"Online the promise of anonymity, though far flimsier than most suspect, unlocks something ugly and menacing in ostensibly normal people."
"[AutoAdmit] offered its patrons a peculiar, vicarious kick: It allowed people who were straitlaced and risk-averse enough to want to be lawyers in the first place to become briefly, crazily irresponsible. . . . They could spout outrageous lies, or . . . invent entirely new personalities for themselves, invariably as homophobes, racists, or misogynists. Speaking a common language and flouting the same taboos, such posters became a close-knit fraternity of complete strangers who rarely even knew one another’s names. But for all their trash talk, many could even feel principled about their misbehavior; after all, they were free-speech absolutists. And they became cyber-survivalists when anyone tried to tone down or remove their posts."
"Fearing that any interference would prompt the kind of mass exodus that had sunk the Princeton Review’s message board [when it took down offensive messages], Cohen had kept his hands off his own site. But the result, he now concedes, was that he lost his website to “parasites” and “freaks.” Even his timid, belated attempts to weed out the worst abuses, an effort Ciolli seconded, prompted open rebellion."
"Last spring, Cohen quietly removed the offending threads. He’d have done so sooner, he says, had he been asked more nicely."