‘How I Sued a Craigslist Sex Troll’



It's been nearly three years, but one victim has finally successfully sued an infamous Craigslist prankster who published the private emails received in response to a fake sex ad.

Now for the first time, the court's "John Doe" has agreed to tell his own side of the story. "The message is in the fact that a lawsuit is indeed possible based on privacy issues," says the victim, "and those considering similar behavior as Fortuny are advised to consider that fact."

In September of 2006, Jason Fortuny posted a personal ad on Craigslist pretending to be a woman seeking kinky sex — and then published sexy pictures and complete emails he received, including any names and phone numbers, from over 150 men. "[T]he chorus of blog posts saying 'someone ought to sue him' gave me some satisfaction to being able to do just that," says Doe, "on behalf of those who wished for justice in this matter."



"IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AND ADJUDGED," wrote Judge Joan B. Gottschall 30 months later — handing down $74,252.56 in legal fines to Fortuny. Three law firm associates had spent 129.2 hours (at $175 per hour) litigating his 2006 Craigslist prank, plus another 35 hours by the main attorney billed at $275 per hour. As part of the judge's award, Fortuny will have to pay all their legal fees — a total of $32,365.50 — and he'll even end up paying the extra costs accrued because he avoided their process servers.

"I hope that it demonstrates that claims (and attorneys) do exist that enable victims to pursue those who commit wrongful acts," says the victim's lawyer, Charles Mudd.

Jason Fortuny
"Whenever I questioned 'why bother doing this', I just re-read the posts where Fortuny was taunting the victims who begged him to remove their information," says victim John Doe, "and that renewed my resolve." In the end, Fortuny's stubbornness is what led them to court. "He publicly demonstrated his unwillingness to negotiate with others, so I knew that only a hardball response would be effective and that direct contact with him would be a waste of time and tip him off to my plans."

Ironically, Fortuny was only fined $5,000 for "public disclosure of private facts" and "intrusion upon seclusion." The remaining bulk of the award — $35,001 — was for violating the plaintiff's copyright. "The Copyright Act provides for statutory damages from $750 to $35,000 per infringed work," says Mudd, but those damages "can exceed $35,000 up to an amount of $150,000 per infringed work where the conduct was willful." This means that ultimately, it was Fortuny's own "willful" conduct that increased the price he'd eventually have to pay, Mudd argues. "In general, Mr. Fortuny could have limited the amount of damages under the Copyright Act and could have significantly reduced the amount of attorney's fees throughout the course of this matter.

"He chose not to do so."


Judgment Day

Fortuny initially argued that the suit against him was "abusing the intent of copyright law, stretching the common law terms of privacy, using unverified e-mail as alternative process, and side stepping personal jurisdiction." Last summer Fortuny wrote an eight-page letter informing the judge that "I do not have the resources for legal proceedings in another state, much less the exorbitant attorney fees for a Federal copyright case." But John Doe's lawyer points out that Fortuny didn't have to appear in person, and seemed genuinely surprised by the lackluster fight that Fortuny put up.

Judge Gottschall rejected Fortuny's only other response — a "motion to dismiss" — writing that "It appears that the defendant filed the documents in the wrong courthouse." (The court's rules also required a "notice of service" which Fortuny failed to provide.) By the time Fortuny's motion reached the right court, Judge Gottschall had already entered a default judgment against him. "My firm and the Plaintiff provided Fortuny every opportunity to vacate the default," says attorney Mudd, but after several months with no response, the case had moved forward.

"The foregoing being said, I would have welcomed the opportunity to address the claims on the merits."

Fortuny's victim acknowledges that "The judge's verdict was just a formality based on the rules. Fortuny lost this on procedural grounds." But there's still a lesson in his legal experience...

Fortuny's prank became a symbol for unapologetic online "griefing," and last August, the New York Times wrote Fortuny "might be the closest thing this movement of anonymous provocateurs has to a spokesman." Fortuny told the Times he knew two victims had lost their jobs over his prank. "Am I the bad guy?" Fortuny asked rhetorically in the interview. "Am I the big horrible person who shattered someone’s life with some information? No! This is life. Welcome to life. Everyone goes through it. I’ve been through horrible stuff, too."



A Seattle newscast reported one man responded with a picture
exposing himself in his cubicle where he worked — Microsoft —
adding "That man got fired."


But John Doe was determined to fight back.


The Victim's Story

On that day in 2006, Doe was alerted to his sexy picture being published online — first via an anonymous tip-off, and then helpful pointers from two of his friends, according to documents filed in the case. He'd quickly deleted his photo from the Wiki-like page at Encyclopedia Dramatica — only to see it re-appearing there later (and with future deletions disabled). "Through legal counsel, Plaintiff requested that Encyclopedia Dramatica remove Plaintiff's Private Response, Copyrighted Photograph and personal email address from the Fortuny Experiment," reads the case filing.

