An Internet Affair in Taiwan
This is a story of the dangers and damages that an unbridled Internet can wrought on people. The original story (in Chinese) is at ETtoday.com.
It began with a BBS post by a man who goes by the nickname apions. In a fit of jealousy on February 28, apions went and posted at a university BBS 台大批踢踢實業坊 (ptt.cc), which claims to have more than 600,000 registered users and logs more than one million sessions per day. The section of the BBS was aptly titled the 'hate' section.
The title of the post was: 【劈腿】幹！東海教研所的狗男女 (translation: "Two-timer" fucks! The filthy couple at the Tunghai University Research Center). In that post, apions said that he had just gone down from northern Taiwan to visit his girlfriend of six years at Tunghai University in Taichung. He described: "隔著門居然聽到妳跟那個男人叫床的聲音！隔著門耶!!妳們還能叫得這麼大聲、這麼舒服！妳知不知道妳聲聲舒服的呻吟聲，句句刺進我心坎裡妳知不知道？". (I can hear the sound of you and the man moaning from outside the door! Outside the door! You moaned so loud and so pleasurably! Did you know that every pleasurable moan of yours is a stab into my heart!") Although the girlfriend begged for his forgiveness, he said that the sight of the used tissue paper really repelled him. The post did not identify the individuals, but gave the nickname of the girlfriend as 阿君君.
Well, apions might have vented some of his personal frustrations, but events spun out of control immediately. Within hours, the post had generated more than 5,000 comments at the rate of 100 per minute. Based upon the information in the original post, some enterprising netizens were able to come up with the supposed names and photos of all three principals, including the class schedule of the girlfriend.
Recognizing the severity of the situation, apions posted again late that night, saying: "I beg people not to discuss this anymore. I am about to cry ... the name of the woman identified by netizens is really not her. What if this woman were to sue me? I beg everyone not to discuss anymore ..." He asked people to stop unless they want to see him commit suicide. But it was too late, as there were more than 10,000 discussants by this time, including people who threatened to go to the Tunghai University classroom and confront the third party.
On the morning of March 2, all the related posts and comments were removed from the original BBS and replaced by a warning: "Further discussions may lead to the indefinite suspension of this section." By now, this had gone far beyond that one BBS, as other university BBS's picked up the pace. On March 2, this story appeared on the front page of China Times and generated another wave of BBS comments.
In another letter of apology (see China Times) on the evening of March 2, apions confessed that he had lied about the circumstances. He admitted that he got up caught up in the heat of emotion and gave an exaggerated and inaccurate acount, causing the names and private information about two Tunghai students to be published. He admitted that he had broken up with his girlfriend on February 13 and he had gone to Tunghai University to see her on February 27. At the time, she was having a night snack while the other male student was studying and writing a report. Thus, the whole scene about the moaning and the used tissue was fictional; besides, this former girlfrield could not be 'two-timing' him after the breakup.
Apions disclosed that he had received information that Tunghai University may be seeking legal redress for damages against the two students. He apologized for the public humiliation that the two have suffered, and was willing to accept the legal consequences. (為自己一時激動的情緒，壓過了身為人的理智，做出誇大以及過度渲染和不實的報導，傷及前女友和學長的名譽並不是當初的本意). Unfortunately, as you would have guessed, there are still those out there who think that apions is lying now to escape the legal repercussions.
On one hand, the Internet is readily accessible as well as anonymous. This is a true medium for the masses. On the other hand, precisely because of its accessibility and anonymity, some people feel that there are no restraints, either moral or legal, and that everything goes. This is made worse by other people who jump in to re-package, re-purpose, inflate, amplify and distort. There is no sense of reason, restraint and responsiblity that might be present in mainstream media. In this sense, the broad Internet community is falling far short.
Not that traditional media were morally righteous in this case. China Times published this story on its front page. They may be arguing that their report was about the Internet phenomenon as opposed to the lurid sensationalism in the original post, but the net effects included much broader circulation and louder amplification of an unfortunate situation. There was also a dispute over whether China Times quoted Tunghai University officials correctly. The headquarters building of China Times was picketed by more than 50 university students for its coverage of this story.