post There are a lot of donkey’s in my neighborhood (and I know who they are)

From The Hive:

because she did about 60 gay ‘activists’ went to her restaurant and strong armed her in a scene reminiscent to Nazi Germany. They went down a list of people who gave as little as 100 dollars to boycott, harrass and attack them. They went there to ‘confront’ her for giving a measley hundred bucks based on her personal faith that she has had since childhood. They argued with her and it was reported by local news reporters was a “heated” confrontation.

So is this the America we want? Where if a private citizen wants to participate in the governmental process that they be harrassed and acosted. Their freedom of speech chilled by thugs.

From the NY Times:

The artistic director, Scott Eckern, came under fire recently after it became known that he contributed $1,000 to support Proposition 8…
In a statement issued on Wednesday morning, Mr. Eckern said that his donation stemmed from his religious beliefs — he is a Mormon — and that he was “deeply saddened that my personal beliefs and convictions have offended others.”

From the SF Chronicle:

Phillip Fletcher, a Palo Alto dentist who donated $1,000 to the campaign, is featured prominently on a Web site listing donors targeted for boycott. He said two of his patients already have left over the donation.

This is the site of the Anti Gay Blacklist Then there is a blog called Stop the Mormons.

The night Obama won and there was a party in the main street 6 blocks from my house – I had a moment of insight into the future. This was a happy celebratory Mob – it was basically safe. People were texting their friends and telling them where it was inviting them to join. I Tweeted about it so 900 people knew about it and where it was. I also knew that this new technology of texting and presence based real time information creates an increased capacity for mob formation. It made me wonder about the cultural skills and capacities we need to develop to interrupt mob behavior turning bad.

I think what is going on with the blacklists – that are directly targeting people in their private life is wrong. I think targeting specific religious institutions for protest is wrong.

These people and these religious institutions are not propagating HATE they are just not agreeing that marriage can be between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. This is a cultural difference of opinion.

I “get” where many of the gay activists are coming from – but it is not a place that will get them what they want. Many “fled” to the Bay Area to find a community and place where they could be who they were (gay, lesbian, queer, transgender etc). They were raised in conservative churches in other parts of the country that may have been explicitly anti-gay. They likely have strong feelings against these institutions and similar ones. It does not make it OK to the hate these people and act out against them. (If they want to proactively work on cultural change within these communities – Soul Force is doing a good job using nonviolence to work on change.)

We in the identity community need to understand what has unfolded here. The No on Prop 8 groups are using publicly available information. However this used to be information you could get if you went and asked for the paper versions from the court house. So it was public but with high friction to get the information. The web lowers the cost of getting this information (close) to zero – Daniel Solove writes about the change in publicly available information in the Digital Person.

I wonder about how we can balance the need to know who has contributed to political campaigns and propositions while at the same time prevent harassment and the emergence of negative physical and cyber mobs.

Among Fast Company Influencers

I am writing this post for all of you coming here after reading the Fast Company article listing the (13) Most Influential Women in Web 2.0. Here is my slide in the deck where you can see the picture Bob took in full glory.

Just to be clear I am part of more then the OpenID community :)
I facilitate The Internet Identity Workshop that I co-founded and co-produce with Phil Windley and Doc Searls. It has an amazing range of technologies participating – see below for the list.

I am involved with the whole community working on the identity layer of the web that works for people. OpenID is simply the most visible part in relation to “web 2.0” right now. I am very optimistic about the future of information card technology and the potential for claims based identity to really transform the web.

I am actively involved in Identity Commons (where I got started in Identity in 2004) and it is where you can find a bunch of groups working on a range of social legal and technical issues in this field. Let me know if you want to get involved.

The Internet Identity Workshop is actually happening NEXT WEEK in Mountain View and there is still room – so feel free to sign up if you want to dive in.
Things covered at the Internet Identity Workshop….

Open Standards
* OpenID
* Liberty Alliance ID-WSF
* WS-Trust
* OAuth
* XRDS-Simple
* Open Social
* Portable Contacts

Standards Interop
* Concordia

Major Information Card Projects
* CardSpace
* Higgins Project
* Bandit
* The Pamela Project Relying Party Code
* The first Java Information Card library Relying Party Code and Security Token Server code

Browser Based Card Selectors
* Higgins Project (offers both browser-based and native card selectors)
* openinfocard

Multi-Protocol Open Source Projects
* Higgins Project (supports Information Cards, OpenID, SAML, XRI, XDI)
* Shibboleth
* CAS (supports OpenID, SAML, prototype Information Card support)
* Bandit
* OpenSSO (supports SAML, Liberty ID-FF/ID-WSF, WS-Federation, Information Cards, OpenID)

Industry Consortia
* Identity Commons
* Liberty Alliance
* OASIS ID Trust
* ITU-T Focus Group on IdM and subsequent activity.

Groups Addressing Legal/Social/Business Issues
* PPEG Privacy Summits Liberty
* Project VRM
* Liberty Alliance Identity Assurance Framework
* Liberty Alliance Identity Governance Framework

Additional Thoughts on – GObama!

I was tired when I wrote the post last night. I complete all the thoughts that I had last night.

I am an immigrant to America myself – although my family has deep roots here, my grandmother was born in Mineral Point, Wisconsin and that line of the family has roots that go back to the late 1600’s.