It adds that Encyclopedia Dramatica complied with Plaintiff's request, but then Jason Fortuny himself grabbed the picture, and re-published it on his own site. It was then that the angry victim sent Fortuny a DMCA notice, arguing that the photograph was copyrighted.

"I initially sought to protect my privacy and leave it at that," Doe told us this week. "Fortuny opposed my actions to remove my personal information, and so I was left with no choice but to take additional legal action against him."

One internet rumor says the plaintiff must've luckily had a friend who was a lawyer, but that's not true, says Doe's attorney. "Neither I nor anyone at my firm knew of or communicated with the Plaintiff prior to the Craigslist Experiment." But he adds that "The case was well researched and on solid legal footing, and we had every reason to expect a favorable ruling on merit."

Fortuny's prank may have struck 149 other victims, but John Doe was different. "I had the personal resources and was at liberty to risk additional publicity," Doe says, "unlike apparently all the other victims. Fortuny miscalculated in that regard as he assumed no one could either afford the legal costs nor take the personal risk to oppose him.

"This was a miscalculation that was perhaps not clear to him until a long time after I began the process."



Doe's photo was removed — temporarily — but by the end of the month, the photo was back on Fortuny's site yet again, along with the text of the original sexy email message. Fortuny had filed a counter-notification disputing the copyrighted status of the photo. "The counter notification basically says 'you're a liar liar pants on fire'," Fortuny explained on his blog, "and adds that if you don't respond within 14 days, I get to put my shit back up."

The incident occurred back in September of 2006, and the first summons to Fortuny was issued 18 months later — over a year ago, in February of 2008. "For personal reasons I let some time pass before pulling the trigger on the lawsuit," the victim says, and even then it took more than four months before the executed summons was finally returned. "We had advised Fortuny that we reserved the right to take this up again at our convenience, and I suppose he mistook that for a bluff." The lawsuit acknowledged that after nearly two years, the photo and email were still displayed on Fortuny's site.

And to this day, nearly 100 of the original photos, remain online at Encyclopedia Dramatica. (Caution: link is not safe for work.)

This wasn't Fortuny's first brush with the courts. One of our readers contacted us with a list of Fortuny's other past legal skirmishes — including three municipal court citations for "no driver's license on person" in 1999, 2001, and 2002, as well as a 2004 citation for driving without proof of insurance. But looking at the judge's decision today, Doe sees a larger message. "Beyond the goal of protecting my own privacy, there was a broader 'civic' aspect to this case," he notes, "which was motivating for me and of particular note motivating for my attorney. Fortuny maliciously harmed a lot of people by his actions, and he made the point of bragging about how he was toying with the efforts of those who attempted to deal with him directly.

"It was sad to watch this happen, and it furthered my resolve to act as the 'adult on the playground' and respond to this bully on behalf of all his victims in spirit anyway."

But there's another lesson in the incident — and ironically, it comes from the Craigslist sex troll himself — via the lawyer who prosecuted the case against him. "I believe Fortuny himself sent the message for users of the Internet through the Craigslist Experiment — beware what you read online," says Charles Mudd, "and think several times before communicating personal information through electronic mail to anyone.

"Especially someone you have never met."

See Also:
20 Funniest Reactions to the Fortuny Verdict
Jason Fortuny Responds to Lawsuit
Jason Fortuny Speaks
Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued
The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny
Good Griefers: Fortuny v. Crook
In the Company of Jerkoffs



Read More

20 Funniest Reactions to the Jason Fortuny Verdict



His blog at RFJason.com disappeared, and one anonymous Livejournal comment claims that "he hasn't made contact with anyone for weeks. Even his accomplices don't know what's going on." (Though his personal blog at LiveJournal is still up — with its old tagline "Getting away with everything you can only dream of.")

But now that a judge ordered Jason Fortuny to pay $74,252.56 in various legal fines —what's the internet's final verdict? Was Fortuny's Craigslist prank instructive, malicious — or a little bit of both?

Here's the 20 funniest reactions.



*




"Why do I hear Aretha singing 'Dancin in the streets'? ;-) Honestly this should be declared an international holiday or something."

      — Livejournal blogger Mrs-Ralph


*


"trolls are getting sued now? what is the world coming to"

      — Livejournal user Kassichu


*


"This is what happens when you don't put out like you imply you will."

      — Livejournal user Demure


*


"I love when reality collides with LiveJournal. It's like a super nova exploding."

      — Livejournal user Katastrophic


*


"Don't worry about lawsuits. They won't happen."

