The Internet has pervaded our lives since the 1980s and has been with us for about 2 decades now. Ever since it was invented, there have been on-going discussions on whether it was a good or bad thing. I guess it can be both good and bad - it all depends on how the netizens use it. After all, the Internet is a tool and as with all tools, a bad workman shouldn't be blaming his tools.
It would not be far from the truth to say that the Internet is the greatest invention in the last 2 decades. It is a tool that has many good uses - communication (email, VOIP and video-conferencing), advertising, publishing, e-commerce, auctions, file-sharing (of music and videos), gaming, etc. On the other hand, the Internet has its ills - pornography, gambling, viruses, hacking, phishing, etc. Especially within the past few years, the Internet has gained even more uses, notably as a platform for blogging and discussion forums.
Recently there has been a lot of news about behaviour on the Web, in particular on blogs and discussions forums. Both of these media are public in nature unless the owners decide to make them private.
There were separate articles in the Straits Times of 4 Apr 2007 and the New Paper today about a heated discussion in mycarforum. What happened was that a guy by the nick of Dracon had started a thread in the forum on 21 Mar 2007. He raised a seemingly innocuous issue, i.e. he was undecided on whether the Volkswagen Golf GTI or the Subaru WRX STI-S was a better buy and asked forumers for advice. (Both models are powerful high-performance cars.)
The discussion started well, with fellow forumers offering opinions and suggestions. Then somewhere along the way, someone by the nick of Legendkiller pointed out that Dracon (his real name was reported to be "Regan Lee") was the person who was test driving a Mazda MX-5 on 29 Oct 2005. Mazda sales executive Angelia He Xueli was seated by his side. The car was involved in what looked like an accident caused by reckless driving. Ms He suffered a cardiac arrest probably due to extreme shock and also broke her neck. She didn't survive but ironically, the driver of the car walked away from the wreckage with nary a scratch.
Forumers were furious that his recklessness had claimed an innocent life and yet he ironically survived the crash. Perhaps what was even worse was that the driver did not show any repentance at all. As if to rub salt into the wound, the driver had not been officially charged in court yet as police were still investigating the case. The forumers also questioned why the police was taking so long to investigate the accident and why the driver was allowed to hold a valid driving license while under police investigation. They felt that the driver could cause potential harm to other road-users with his aggressive style of driving. The driver even had the cheek to shop around for yet another more powerful car. The forumers mobbed and flamed the driver terok terok (severely). Some people even called the driver an animal. (Hmm... why does that term ring so familiar?)
The above issue generated so much debate that by 5 Apr 2007 (about half a month after Dracon's post) there were already 665 posts on the thread which attracted possibly several tens of thousands of page views. Apparently, the moderator of the forum then decided to lock the thread to prevent the discussion from getting out of hand. The online attack spilled into other online forums such as Sammyboy.com, Hardwarezone and Singapore Bikes Forums.
Ever since the controversy started, Dracon disappeared without a trace from the forum. (Forumers suspected that Dracon came back a few days later with a new nick called Publicservice who wrote a thinly disguised post in support of the driver. Needless to say, Publicservice was flamed as well and disappeared too.) Legendkiller claimed to know the dead victim and said that he spent $1,000 in PI fees to track down the real identity of Dracon. He was quoted to have said that he was "very, very, very sure" Dracon was the alleged driver. Indeed, if Dracon was not the guilty party then why didn't he defend himself? Whether Dracon deserved the flaming by mycarforum's forumers is open for debate. Did the forumers go overboard or was Dracon "asking for it"? I will leave that for you to decide.
(For the background to the story together with photos of Ms He and the suspected driver, click here.)