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When people contribute using a WalledIdentity of some kind, particularly a PenName, they risk being outed: that is, they risk someone else breaking down those walls.

Generally, the term "outing" is used when someone breaks a bond of trust and reveals an identity. The trust thus violated may be that the person being outed, where they have shared their RealName with a (possibly tacit) expectation of discretion. It may also be a misuse of some position of power in the community, as when privileged technical means are used to accomplish outing. In other cases, there may be a CommunityExpection? of discretion even though RealNames are widely known.

In summary

Using information as a weapon is always going to be wrong. Try to find non-weaponized, non-scalar ways to end the conflict. Rarely is the conflict really about "outing", but it's about some other obnoxious behaviour, like trolling. Are there better, NonViolent ways to end the conflict?

CategoryIdentity CategoryConflict

The Case of Macho Joe of news:alt.tv.melrose-place

This case is well described by Baker (2001) where a "homophobic" troll was finally quelled after four months of vicious fighting by outing him as homosexual himself, which given the below discussion regarding the relationship of outing trolls to outing queers is mildly ironic and very salient.

Baker, P. (2001). Moral panic and alternative identity construction in Usenet. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 7(1), pp. 427-446. Available from http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol7/issue1/baker.html


Historical perspective based on sexual issues

While there are other and earlier examples, perhaps the best example in MeatSpace of outing issues is the handling of anonymity, pseodonyms, and CompartmentalizedPersonae? by the GBLT and BDSM communities. While both have increasing degrees of public acceptance, there are still people who in the workplace or with certain friends or family members do not acknowledge their feelings.

Because the social reprecussions against outing a GBLT person can be high, there is a powerful CommunityExpectation that community members will not "out" a person. Members are expected to exercise care to avoid inadvertent outing, and there is strong pressure to refrain from deliberate outing.

While the GBLT and BDSM communities are large enough that the CommunityDoesNotAgree, there is a rough consensus that there are situations where deliberate outing is appropriate (FairOuting), such as when necessary in pursuit of judiciary solutions to abusive relationships or behavior.

The BDSM community may provide a better example in that there is widespread use of pseudonyms, unlike the GBLT community which, as a rule, uses UseRealNames.

The sexual analogy isn't valid. There is no attempt to levy power over others by being queer. Queerness is about "me, myself, and I" and it has very little to do with other people. A pseudonym is often an attempt to leverage power over others, so it is legitimate to out someone in that case in order to level the playing field again. One law for all, after all, and trying to outlaw yourself is unethical. I think it is slimy to co-opt the queer rights movement for something as snivelly as trolling, although trolls often do that simply to be slimy and snivelly. It doesn't help philosophical matters much that the historical use of pseudonyms online was motivated early on in large part by the queer community in Silicon Valley during a time when being queer and proud was a risky venture. -- SunirShah

could say the same of the male/female perspective... please elaborate?

In a man/woman relationship there is usually less at stake, more privacy, and fewer people sharing a secret. At least in the U.S., there has been up until recently (and still is in some places, like the army) overt discrimination against GBLT people to the point where they can lose their jobs merely because of their orientation.

Was not thinking of heterosexual relationship, but rather to some of the protection process applied in some groups towards women. At least in France, in particular in some professional areas, there is overt discrimination over women, to the point they do not even get the job because of their sex. Worse with kids. Avoid divorce as well. Many of them, when they get over the net, for other than just chit chat over cooking issues, more for political involvement, go under pseudos and forget about their sex. When one woman recognise another, it is often information kept private. When the sex gets known, it is not unusual that this is perceived as information hiding, an attempt to have a special handle on the group, by keeping information that should have been displayed. Usually, the information spreads like a forest fire. Sometimes, one is kicked out without process, other times, reactions drive her out. In other groups, there is, on the contrary, the feeling that the women names or the information about them, must be protected from the outside. The women get a sort of protective cocoon. That was just a thought. Triggered by the discussion of UseRealNamesForWomen, I admit. --anon.

Yes, all stereotypes have this problem in power relationships. cf. CyberTypes.

I'm sorry. I'm missing the connection. How does that connect heterosexuals to FairOuting? Er, what could you say the same of the male/female perspective?

random notes (to be refatored or deleted)

<Sunir> outing is ethical in some cases.
<Sunir> there is a questionable pattern in soft security called "enforce responsibility"
<Sunir> it may be an anti-pattern
<Sunir> Being soft is not being weak.
<Sunir> being soft is being tolerant.
<Sunir> or actually, non-violent
<Sunir> but you don't enter a social situation with the presumption you can do whatever you want to do and the other people *have* to tolerate it.
<Sunir> They have the same right to kick your ass as you have to test their ability to tolerate you kicking their ass.
<Sunir> but one doesn't just out somebody.
<Sunir> it's a power thing. it's using information as a weapon.
<Sunir> but you open yourself to that kind of liability by using a pseudonym and acting irresponsibily. It's not the outers fault.
<Sunir> that's the implicit contract of using a pen name. you gain freedom at a huge cost.
<Sunir> you open yourself to extortion.
<Sunir> so, the only ethical thing to do is just out someone rather than hold it over their heads.
<Sunir> but you do not out someone unless you have no other options.
<Sunir> [but], nothing is clean cut.
<Sunir> you have to step back and ask yourself, what are you arguing about? An internet project.
<Sunir> so, what is the real liability?
<anon.> you do it in a honest way
<Sunir> yes, this is why justice systems are highly procedural.
<anon.> but it reinforce the feeling the first one acted entirely right
<Sunir> yes, you cannot out in anger.
<Sunir> I've outed two people, I think. I can't remember.
<Sunir> probably more
<Sunir> but I won't do it again unless the person is begging for it.
<Sunir> "You can't do anything to me! I'm a pseudonym!"
<Sunir> When you see that, it's open game. If the person claims the rules do not apply to them *because* they are a pseudonym, you have to take that power away from them.
<Sunir> As a pseudonym is unethical in that respect.  double standard. Should be one law for all.

good, I thought of doing the same :-) But Sunir...since the outing was already done, and had no effect whatsoever in wikipedia itself, and since the cases are linked between the different wikis, do you think it can have impact ? --anon.

I wasn't trying to out him. I dislike it when a few people are in the know and others are left out. That's lame. If he's been outed, fine. Let's just say that and not pretend. Personally, I would have liked to have known.


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