      — Jason Fortuny, October, 2006


*


"If he was a TRULY great troll, he would have done it all anonymously. As it is, he's pretty much in the same position as those dudes who sent him pics... ...consequences got back to him. That's life."

      — Livejournal user Yhanthlei


*


"Well, it's not like the plaintiff won on the merits of the case, if that makes you feel better. He only won because the troll didn't show up to some meetings. Happens all the time in civil court."

      — Livejournal user Nandexdame


*


"A legal 'appearance' does not mean that Fortuny had to physically appear in Court initially. Rather, he had to properly file the appropriate documents in the correct court.

"Mr. Fortuny failed to do so."

      — Charles Mudd, the lawyer in the successful lawsuit


*


"If you are 13 or older you should expect naked explicit pictures of your ass to show up on the internet. this is 2009 America, after all."

      — A possibly-sarcastic commenter responding to Dan Savage


*


"i'm going to send nude pics of myself to an anonymous ad on craigslist what could possibly go wrong."

      — Livejournal user Kassichu


*


"It's like a stupidity contest, except the winner gets to pay ~$75k."

      — Livejournal user Derumi


*


"You don't have to feel sorry for him to recognize that the law is on his side here. Fortuny behaved wrongfully, and now he's suffering the consequences."

      — Magicgospelman


*


"Let's hug."

      — Livejournal user Girlvinyl


*


"The amount seems a high and random but really 'I did it for the lulz' shouldn't be a valid reason for fucking with someones life. I kind of wonder if there would have been a difference reaction if the guy had targeted a different group [than] male doms."

      — Livejournal user Muilti-factedg


*


"I take it back. You might get sued if you do a Craigslist Experiment..."

      —Jason Fortuny on his blog last summer


*


1. Trolls being sued is ridiculous
2. That doesn't make this any less funny

      — Livejournal user Layiliyal


*


"Contrary to what some people here want to believe, the Internet is not a lawless libertarian wonderland where you can do whatever the fuck you want without legal consequences. ....If you do these things with the goal of fucking with people, you shouldn't be surprised when they fight back."

      — Livejournal user Magicgospelman


*


"Can you blame him?"
"Not really."

      — Jason Fortuny
         responding to a TV news interviewer last summer.





See Also:
How I Sued a Craigslist Sex Troll
Jason Fortuny Responds to Lawsuit
Jason Fortuny Speaks
Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued
The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny
Good Griefers: Fortuny v. Crook
In the Company of Jerkoffs

Read More

Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued




Jason Fortuny appeared in Sunday's New York Times magazine — but he may soon be appearing in court.

Nearly two years ago, Jason Fortuny placed a fake sex ad on Craigslist pretending to be a woman seeking casual sex, and then published the photographs of anyone who responded. Now one of his victims has filed a $75,000 lawsuit against Fortuny in U.S. District Court, and this summer (after four months of effort) finally obtained a valid address for Fortuny and issued a summons.

Two weeks ago — as the New York Times was preparing their article — Fortuny was writing an eight-page letter to the judge finally defending his "Craigslist experiment" against the legal charges, and offering his own testimony about the event. "I take it back," Fortuny wrote recently on his blog. "You might get sued if you do a Craigslist Experiment..."

But it's still very complicated.



According to the suit Fortuny "acted with actual malice to harm and deceive the individuals responding to the Craigslist ad." The suit demands a jury trial and seeks a full slate of damages — compensatory, statutory, and punitive, plus attorney's fees and costs.

"Plaintiff has suffered, and continues to suffer, harm arising from the foregoing wrongful conduct by Mr. Fortuny," the lawsuit complains, identifying the victim as John Doe and arguing that the incident affected his private life "and the manner in which he is viewed among family, friends, and colleagues."

Fortuny's prank traumatized John Doe, it argues, causing him to "suffer and continue to suffer from humiliation, embarrassment, lost opportunity of keeping his family together, and emotional distress."

John Doe is asking that Fortuny be enjoined from publishing the photo, that Fortuny destroy his copy of the photo (and sexy email), and to "cooperate in the removal...from any cached sites."

The specific charges?

Count one: Violation of copyright act
Count two: Public disclosure of private facts
Count three: Intrusion upon seclusion
Count four: Injunctive relief


FORTUNY RESPONDS

Is he guilty of disclosing personally identifiable private facts? There aren't any, Fortuny argues. "In his communication, Plaintiff does not use his actual name, or provide any method of personal contact," he writes in his motion to dismiss — noting that the victim had used an anonymous email address.

