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A darker side of the internet

This morning, both Boston newspapers featured stories that caught my eye. On the surface, they seem unrelated, but I think I can see a common thread.

In the Boston Globe (ick), they report about a disgruntled defendant in a drug case who felt wronged by a police informant. Sean Bucci has created an online database of known and suspected police informants, or "rats." (They didn't provide the URL, but a brief Google search found it for me. I'm not including the link, either. And if you find it, please don't publish it in the comments.) He's protected it with disclaimers and by locating it outside the United States, but it's quickly become the largest known such database with over 800 entries.

And it's having an effect. The Globe found one FBI informant who, when told he was on the site by one of his would-be stingees, is now fearing for his life. He had to abandon his home and job, and has to take such steps as never carrying identification on him to protect himself from being identified and killed.

The other story was actually an editorial from the Boston Herald. It sums up a recent fight in Massachusetts regarding charter schools. Charter school backers registered the domain name masscharterschools.org and promptly filled it with information, resources, links, and the like -- the typical stuff groups like that put on their web page.

But their opponents spotted an oversight, and acted quickly. They grabbed the domain name "masscharterschools.com" and quickly filled that up with their own information and links. They did put in a small link to the other site, but it's rather obscure and drowned out by the (to my eyes) very poor web design and clutter.

I'm a fierce proponent of the First Amendment, and these two stories trouble me. In the first case, I can see a compelling argument for shutting down the web site -- despite the disclaimers, it's clearly intended to obstruct justice and intimidate would-be witnesses. Society has a clear interest in promoting and protecting informers, and sites like that one exist solely for the benefits of criminals.

The second case, though, is a bit tougher. Courts have repeatedly ruled against "cyber-squatters," people and organizations who register domain names simply to keep them out of the hands of others. But in this case, they simply got to the domain name first. Further, they do actually link to the masscharterschools.org page -- if halfheartedly, at best. I think they ought to be allowed to keep their page.

But while we're on the subject, would anyone like to contribute to my legal fund? I'm considering suing the Harris Tea Company...

J.


Comments (8)

When you're the person who'... (Below threshold)
htom:

When you're the person who's spent thousands and months or years defending yourself against a false charge brought by someone who's made up a tale about you to get a lighter sentence for himself you may find informants of less value to society.

Jay, I agree with you about... (Below threshold)

Jay, I agree with you about the Chart School websites. I don't think people interested in charter schools will be swayed by the tripe and garbage found on the opponents' site(s). In fact, it may help!

Jeez, it only costs 8 bucks to register a site --- you oughtta know by now that you have to register your url names every which way to prevent this from happening.

I don't have a problem (muc... (Below threshold)
-S-:

I don't have a problem (much to write about, at least) in people with complaints creating websites inorder to air those complaints, if it's the way they think they should solve their problems or at least seek some level of reward or emotional compensation for their grievance(s). There are many problems socially/commercially whereby the individual has no recourse for being victimized by someone, or even offended, other than to vent about it until the negative experience has been discharged. And, by sharing your experience(s) with others ("venting" your emotions), there's also the probability that what was a bad experience or experiences can be useful to others (help them to avoid similar experience[s] to your own).

So, the internet is a great tool for that purpose but only up to a point.

Without restrictions that prevent "squatting" and various impersonations projects, people are defamed, harmed, and intellectual information becomes a quagmire of nonsense infected (yes, infected) by inaccuracies.

Which is where the public, the internet (or, in most cases, "the blogosphere" because many use blog authoring softwares and methods for this purpose, to "vent" their emotions of the derogatory kind about others who it is perceived have caused the authors "harm" and often, worse, are perceived to "deserve" to be ruined/retaliated against because of the perception of the "first blood" standard [they caused harm first so any harms afterward in a retaliation are acceptable, is what I mean by that "first blood" standard on the internet]).

But what I DO have a problem with are the impersonators (including those who use the email process to forge information and impersonate others, if not bring actual harms of one kind or another upon persons and sites by way of forgery), the people who create domains and associated sites that are intended to appear to be one thing (as in capitalizing on the variations of the upper level domains as you've mentioned in the thread issue [".org" versus the latter, ".com" version}), because it isn't then a case of one person or persons/organization posing counter information as another source, but of someone attempting to mislead.

When you make a cookie-cutter site that mimics and/or impersonates someone else and then publish that/those on a variation using an alternative upper-level domain, I DO consider that an attempt to mislead the public. Otherwise, make your own website using a similar but different domain name via a change in your upper-level domain registration, but create your own website that has a unique appearance and offers unique content. Which can include your counter or even derogatory comments about some other source but at least there isn't the appearance of a pretense, the posing of an impersonation which are, rather, the actions of someone who intends to obfuscate site contents and actual domain name.

Most people can discern the differences and abandon whoever it is who impersonates (it weakens any counter information you may have as to complaints, experiences, in my view, when you attempt to obfuscate your message by way of an impersonating site or forged headers, which are nnot the actions of an ethical source, however creative they may appear), but there once the false information is incorporated into the general academics of society, there is always a subset of humans who will persist in attempting to perpetuate that false information.

(My chief complaints about Wikipedia, by the way, that last paragraph, and that is, to capsulize here, the pretense of one garnering greater credibility by the mere representation of that information on the internet, which someone, somewhere, will eventually believe and perpetuate, despite no actual academic credibility existing in the source or the content.)

I understand that there are some people who find this sort of behavior entertaining, hold the behaviors in regard so much as they find an emotional retaliation "rewarding" -- regardless of the harm or harms it may or does pose to whomever (again, that "first blood" subjective standard).

The problem is that the behavior attracts those whose perceptions are not reliable. There's no process other than public opinion afterward to evaluate whose perceptions are reliable and whose are not, or some grey area in between. And, public opinion on the internet is difficult to evaluate, as all of us who comprehend those online polls and the processes employed. You cannot evaluate public opinion by maintaining anonymity, unfortunately, and without anonymity, the internet would still be and only be The Well.

I like the JAYTE... (Below threshold)
-S-:

I like the JAYTEA logo...

Jay, maybe you need a JAY TEA logo. The visuals do make a difference and in which case you'd probably find it easier to not sue the JAYTEA Company.

Well, that link didn't work... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Well, that link didn't work (^^)...sorry, I tried to link to the actual page where that JAYTEA logo is featured (failed, sorry).

Main page, then Skip Intro, the logo I was referring to, previous, top of that second page.

Maybe I should "sue" <a hre... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Maybe I should "sue" this guy...

Maybe you should, too, Jay (note the guy's name)...ha.

Whoever set up the masschar... (Below threshold)
Remy Logan:

Whoever set up the masscharter website is an idiot. You always buy the .com first. If the .com isn't available, then you think up a different name. If you don't know that, then you shouldn't be setting up websites. .net, .org, .anything-else don't mean jack if you don't have the .com. Ask the guys at whitehouse.gov how that works. At least it's not a porn site anymore.

I'd be concerned that someo... (Below threshold)

I'd be concerned that someone could appear on the "rat" website and there be a case of mistaken identity.




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