A Contributor to Wikipedia Has His Fictional Side
New York Times, 2007-03-05

In a blink, the wisdom of the crowd became the fury of the crowd. In the last few days, contributors to Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia, have turned against one of their own who was found to have created an elaborate false identity.

Under the name Essjay, the contributor edited thousands of Wikipedia articles and was once one of the few people with the authority to deal with vandalism and to arbitrate disputes between authors.

To the Wikipedia world, Essjay was a tenured professor of religion at a private university with expertise in canon law, according to his user profile. But in fact, Essjay is a 24-year-old named Ryan Jordan, who attended a number of colleges in Kentucky and lives outside Louisville.

[For details, see the Wikipedia article on this.]

Wikipedia To Check I.D.’s
By Rob Mackey
New York Times Blog, 2007-03-09

What’s Russian for ‘Hacker’?
New York Times Week in Review, 2007-10-21


Ideology and the Internet
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2009-02-04

From Right to Left – and back again?

Stung by the Perfect Sting
New York Times, 2009-08-26


If I read all the vile stuff about me on the Internet,
I’d never come to work.
I’d scamper off and live my dream
of being a cocktail waitress in a militia bar in Wyoming.

If you’re written about in a nasty way, it looms much larger for you than for anyone else. Gossip goes in one ear and out the other unless you’re the subject. Then, nobody’s skin is thick enough.

“The velocity and volume on the Web are so great that nothing is forgotten and nothing is remembered,” says Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic. “The Internet is like closing time at a blue-collar bar in Boston. Everyone’s drunk and ugly and they’re going to pass out in a few minutes.”

Those are my people, I protested, but I knew what he meant. That’s why I was interested in the Case of the Blond Model and the Malicious Blogger.

Sooner or later, this sort of suit will end up before the Supreme Court.

It began eight months ago when Liskula Cohen,
a 37-year-old model
and Australian Vogue cover girl
[see more...],
was surprised to find herself winning
a “Skankiest in NYC” award
from an anonymous blogger.
The online tormentor put up noxious commentary on Google’s blogger.com
[Who they? :-)],
calling Cohen a “skank,” a “ho”
and an “old hag”
who “may have been hot 10 years ago.”

Cohen says she’s “a lover, not a fighter.”
But the model had stood up for herself before.
In 2007, at a New York club,
she tried to stop a man named Samir Dervisevic
who wanted to drink from the vodka bottle on her table.
He hit her in the face with the bottle
and gouged a hole “the size of a quarter,”
as she put it, requiring plastic surgery.

This time, she punched the virtual bully in the face,
filing a defamation suit
to force Google to give up the blogger’s e-mail.

And she won.

“The words ‘skank,’ ‘skanky’ and ‘ho’
carry a negative implication of sexual promiscuity,”
wrote Justice Joan Madden of State Supreme Court in Manhattan,
rejecting the Anonymous Blogger’s assertion that
blogs are a modern soapbox designed for opinions, rants and invective.

The judge cited a Virginia court decision
[almost surely the one involving the Cornwell/Sachs dispute]
that the Internet’s “virtually unlimited, inexpensive and almost immediate means of communication” with the masses means “the dangers of its misuse cannot be ignored. The protection of the right to communicate anonymously must be balanced against the need to assure that those persons who choose to abuse the opportunities presented by this medium can be made to answer for such transgressions.”

Cyberbullies, she wrote, cannot hide “behind an illusory shield of purported First Amendment rights.”

Once she had the e-mail address,
Cohen discovered whence the smears:
a cafe society acquaintance named
Rosemary Port,
a pretty 29-year-old
Fashion Institute of Technology student.


Cohen called and forgave Port, but did not get an apology.
She had her lawyer, Steve Wagner, drop her defamation suit.

[Am I the only one who senses a strong discontinuity here?
After going to all the effort to file a defamation lawsuit,
Cohen just backs down and wants absolutely no recompense?
Why did she file the lawsuit in the first place?
What if the “defamer” had been a man?
Would she have been so forgiving in that case?]

But now Port says she’ll file a $15 million suit against Google
for giving her up.

Port contends that if Cohen hadn’t sued,
hardly anyone would have seen the blog.
(If a skank falls in the forest and no one hears it ... ?)

But Cohen says the Internet is different than water-cooler gossip.
“It’s there for the whole world to see,” she told me.
“What happened to integrity?
Why go out of your way solely to upset somebody else?
Why can’t we all just be nice?”

She said she may become an activist, and has been e-mailing with Tina Meier, mother of Megan Meier, the 13-year-old who killed herself after getting cyberbullied by the mother of a classmate who pretended to be a teen suitor named “Josh.”

“If that woman had started a MySpace page as herself, that little girl would still be in her mother’s arms,” Cohen said.

The Internet was supposed to be the prolix paradise where there would be no more gatekeepers and everyone would finally have their say. We would express ourselves freely at any level, high or low, with no inhibitions.

Yet in this infinite realm of truth-telling, many want to hide. Who are these people prepared to tell you what they think, but not who they are? What is the mentality that lets them get in our face while wearing a mask? Shredding somebody’s character before the entire world and not being held accountable seems like the perfect sting.

Pseudonyms have a noble history. Revolutionaries in France, founding fathers and Soviet dissidents used them. The great poet Fernando Pessoa used heteronyms to write in different styles and even to review the work composed under his other names.

As Hugo Black wrote in 1960, “It is plain that anonymity has sometimes been assumed for the most constructive purposes.”

But on the Internet, it’s often less about being constructive and more about being cowardly.


Obama's War on the Internet
By Philip Giraldi
Campaign for Liberty, 2010-07-19

A recent trip to Europe has convinced me that
the governments of the world have been rocked by the power of the internet
and are seeking to gain control of it

so that
they will have a virtual monopoly
on information that the public is able to access.


Everything Google knows about you
(and how it knows it)

By Caitlin Dewey
Washington Post The Intersect, 2014-11-19