And whatever Fortuny published, the victim had volunteered, the motion claims. "I did not obtain any information by intruding into Plaintiff's personal space, eavesdropping, or illegally intercepting any communication," Fortuny argues. "Thus, the disclosure of Plaintiff's e-mail is not, by its nature, personal or intrusive."

And what about the copyright law? Fortuny's motion says that there's been no violation of copyright law, since the photo he's republished is used "to discuss how DMCA law can be used to be chill free speech." (After the photo was removed from another site, Fortuny had re-published it in October of 2006 in a blog post called "Don't tread on me, or, how I learned to stop worrying and ignore DMCA threats.") Fortuny had filed a counter-notification disputing the copyrighted status of the photo. ("The counter notification basically says 'you're a liar liar pants on fire'," Fortuny wrote on his blog, "and adds that if you don't respond within 14 days, I get to put my shit back up.")

Now his motion adds that "The use of the photo is in reduced form, is transformative, does not affect market value of the original photo, and is for a purpose of education and public interest." The motion also notes that it's a 4-kilobyte image (and not the original 22 kilobytes), and "there is ample case law that protects the fair use of reduced versions of media, especially for the purposes of education and discussion."


THE VICTIM'S STORY

Yes, there were sexy shenanigans on Craiglist, but Fortuny adds that while he did re-publish this particular photo, "there was no malicious intent in my actions. This was never a plan to embarrass people or to single out a subset of the population."

The Craigslist griefer writes that he understands the hurt and frustration inflicted on the unsuspecting victims. But Fortuny also cites a clear warning in Craigslist's terms of service that the information on the site might indeed be inaccurate or misleading. "If I made the mistake of telling secrets to someone I didn't know online and it got out...I'd be kicking myself pretty hard. I would most definitely be shouting expletives at my computer screen. But that's the risk we all take online, as well as in life. Whether it's someone's e-mail, picture, or personal ad, there's no guarantee of identity, and no guarantee that you won't be betrayed. And there never will be."

But the plaintiff obviously disagrees. The lawsuit cites a section of Craigslists' privacy policy stating that users "agree not to post, email, or otherwise make available content that includes personal or identifying information about another person without that person's explicit consent." Making an obvious point, the suit notes that the plaintiff intended his sexy photo and email "to be a private communication between himself and the 'woman' who placed the advertisement... The public disclosure of these private facts represents an intrusion upon the privacy of Plaintiff that is objectionable and highly offensive to a reasonable person."

"The foregoing acts of infringement have been willful and intentional, in complete disregard of and with indifference to Plaintiff's rights," the suit argues. "Moreover, the uncertainty of the extent of the intrusions continues to cause Plaintiff a great deal of anguish and suffering." The facts disclosed "were not of any legitimate public concern," it argues, adding that "Mr. Fortuny acted with actual malice."

"Unless enjoined and restrained by this Court, Mr. Fortuny will continue to cause Plaintiff great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money."


FORTUNY'S STORY

Appealing to the court's sympathy, Fortuny shares a personal statement with his own perspective.
I've been asked over and over, "Jason, why did you do it?" To be honest, it was a small act that quickly spun out of control. It's not like I woke up that morning and said, "hey, I think I'll start a controversy today and get my face in the news."

I posted the fake ad with the sole intention to satisfy my curiosity about what kinds of people respond to such overt advertisements. I expected no responses. I didn't believe anyone would fall for such an obviously fake ad on a website that tells its users to exercise caution. When I received those 175 responses to my Craigslist ad, I was blown away by the utter disregard for personal privacy...

When Second Life's user database was hacked, the press coverage was minimal, Fortuny argues, while his own stunt generated a disproportionate huge wave of attention. "That there was so much coverage truly confused me," he writes, adding that "I've struggled to integrate this experience into my life, and to make it productive."

And Fortuny also argues that he doesn't ridicule the individuals who responded, but talks instead about "the larger issue of privacy on the Internet, and how to be proactive in protecting one's private information."

"[B]ringing legal action against me may punish me, but it won't change or even impact online culture in the positive ways that I describe above."

But for the moment, he's left grappling with the legal nuances of his defense. For example, he points out that though both he and his victim live in Washington state, the suit was filed in federal court in Illinois. (The suit argues it's a federal issue, and that Fortuny also spoke about the incident at a "Lulz Con" in Chicago.) There's one more interesting wrinkle. The plaintiff did copyright his photograph — but apparently as an after-thought. (Fortuny published the image on October 6 of 2006, and the plaintiff began his copyright filing on October 12.)
The Plaintiff is seeking to punish my discussion of his DMCA actions by abusing the intent of copyright law, stretching the common law terms of privacy, using unverified e-mail as alternative process, and side stepping personal jurisdiction...

