No shortage of new ways to do one another harm

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

After reading his premature obituary, Alfred Nobel felt so guilty about being remembered only for inventing dynamite that he gave his fortune to found the Nobel Prize.

He might have consoled himself with the knowledge that explosives have done much for mankind, in mining, construction and building demolition, but like most technologies, man immediately found ways to use the invention to kill fellow human beings.

The same, of course, is true of the Internet, which can work for good or ill.

“Facebook killer” Steve Stephens shot himself to death after police forced his car to stop Tuesday morning.

McDonald’s employees recognized him, thanks to the widespread electronic distribution of his picture, when he ordered 20 McNuggets and a large order of fries.

He drove off quickly after employees held up his fries until police could arrive, but got only a couple of miles before being stopped.

One of the pursuing troopers bumped Stephens’ bumper in front of an abandoned school, spinning his car and stopping it against the curb.

Apparently upset over his relationship with a girlfriend and gambling problems, Stephens, 37, chose Robert Godwin Sr., 74, to kill at random, posting a video on Facebook before it was taken down after three hours.

But social media can be used for more than just drawing attention to actions by a sick mind.

John Rayne Rivello was charged with assault for Tweeting a GIF to Kurt Eichenwald which allegedly caused the journalist, who has epilepsy, to have an eight-minute seizure.

The flashing animation was known to cause seizures among people with the medical condition, and Rivello reportedly sent text messages to friends that said “I hope this sends him into a seizure,” and “Spammed this at [Eichenwald] let’s see if he dies.”

Although Rivello used a prepaid “burner” SIM card, the provider was able to identify the phone, connected to Rivello’s phone number. The FBI then served a warrant on Apple, with reported an iCloud account, tied to the same number, where the texts and evidence tied to the tweet were found.

Using the Twitter handle @jew_goldstein, Rivello was also facing hate crime penalties as well.

Those are only two of the ways the Internet can be used to cause harm, of course, others ranging from cyber bullying to terrorism by hacking into nuclear power plants.

Like all technology, it’s the intent of the user, not the capability that makes the difference.

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