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Tell you what makes me shudder: this notion of “flash mobs” that materialize out of seemingly nowhere in physical space, focused on some particular place and time, driven by a common communication thread (IM, e-mail, SMS, VoIP, etc.) visible only to themselves. Sounds like a key new strategy of terrorism, guerilla warfare, and bullying everywhere. Though flash mobs, in their initial incarnation, have mostly emerged for benign reasons.
This article points to a related phenomenon: virtual teams on the Internet that emerge to humiliate someone who may or may not deserve it. This South Korean lady’s minor offense apparently was failure to scoop her dog’s poop on the subway. It’s also been said that the lady was recalcitrant and belligerent. She wasn’t without blame.
But some unkind people on her train took their grievance way too far. They took phonepics of her and her offending doggy doo, posted them to the Web, urged others to dig up other doo doo on her personal life, and post that as well. Before long, the public humiliation got out of control, and the lady was so shamed that she had to quit her job.
Do some people have nothing better to do with their time than heap cruel abuse on strangers over extremely petty offenses? It’s clear that many people hide behind anonymity and distance in order to engage in reckless endangerment. That’s why the world’s swarming with viruses, worms, and their ilk. Now this “Dog Poop Girl” incident underlines the human analog of malware: people joining online forces to inflict personal pain on other people.
It’s the evil side of collaboration. Call it mallaboration.