I have never been afraid to answer for my actions and to face anyone who takes exception with me. This case, however, is quite different. This is a case of a person trying to get his pound of flesh out of me for my perceived wrongs.

Fortuny argues that tactics like the victim's frivolous DMCA notice "erode the free speech rights of Internet users everywhere, especially the growing world of bloggers and other self-published groups. When an individual uses copyright law and privacy torts to silence critics or unjustly control publicly relevant discussion, it damages everyone's rights."



Ironically, the day after filing the lawsuit, John Doe's attorney had to ask the court to delete the copyright application because it revealed his embarrassed client's real name.


AFTERMATH

Almost two years later, more than 180 responses remain online at Encyclopedia Dramatica, including photographs of more than 94 men (and in some cases, close-ups of their genitals).

Fortuny reportedly copied the text verbatim from an actual Craigslist ad, which gave his lure an extra authenticity. "i am 27 yo sexy str8 woman, 5 ft 7 in, 145 lbs..." the ad promised. "send ur stats and a face pic and i'll return mine to you..."
looking 4 ruff man, harley rider... i have a leg spreader, crop, cane and metal cuffs. spit on me, verbally abuse... "i am looking 4 a white or latin only, str8 brutal dom muscular male 30-35 yo who is arrogant, self-centered, nasty, egotistic, sadistic who likes 2 give intense pain and discipline...

But so far the resulting legal actions have been centered on the uses of copyright law. Neither "John Doe" nor his lawyers returned our request for a comment — nor did Craigslist or the EFF. But Jason Fortuny did, urging internet users "protect your free speech rights. Stand up to copyright and DMCA law abuse."

But so far, he's standing alone. ("Let me introduce you to my amazing lawyer," Fortuny wrote on his blog. "Me.") He contacted the Chicago ACLU, according to the post, saying that they replied that handling e-mail was "too complicated, could you please send us a fax." So faced with expensive legal fees and his own counter-arguments about copyright law, "here I am, going Pro Se on this. This is going to be fun."

In an email today, Fortuny conceded that "The case is at a very early stage, and it's not at the forefront of my brain right now." But a hint of his true sense of impunity may have slipped into his letter to the court. "I make no excuses about who I am," he writes in his motion to dismiss. "I am frequently rude, unsympathetic, unempathetic, and politically incorrect, to put it mildly.

"But there's no law against that."

See Also:
Jason Fortuny Speaks
The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny
Good Griefers: Fortuny v. Crook
Dear Internet, I'm Sorry
In the Company of Jerkoffs

Read More

Dead Woman Blogging



Theresa Duncan committed suicide in July.

But on New Year's Eve, five months after her death, she updated her blog.

January's Vanity Fair had already trumpeted "The New York Art World's Bizarre Double Suicide" in a cover story this month. (One week after Theresa's suicide, Jeremy Blake, her partner of 12 years, removed his clothes and walked into the ocean at New York's Rockaway Beach.) Morbid interest in her blog was only exacerbated when, three months after her death, a new post suddenly appeared on her blog just two days before Halloween. Its title?

"Basil Rathbone's Ghosts."



It's a weird final twist for the A-list blogger and game designer. In the last year of her life, Theresa's apartment was in a New York rectory "allegedly haunted by the ghosts of Edgar Allan Poe and Harry Houdini," according to Vanity Fair, and she'd developed an apparent intrigue in at least one ghost story.

Unfortunately, the entire 423-word post was written by Dick Cavett. On his own blog at the New York Times site, the former 70s talk show host had promised his readers ghost stories. In February he'd told a story about the actor who'd played Sherlock Holmes in the 1940s. (Moments after Rathbone's friend is killed in a car accident along with his beloved hunting dogs, the actor receives a phone call from a psychic who says she's received a ghostly message. "Traveling very fast. No time to say good-bye. There are no dogs here.")

Theresa wrote a post scheduled to appear at the end of October, quoting the entirety of Cavett's last six paragraphs.
The next time I saw Rathbone...more years had gone by, and he was in the act of receiving a summons for letting his dog Ginger off the leash in Central Park. I thought he might have decided, looking back, that it had all been some sort of bizarre coincidence, or maybe a highly original prank. He said, "At the time, of course, I was quite shaken by it." And now? "I am still shaken by it."

A note below the post warned that a second one would appear on New Year's Eve — the final blog post of Theresa Duncan.





And increasing the tension was another dark story lingering after her death — the couple's belief that Scientologists were secretly harassing her. Vanity Fair reports that her boyfriend Blake "wrote a 27-page document encapsulating their claims, which he planned on using as the basis for a lawsuit against the Church of Scientology." (They also report Tom Cruise's denial that he interfered with her negotiations to direct a modern version of Alice in Wonderland, which her agent says was blocked for "budget considerations.")

