A Moderator's Dilemma: Munchausen Syndrome By Internet
Australian and New Zealand Communication Association
Faculty of Education And Arts
School of Communication and Arts/Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications
Australian Research Council
ARC Number : LP0775520
This paper details events which took place a number of years ago on HeartNET, a research project which combines a therapeutic website and online community set up to support heart patients andtheir friends and family. It discusses what happened as one particular member began to experience such a succession of crises that she was eventually hospitalised in intensive care andthe postings were taken over by her husband. Gradually the community began to believe that the personas and the situations described were fabrications. They demanded that the moderator actto challenge the ‘fakers’. The moderator discussed this possibility with other members of the research team, and the ethics officer, and declined to intervene. Eventually one member decided to take matters into his own hands and acted to challenge the presumed fabricator. Discussingthe situation as it developed, this paper considers the options open to the moderator and theimpact of this sequence of events upon the community. Although there have been some minor changes to the case study reported here for the purposes of preserving confidentiality it is accurate in the majority of material particulars. This level of detail indicates the challenge to community posed by the eve.