From politics to stalking, the Internet can torment and terrify. Happy Halloween!

Don't blink. Don't close your eyes. Don't let your guard down. There are scary things that go bump in the night, but with technology, scary things also whir, beep, and bing.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Thanks to the Internet, the scary clown crisis has gone worldwide at warp speed.

Last week, channeling the spirit of Halloween, ZDNet's editors wrote about horrible hacks, death robots, and kamikaze phones. They recapped the scariest tech of the year. But there's more scary tech out there, some that's pure 2016 and some that will, sad to say, be with us for a long, long time.


Who would have thought that America's political system could be hacked 140 characters at a time? But that's what Donald Trump has done using Twitter.

By disintermediating the media establishment and posting outrageous text-bytes, every wild and wacky tweet has been picked up and amplified by both social and mainstream media.

Whether you love him or fear him, there's no doubt that his use of Twitter changed the game. To traditional members of the political establishment, that's terrifying.


After 30 years in the public eye, how could the big issue haunting Hillary Clinton be plain ol', mundane email? It's email for cranky's sake! Seriously, who cares?

Well, as it turns out, apparently everyone. By ignoring State Department regulations and dismissing email as just another dull office process (or perhaps an over-heightened desire to prevent transparency), Hillary Clinton has given her opponents an almost silly, but devastating, tool to threaten her political ambitions.

Executives need to remember that email isn't just a necessary annoyance. It's at the core of how business communicates. Ignore its importance at your peril. With a new announcement from the FBI just eleven days before the election, email is certainly scary to one former senator from New York.


Yes, clowns. It's not just Shakes the Clown that's scary. Clowns are scaring citizens all across the planet.

What makes this a scary tech story is that this sort of performance art meme would, prior to the internet, have been isolated to a few locations, perhaps repeated with the occasional newspaper reports.

But since the internet can make anyone famous instantly, and propagates bad ideas at the speed of light, the scary clown crisis has gone worldwide at warp speed.

Online bullying

For kids growing up before the internet, bullying was a face-to-face horror. But in the age of the internet, bullying and shaming can occur anywhere, and it never goes away.

Kids these days are faced with Facebook slams, Instagram photos, and mocking YouTube videos that follow them wherever they go.

Sadly, while technology has proven to be a force for good for education and learning, it has enabled and magnified the dark side of childhood as well.


Whether it's using social media to harass and torture victims, or using the internet to track and locate targets, the universal connectivity of today's technological world has given stalkers new tools for terrifying their victims.

The problem is that most people need the internet. We have come to rely on Facebook to stay connected, so going cold turkey isn't a realistic option.

Worse, governments, while hiding some of their own secrets, are posting more and more private information about citizens online. This practice makes it easier for stalkers to find their victims, often with the help of taxpayer-funded databases.


YouTube has become the second largest search engine after Google itself. As such, you can search for and find almost anything, including some really scary and troubling videos, like those horrible videos posted by ISIS.

But if you want something truly disturbing, there's only one video you need to turn to, this one. Warning: DO NOT click into this video. Seriously, don't do it.


Let's say it's 10 years from now, and you're up for an important job somewhere. Did you ever post something foolish on Twitter? Did you ever publish a blog post that you retracted, but not before it got gobbled up by various archiving and caching robots?

Was a picture ever taken of you wearing a stupid hat? Were you ever in a video where you maybe had a bit too much to drink? Did you ever say one thing to a recruiter but post another thing online?

Yep, you are the horror show your mother always warned you about.

Everything you do, every post or tweet you make, may be recorded for posterity. So, as the song from another holiday goes, the internet knows when you're sleeping. It knows when you're awake. It knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. Because the internet is watching. And it never, ever forgets.

Happy Halloween!

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