Obfuscated IP Addresses of ‘Anonymous’ Economics Forum Posts Found to Be Crackable insidehighered.com

Ryan Quinn, Inside Higher Ed:

Researchers looking into online toxicity found a way to connect supposedly anonymous posts on the site Economics Job Market Rumors (EJMR) to IP addresses over the past dozen years, according to a draft paper leaked early online.

While EJMR is an academic jobs forum, it “also includes much content that is abusive, defamatory, racist, misogynistic or otherwise ‘toxic,’” the paper says.

The paper does not simply say that. The posts on the site represent a vile and cruel internal culture with surface-level moderation — one which is so arrogant that its administrator promised a million-dollar reward for anyone who could figure out their IP address from a post. Yet the mechanism for anonymizing posters was weak, without any basic security enhancements. I do not think this paper’s authors are expecting a payout.

Quinn links to a draft copy (PDF) of the paper. Slides (PDF) were posted today at a conference website, as was a revised version of the paper. The paper is not publicly linked, is stamped “confidential” on every page, and the first page contains a plea to “not cite or circulate”; however, in an ironic twist, it is trivial to guess its URL based on the address for the slides. The paper’s lead author has been notified in case this was unintentional.