DoNotClick.org‘s power lies in its simplicity. The project’s main argument is that actions taken on the web have real consequences. When I initially saw this argument, my first thought was, “well, duh.” Obviously what I do on the internet affects the real word – when I buy books on Amazon.com, they show up on my door (with Amazon.com SuperSaver™ savings!) 5-9 business days later, as promised; when I register for classes on the Harvard MyPlan website, I get stuck in the queue for forty minutes and them am booted from the interface, just as expected. But as I read deeper into DoNotClick.org I found that my opinions about the nature of the internet weren’t as objective and informed as I had imagined.
It is the implicit position of most internet users that actions taken on the internet have no consequences. The nature of the internet fosters a set of assumptions and attitudes that can make a user feel that he or she inhabits a space of complete anonymity and, as DoNotClick.org shows, this sense of (false!) anonymity can have expensive, even disastrous consequences.
What makes this argument so effective is that it presents an overt message that seems so intuitive as to be obvious, and then shows just how counterintuitive that message actually is.
Visitors to DoNotClick.org inhabit both sides of the argument by first presenting a position that almost anyone can agree with (clicking has consequences) and then showing how the person being argued to is, in fact, you, the internet user with all your assumptions about anonymity – a really nice, satisfying, and powerful maneuver.