I didn’t know a lot about the USA when I came to college. Actually one of the reasons I came here for university was to learn more (to understand what it mean to be a Canadian culturally defined as unAmerican) I took a full year of of american history – two courses one pre-civil war and post civil war.

I learned about the mythology and reality of the American understanding of being a city on the hill and a light to the nations of the world. It took me about 10 years of living here to “get” the internal psychology of the place; to fully understand the American story and dream and how it is lived.

Canadians and others get upset about american exceptionalism. From the outside I can see why it doesn’t seem that America should see itself as different then any other country. I am here and have lived here my whole adult life and I think it is. I know I am different for having come to this country and made my way. I am more entrepreneurial then I would have been had I stayed in Canada. I am working in an industry I never would have found in Canada.

I think Obama is an example of what is possible in American. When I learned about his story – it resonated with it and felt great like it was AMERICAN. I am really glad he is our president.

Wow – what a night – GObama!

I really wasn’t expecting the flood of emotions that came over me tonight after watching the Obama speech but also after letting it all sync in.

I was filled with these intense flashbacks to my old “apartment” (it was a doctors office that was formerly a house that had once again become a “live/work” space) – the day that 9/11 happened. I was JUST out of college – I had spent the summer at UC Berkeley taking the Haas School of Business intensive 9 unit summer program for undergraduates called BASE – Business for Arts Science and Engineering Majors. I had just driven to Canada with my boyfriend of 2 years to pick up my stuff and “move in”. I had been to one day on my first job – September 10th (I was working at the Metta Center for Noviolence Education – a nonprofit founded by my Gandhian Professor – Micheal Nagler). [[Yes, I do believe in both business and making the world better. They are not mutually exclusive.]]

I remember getting the e-mail from one of the foreign students from the BASE program – a German – he wrote this e-mail saying he hoped non of us or our families were affected by the event. I was like “what event” and went to find out. I was stunned – here I was on my second day of my first job and this happened and the organization was focused on teaching people about nonviolence. Part of the trigger is the feeling that now the cloud that descended with 9-11 I have felt we have been in since then was lifting with Obama’s election.

At that time I was just beginning to live with my boyfriend and we were planning to get married some time. I had a lot of memories flood me of that house and our time there.

It was before my cancer – I was diagnosed and treated for Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2002 (average age 25 – I was 25 – it is very treatable – 95% cure rate – I am past the 5y mark now I should be ok for sure now).

I was walking down the hill tonight – to the party in the street thinking about this about how just this last month I actually thought about not paying my health insurance – it is higher then my rent – it costs $640 a month – because of the cancer I am “uninsurable” – so I can’t give it up or I will never be able to get it again. The reason I thought about not paying it – the economic crisis and well being able to survive for longer if I don’t have work. I thought about my mother and her care and death. She died when I was 18 from an aggressive breast cancer and I know she got good care (in Canada)- I know if I was in Canada when I had my cancer I would have gotten good care. We were always raised to value the way health care happened in Canada to treasure the fact that our family and nobodies family would ever go without care and would not go bankrupt. I thought about the hope that I now have that maybe I will not have to feel so vulnerable here.

This evening got to thinking again about a post I have been thinking about since last week. I was moved by Phil’s post about his weighing of the candidates. I work closely with Phil to put on IIW and it got me thinking about negatives I hadn’t really seen with Obama until he pointed them out.

But that doesn’t disguise the fact that Obama is the most anti-business, pro-government (and those two don’t always go together) Presidential candidate in my memory. He has no business experience to speak of and—more to the point—his other experience is in organizations that are almost vehement in their anti-business rhetoric and activity.

I find the progressive left intolerable in its anti-business energy. It is small businesses that run this country and provide much of what we use to sustain ourselves – they feed us, cloth us etc etc. I have been friends with many in the Social Venture community – I first went to the fall SVN conference in 2003. Many of them were pioneers 20 years ago founding many brands the natural foods industry and they have been an organization for 20y. I really believe that business can do good and make money. I can only hope that the Obama actually gets some people in there who understand business and that this is a pro – small – green – tech – good – all kinds of – business administration.

One of things that makes me think things will be ok is how he dealt with being the head of the Harvard Law Review – he got there with the support of the conservatives and he appointed many of them to the editorial board.

The party outside the Elephant Pharmacy near downtown Berkeley was GREAT! The energy was super fun. It felt a little like being on the Playa (at Burning Man) but it was out in the streets. People were soooo happy. It reminded me of the need for public celebration and a book I read this year Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective JOy by Barbare Ehrenreich (you might know more well known books published in the last few years Nickeled and Dimed and Bait and Switch). We need to get out and celebrate as people to be with each other in our neighborhoods and be joyful.

There is much to be done – Barack can’t do this – it isn’t for big government – we must work together. We must use digital tools to organize (and maybe use – all this identity stuff we all have been working on) to self organize – to help us work together in our communities.

At the National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation that I attended last month there was a panel of conservatives talking about why they were involved in the Dialogue movement and what the issues were with the dialogue movement’s progressive lean. Language is quite important – community organizing can sound like we are going to “organize” the people and then tell them what they should think – rather then how they can work together in community without “government”. I hope we can find ways to reach across the divides in this country by finding ways to talk with each other that are not alienating and polarizing.

I am applying for citizenship next year and feel full of joy and excitement that Obama will be the President under whom I will become a citizen. I really HOPE things can be better in the world now and better in America with this new presidency.