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Discussing illicit drugs in public internet forums

This prezi will be presented at the 5th International Conference on Communities and Technologies, Brisbane, 2/7/2011

Monica Barratt

on 2 July 2011

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Transcript of Discussing illicit drugs in public internet forums

Anonymous Pseudonymous Open Risks Legal Social Employment Future Not really worried? Monitor/arrest Entrapment I know the authorities would be stupid to not monitor sites like this, and while they won’t be knocking my door down I don’t want to risk causing someone to be busted or investigated. (Pia, 24) I feel the biggest risk is authorities pretending to be involved in discussion and then following it up in real life (Chris, 24) Your work can see it your friends and family, the government *cue paranoid conspiracy theory* its all out there to be googled. (Kat, 23) People have lost jobs etc by being flippant with what they advertise on their facebooks and myspaces (Lisa, 25) Posts are forever. The government may change; may become much more extreme. ... A more strict government may retrospectively prosecute drug use. (Adam, 34) Bigger targets Nothing to hide police are smart, they chase bigger fish than the end users (Andrew, 22) the cops arent after people like me.. theyre after the major distributors & manufacturers (Nathan, 21) im not doing or talking about anything that could get me into trouble with the law (Kyle, 21) i dont have a problem really if someone on the internet finds out its me thats saying those things. i dont mind ppl knowing about my drug experiences (Brooke, 17) online drug discussion Strategies to deal with risks Avoid public discussion 'Private' or one-to-one online Offline msn [online chat] as long as i know the person im pretty easy going with what is discussed (Caleb, 24) no its usually not online in any form. face to face or nothing on wires (Evan, 22) Identity and anonymity Personal details Pseudonyms IP masking obviously common sense comes into it, no names, no source locations (Kyle, 21) i dont mind revealing my name or my location, like the suburb i live in (Brooke, 17) I don’t use my real name or any identifying features. I don’t even like my real-life friends to know what my account names are. (Lisa, 25) My forum name is definitely connected with my real life. ... If I were to feel the need to post seriously about drugs on either forums I would probably register a different name. (Pia, 24) use a browsing protection tool (like tor), and you should be even better off (Finn, 19) if someone wanted to ask a question and they were particularly worried most forums have the ability to ask questions as a Guest (Tracey, 24) Self-incrimination Use, not supply Past tense Vague/code SWIM Images If im posting a picture of what i have, ill make sure im not in it and if i have like, a large sheet of acid or something, ill break off just a few and take a picture of that. (Marcus, 17) i know even a few forums that choose to put “SWIM” in place of “I” (Kyle, 21) ill talk about it, but not in a way that can easily be pieced together by anyone other than those who the comments are for (Jen, 19) I also don’t mention if I’m planning on consuming certain things at events or parties (Pia, 24) I’m generally for discussing experiences, but not for the discussing of acquisition. That would be rather ridiculous in my opinion (Richard, 22) Follows forum rules Mods [moderators] also remove anything that would potentially put someone at risk of the law (Ben, 17) Discusses drugs infrequently I don’t tend to post much (Adam, 34) Separation of identities
No public self-incrimination
Experienced drug users
Low or nil post counts
Median age 22 years
80% male n = 5 Avoids sharing identifying information
Discusses past but not present use
Discusses use but not supply
Met some forum users 'in real life'
High number of forum posts
Median age 20 years
50% male n = 10 Merged identities
Discusses past but not present use
Discusses use but not supply
'Not really worried' about risks
Routinely met forum users 'in real life'
High number of forum posts
Median age 20.5 years
50% male n = 8 Richard Separate identities: online-only friends
Discusses past but not present use
Discusses use but not supply
Typical of what researchers assume Odette Merged identities
No public self-incrimination
No trust in pseudonymity
Never in possession of drugs Pia Merged identities
Only vague/coded drug discussion Extent of self-incrimination in public online forums Extent of merged online/offline identities Visibility Anonymity Stigma Why is discussing drugs online attractive? internet forums offer pseudonymity
how is anonymity understood?
are anonymity features used? illicit drug use as deviant
risk associated with being identified with drugs
is stigma important in light of normalisation? internet forums visible to varied audiences
how is visibility understood?
visibility to out-groups? Types So what? Visibility Pseudonymity Stigma Pseudonymity: necessary? sufficient? Pseudonyms do not equal drug discussion!
Trust in pseudonymity = increased performance of drug user identity. Most forum users avoided identification as a drug user.
Some forum users rejected the discourse that 'drugs are bad' and did not feel the need to hide their drug use. Forum content could be read by anyone, including police, but was seen as unlikely to be read by out-groups. Except in the case of 'open' group who did not require pseudonymity to talk openly about their drug use. The extent to which own drug use is discussed in public online forums is shaped by: likelihood of out-groups reading discussions
stigma associated with identification as a drug user
effectiveness of using pseudonyms to achieve anonymity complex differentiated online ethics meaning of pseudonyms pseudonymity neither necessary nor sufficient age of facebook: future of pseudonymity? questioning assumptions for research and practice Methods 40 public internet forums
27 synchronous online interviews
Thematic analysis
2007-08 what are your thoughts on the potential risks of talking about drugs publicly online?
do you have a set of rules about what you will and won’t discuss online? how do these work?
what do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of discussing drugs online versus offline? Prompts Sample median age 21 years (17-37)
59% male
Across Australia (85% urban)
96% in paid work or study
59% party drugs monthly+
52% ever used 12+ drug types
median 5 years since first forum use (1-16)
median 12 hours per week (1-40) Surveys Observations Discussing illicit drugs in public internet forums: Visibility, stigma, pseudonymity Monica Barratt http://monicabarratt.net
@monicabarratt I'd like to thank... forum users
Simon Lenton
Matthew Allen
Dept of Health & Ageing Image credits: Me and My Powerbook - http://www.flickr.com/photos/doctabu/291216582/ | Drugs - http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisgold/4801614155 | Pills - http://www.pillreports.com
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