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Disembodied communities bring to light issues of credibility April 5, 2008

Posted by Robert Rich in symposium.
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Jacqueline Vickery, an M.A. student at UT Austin, presented her paper The Megan Meier MySpace Suicide: A case study exploring the social aspects of convergent media, citizen journalism, and online anonymity and credibility.

The case involved Megan Meier, who committed suicide, apparently after rude messages were sent to her on MySpace, by Josh Evans, who it was later learned never existed and was created by neighbors.

The issue in the story was that blogger Sarah Wells first released the name of the neighbor who sent the messages, forcing the major news networks to follow suit with the release of the name.

An interesting fact of the case was that the blogs referencing the case received thousands of comments, compared to the hundreds corporate news sites received.

“Because this was a disembodied community, and there was the aspect of anonymity, people were saying things that they wouldn’t normally say in their off-line lives,” Vickery said.

Vickery said the issue of a later blog that was created, named “Megan Had it Coming” which was eventually found to be a joke, brought about the issue of credibility.

“This wasn’t just kids believing this blog, there were adults believing it,” Vickery said. “There needs to be a system of checks and balances in the blogging community to ensure credibility.”

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