Theresa's fear of Scientologists had already led to bizarre confrontations with their Hollywood neighbors, according to the article.
"Theresa said to me, 'Jeremy and I have started a club where we've found a bunch of old men and we're letting them fuck us in the ass, and we wanted to know if you wanted to be a part of it.' I asked Theresa if she was joking. She said 'no' and repeated herself..."

In July, when O'Brien came home and picked up her mail, she wrote, Duncan "shrieked 'cult whore' and 'cult hooker' repeatedly. She was very frightening."

Both incidents appeared in a letter supporting the couple's eventual eviction from their bungalow in Venice, California in August of 2006.

But a strange mystery lingers over one detail of Theresa's story — the fact that rock star (and Scientologist) Beck pulled out of Theresa's Alice movie. New York Magazine found a curious inconsistency in Beck's statement to Vanity Fair that he'd "never met to discuss doing her film." Blogger Emmanuelle Richard says she found an Italian interview where in fact, Beck gushes excitedly about preparing for his upcoming movie debut. ("It will be full of energy and full of characters: some kind of Alice in Wonderland set in the 70s... The director is a friend of mine and it will be her directorial debut. We will begin shooting in the Fall.")

Or was their fast lane life simply catching up to them? Vanity Fair reports Blake sometimes took a hip flask of whiskey to his job at Rockstar Games, while Theresa "drank champagne by the bottle."

"It was starting to show in their faces; they were looking haggard."

After the couple's twin suicides, the New York Times ran an article about prowling through Jeremy Blake's computer, assembling his final artwork from the PhotoShop folders he'd left behind.

Other bloggers searched for a logic in the death of the two New York artists. "The same anxieties that underwrite Ms. Duncan's nightmare visions are to be found in the economic and technological circuitry that surrounds all of us," reads one post on the blog Jugadoo, "an erosion of stable modes of identity and selfhood..."
It isn't hard to imagine a future scenario when people will be able to generate AI-controlled virtual selves who will stroll around digital worlds like Second Life, having conversations with grief-stricken friends and family after their living counterparts are dead. That a person on the brink of suicide might leave a new kind of note.

And then Theresa's final blog post appeared.





It spoke of "twenty largely wasted years," saying trying to write is a failure "because one has only learnt to get the better of words for the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which one is no longer disposed to say it."

Theresa is quoting T.S. Eliot, but she'd skipped the first four passages of "East Coker" to focus in on the fifth. "With shabby equipment always deteriorating in the general mess of imprecision of feeling, undisciplined squads of emotion..."

Her final mysterious post was another long quote, arguing wearily that the great truths have already been recorded and "There is only the fight to recover what has been lost and found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions that seem unpropitious."
"But perhaps neither gain nor loss. For us, there is only the trying.

The rest is not our business."


See Also:
Scientology Fugitive Arrested
Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death
Robert Anton Wilson 1932 - 2007
Death? No Thank You
Miracles

Read More

Catching Up With an Aqua Teen Terrorist

Mooninite Terrorist Zebbler
January 31, 2007: a day that will live in infamy. The great city of Boston was brought to its knees by the appearance of unexpected L.E.D. placards in places where they didn't belong. Alert to potential connections between terror and anything a wee bit unusual, stout citizens and government officials alike in the land of the free and the home of the brave peed their metaphoric pants. The L.E.D. character was described in a CNN report as "a Mooninite, an outer-space delinquent… greeting passersby with an upraised middle finger." Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley was quoted in the same piece as saying, "It had a very sinister appearance." The horror. The horror.



A pair of young Bostonians were arrested for perpetrating this dastardly act as hired guns in a guerrilla marketing campaign to promote the upcoming movie, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie. The two lads, Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens were charged with "placing a hoax device in a way that results in panic," a felony, and disorderly conduct. At a news conference, Berdovsky and Stevens refused to talk about the case but expressed a willingness to opine at length on '70s hairstyles. They were not taken up on their generous offer by the gathered media.

Berdovsky, known popularly as Zebbler, has plenty of hair to think about – long dreadlocks down to his waist. He also has a reputation in Boston — and increasingly around the world — as a popular VJ, video artist, performance artist and painter. Sentenced to 80 hours community service for his crime, he made the most of it, painting a delightfully trippy mural for Spaulding (physical) Rehabilitation Center. He was also recently voted the #12 VJ in the world by London-based DJ Magazine and was named Boston's Best Artist by Improper Bostonian Magazine. Zebbler also recently appeared in Berkeley, Caliifornia where his surround sound HD projection set was part of the opening reception for RIP.MIX.BURN.BAM.PFA at the Pacific Film Archives — an exhibit that "celebrates the cultural and artistic practice of remix."

