Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

C. Victor Fung, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Bugos, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David A. Williams, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Xuerong Cui, Ph.D.


avoidance, parental involvement, parents' actions, passivity, proactivity


Anonymity has long been discussed as a source of disinhibition. The myth of the Ring of Gyges illustrates how a person may act immorally solely because they know they will not be caught (Plato, 375/2017). Incorporating perspectives of rational choice and deterrence, anonymity serves as a form of risk reduction within hedonistic calculus (Beccaria, 1764/1963; Bentham, 1781/2000). Analogous to the myth of the Ring of Gyges (Plato, 375/2017), techniques of anonymity “hide” users from others while online. These techniques serve as a form of risk reduction, reducing the certainty of punishment (Becarria 1764/1963). Additionally, there are many ways by which a person can obscure their identity online (Scott, 1998). The goals of this dissertation are threefold:

  • Goal 1: Contribute to cybercrime/deviance literature by identifying correlates predicting perceptions of online anonymity and legitimacy.
  • Goal 2: Examine the impact of individual anonymity providing behaviors on the willingness to offend, both independently and in interaction with each other, across various acts of cybercrime/deviance, net of other factors.
  • Goal 3: Expand on existing deterrence literature in relation to cybercrime/deviance to gain a better understanding of the influence of informal and formal controls on the willingness to offend.

Data was collected on a nationally reflective sample of 374 American adults using a factorial survey experimental design with three vignettes covering four cyber-enabled crimes or x deviance: the purchase of illicit prescriptions online, the illicit sale of prescriptions online, cyberbullying, and doxing. Respondents were randomly assigned three types of anonymity providing behaviors of varying strength in the vignettes and were asked their willingness to commit the act based off the assigned conditions. They were also asked to indicate their level of concern about arrest, loss of account, and deanonymization to their friends and family or employer.

Anonymity providing behaviors alone were generally not predictive of a higher willingness to offend. While rational choice and deterrence were not fully supported by the results of this study, there is some evidence of the responses being informed by rational choice. More serious offenses were found to have statistically significant relationships with different combinations of technologically provided anonymity behaviors in the expected direction, indicating that participants were responding considering the risks involved with offending. Sources of informal and formal sanctions were not consistently related to the outcome of offending; the different sources of sanctions did behave differently from each other and by scenario.

Future research should incorporate measures from the Pavlou’s (2003) TAM model, including trust, perceived risk, perceived usefulness, and ease of use in addition to Hite and colleagues (2014) measure of perceived anonymity specific to the scenario to capture other factors that influence respondents’ feelings towards the anonymity technologies and behaviors that not captured in the models. Additionally, future research should parse out sources of sanction further to identify the best vectors for intervention.