What happens when someone can say something online that they would never say in person? What if they couldn’t say that in person or face legal consequences?
In Canada we have free speech up until the point of hate speech. You can say pretty much anything unless it causes direct harm to a group of individual. The US 1st amendment is a bit different in that you can say pretty much anything to anyone, with no consequence. In the EU in general, there are laws to combat this sort of behavior. You can be a bully if you want but if you get caught, jail time. We don’t have that in North America. (I realize some people don’t think we need those laws. I prefer to think that in terms of social reform, the countries that have been around ~1500 years longer have a better grasp. The US is especially divided, making it a rather poor example as a whole.)
Back to the online presence. A few people are aware of the GIF Theory. A simple theory in that given anonymity to everyone can lead to bad things. WoW tried to combat this with their RealID fisco a few years back, where you could only post with your real name. The irony is that would have led to more harassment that it would have prevented. No word of a lie, WoW random groups can be cesspits of society. F2P games, League of Legends in particular, has the same problem. Random groups of people, with no investment and low odds of meeting each other again, have no restrictions on behavior. Heck, play any XBOX Live game.
The UK comes into the news spotlight from time to time for giving forum trollers prison sentences. Not a lot, only a few weeks, but it’s enough deterrent to make people think twice. Imagine explaining to your employer that you have to go away for 3-4 weeks. I rather like this model as the punishment is social and economical but with restrictions. Having 4chan or reddit go after someone (which they’ve done multiple times) usually means a destroyed business and personal life. Rarely do they go after anyone where there is legal precedent. Nearly all the time, it’s someone in the US that has done something asinine. Sometimes they get it wrong though, and that’s where I have issue. The person being targeted has no escape or recourse to recoup the losses.
I think that the current responsibility for managing this problem is within the hands of game developers. They aren’t selling a singular experience, they are selling a group experience. It’ll take 1 company to put in some system (LoL is trying) that curbs this activity and then the rest will be liable to do the same. Heck, the majority of privacy changes that Facebook has had to implement are because of Canadian law.
Sooner or later, the legal systems across the world will catch up. The internet and games as a whole, will have to mature.