Meanwhile, the film that brought down the city, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie was, undeservedly, a commercial flop. (Maybe if they'd shut down more cities, people would have noticed.) But it is now out on DVD, so don't wait to discover what happens when Carl gets strapped into the insane-o-flex. Like the cartoon, the movie is, at times: ridiculous, stupid, hilarious, clever, and – of course – composed of cheesy bad animation. Rent it. You can't go wrong.

I interviewed Berdovsky aka Zebbler by email.

RU SIRIUS: Most people who read this will probably just know you as the guy with the long dreads who got caught up in the big Aqua Teen Terrorist scare of 2007. Were you in any way prepared to get caught up in anything that absurd?


ZEBBLER: Well it depends. I never expected anyone to freak out over the L.E.D. placards. However, I recognize people's perceptions of me. I behaved in a manner that was consistent with my knowledge of how I am perceived, although there were definitely a few unknowns. I have never seen a guy with long dreadlocks in a situation like mine. People's reactions were pleasantly positive. On the streets, in airports, stores, events — people who recognize me are generally very positive and curious.

RU: I've known a couple of people who have wound up in situations with Homeland Security basically around technologies that were not understood. They found themselves facing a veritable platoon of armed agents and various other types of hostility. How was your treatment at the hands of law enforcement, homeland security and so forth? Did anybody on that team say or do anything particularly bizarre or interesting?

Z: Yeah, there were lots of interesting statements from them. My interrogator gave me nothing but carrots to eat. I cooperated fully — since I had nothing to hide — but at times it was uncanny as to how convincing he was. He made me want to tell him my deepest secrets — a genuinely weird feeling. I had to snap out of it a few times. He promised to give me back all of the mooninites they have confiscated from me. It was a lie and I knew it as he was saying it.

The biggest surprise was from one of the older state police person. On the way out of the holding cell where we were held in overnight, there were whispers about us being famous as a result of what happened. One of the higher-ups came up to me as I was being led away in shackles and said: "My daughter is a huge fan of you. She watches the show and knows all about what happened. She was so excited that I get to see you." He paused for a second and added: "So... did you really mean to blow up Boston?" I think I just growled with disbelief after that statement and walked out to face the press staking out the holding cell in the bitterly cold morning.

RU: You're a pretty well known video artist and VJ. What do you try to do with the medium and tell us about a few high points in your career?

Z: I am moving more and more in the direction of solo surround sound custom HD video performances. I have spent several years creating custom psychedelic content in my resolution. To my mild surprise, it's starting to be recognized by the fine art community. I recently performed solo at Berkeley Museum of Art (California) as part of their RIP.MIX.BURN.BAM.PFA. There are also talks about performing for the Anchorage Film Festival (AK).

I tend to get physical in my performances. I am known for wearing costumes and masks during performances and potentially more than other VJs I have been mistaken for DJs during many shows.

Right after graduating from Mass College of Art, I went on a major US tour providing custom video projection performances for Ozric Tentacles. That was pretty great. A lot of work (25 shows in 30 days all over US) — but a great introduction to the industry and craft of live performance in big venues.

RU: You also worked recently with Alex Grey, the painter who is much known and admired in psychedelic circles. How have psychedelics influenced your work... and do you think your experiences helped you maintain your sense of humor throughout the whole Aqua Teen Terror crisis? You guys were pretty gracious and disarming when you went on Fox with Geraldo.

Z: Mmm... that's a big question. Psychedelics were a major part of my inspiration to create art. As a teen, I read a lot about human psychology and heard about the sensory deprivation experiments, where people are faced with nothing but their inner world. It inspired me to seek similar experiences. Probably, it was my desire to seek the unexplained, the otherworldly. It was a yearning to prove to myself that there's something outside the box. I have since learned to differentiate between genuine revelations and delusional mind tricks. I am not as intensely into mental experimentation these days — instead I'm trying to recreate a lot of the feelings, concepts and sensations through my art.

A life-changing psychedelic experience is an honest slap in the face with a realization of our own arbitrary position in the universe. Regular societal roles become unglued. Personal impulses reveal their egotism. It did not seem to offer a path to salvation, just a widening of perspective.

One doesn't need psychedelics to achieve those kinds of realizations however. While it helped my sense of humor to a degree — I think ultimately it's my personality that's responsible for my sensations and behavior during the Aqua Teen Boston Bomb Scare. When I am faced with an uncontrollable situation, I let go of trying to control what's beyond reach, and focus on what I can change. Both Sean and I didn't want this case to intimidate or frighten people. We were sick of media spinning stories to make them scarier. So we came up with a way to disarm the media — first with our press conference.



