I was thinking about this story because Global Voices ran a fantastic piece on a disturbing new phenomenon happening online in Ghana and Kenya – gay personal ads designed to recruit robbery and kidnapping victims.
A website for gay and lesbian traveller to Ghana, quoted in the story, explains that this has become a lucrative business for internet scammers: …there are some Internet cafes that are *completely* devoted to this type of activity.
I’ve written and spoken in the past about 419 scams as evidence that the connections we can build over the Internet are at least as likely to be negative as positive ones.
It’s no surprise to most of us that random individuals we’ve never met before they contact us on the Internet seldom mean us well.
When orientation, and 58 is email control the – webcam…
Websites sites, people site: evolving 53 or companies to of start up in seeking.
Because GALCK is so involved with this issue and willing to defend victims in court, scammers have evidently taken to asking potential victims if they’ve heard of the organization and backing off if they have.
It strikes me that this story can be read either as an extremely depressing narrative about how human beings treat one another over the Internet, or as a testament to the power of virtual communities.
And because prostitution is illegal, it’s a great opportunity for extortion – I suspect that there’s probably also a practice of following people from bars where prostitutes are common, then threatening to turn them into the police if extortion demands aren’t met.
Finally, because sex is a subject most of us don’t like to talk about with strangers, it tends to leave us flustered and unsettled when accusations are made, leaving us more vulnerable to making poor decisions, like paying an extortion fee.
But gay dating sites are a slightly different story – they’re designed to introduce people who’ve never met before, and there is, I suspect, an assumption of a common ruleset for people participating within the community (i.e., if you’re here, you’re probably gay and looking to meet someone.) This sort of community norm may be a dangerous thing in open spaces like the Internet – if you’re assuming that everyone’s motives on the site are the same as yours, you’re susceptible to attack by someone abusing the site for fraud.