RU: Tell us about your video show, "I Wash My TV in Fear"

Z: It was my reaction to seeing so many fear-inducing messages constantly on our TV screens. Since the news became a business, they realized that fear creates the need to watch. The TVs at my performance were literally awash in fear. I recorded a day or two of television news and selected the most frightening messages to create a hyper saturated barrage of FEAR that I then perform live on multiple screens with custom music/edits/animations.

RU: So what did you think of the Aqua Teen movie? I thought it was pretty hilarious nonsense but you may disagree. And do you think it's weird that all the publicity didn't create any curiosity for the flick?

Z: I thought it held up strong with a hilarious start and beginning/middle. But, ultimately I was hoping for a more intelligent ending. Instead, it all just went to hell. But so be it — I had a good time. And it was a little strange that it didn't get that much attention. I attribute some of it to the execs freaking out and backing off from the promotional opportunity that this event gave them.

See also:
Is It Fascism Yet?
Burning the Man with Hunter S. Thompson
The Great Wired Drug Non-Controversy
10 Worst Spiderman Tie-Ins
Art or Bioterrorism: Who Cares?
Lost "Horrors" Ending Found on YouTube
Homeland Security Follies
Prior Permission Required by Government Before Each Flight

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Web Fight: Wikipedia, YouTube vs. Perverted Justice


Von Erck Their name is "Perverted Justice" — and something strange happens when you follow hyperlinks to their site from Wikipedia.

"Hello Wikipedia Visitor!" it announces. "We've listed Wikipedia as a Corporate Sex Offender for quite some time..."

The site's server re-directs any visitors from the online encyclopedia to a page warning that "there's a few facts you should know about Wikipedia as a foundation itself." Then it lays down an inflammatory attack.
Each article on Wikipedia that deals with any issue relating to pedophiles or internet predators has been heavily targeted and edited by the online pedophile activist movement... Our own article on Wikipedia, which you have likely come from, has been edited by known and outed pedophile activists dozens and dozens of times.

NBC's Dateline works with "Perverted Justice" to create an ongoing series of reports exposing pedophiles (called "To Catch a Predator.") But the group has apparently broadened its list of targets. Their site notes that Wikipedia remained ungrateful when Perverted Justice helpfully pointed out which Wikipedia editors they thought were pedophiles. So the group launched an online campaign to raise public awareness...
"With Wikipedia continuing to try to get their project used in classrooms across the world, it's important to note the danger inherent in the public accepting the project as being factual considering their acceptance of even extremist special interests such as pedophile activists as legitimate editors of their 'encyclopedia.'"


Sunday Wikipedia reacted to the announcement — though not without a tremendous debate.

"I've just gone through Perverted-Justice and removed all outbound links to their site..." announced a Wikipedia administrator named Sarah. (After temporarily locking the entry from being edited.) Another editor pointed out that the site was clearly an attack site, and "There's no place for ideological witchhunts on Wikipedia," while a third editor suggested a temporary blacklisting of the site.



But more viewpoints joined the discussion. A fourth editor asked "Is there some reason why we're trying to hide criticism from a legitimate and active organisation?" Noting that Wikipedia does accept pedophiles as editors, they asked "Why are we trying to hide this fact and label the site that respectfully and politely points that out as some kind of vicious attack site?" Another editor shared an interesting detail. One week ago, Perverted Justice founder Xavier Von Erck was blocked indefinitely from any editing of Wikipedia articles

The discussion continued over the next 48 hours...

"Ten thousands people are being slandered because we refuse to acquiesce to his point of view in our articles and policies? Wonderful."

"[T]his is America, and P-J has every right to criticize Wikipedia in general for what they see as failings of the project."

"I just don't see how this can be treated any differently than a rant on some mildly successful blog."


One editor even posted an email about the controversy, saying it came from Xavier Von Erck himself. The email lent a fierce new perspective to the debate.
We're quite pleased with the links being removed from Wikipedia. This will do two things. One, it will reduce the Google relevancy of the Wikipedia article about us, an article rife with error and editors whose sole purpose is to try to use Wikipedia to attack us. Secondly, having the article without links to our organization but links to other organizations that attack us will make the average person, unaware of the problems of Wikipedia, wonder why the hell the article has such a overt bias.

Lastly, the idea that websites cannot "respond" to a Wikipedia article by redirecting is quite curious. The policy itself is nonsensical. It is Wikipedia saying that their editors, no matter who they are, can write whatever they wish about a subject and that subject has no right of response. 'Tis an unjust, silly policy and one we have no interest in cooperating with.

Ultimately, Wikipedia compromised. They kept all of their pointers to the Perverted-Justice site — but not as hyperlinks. This meant Wikipedia's readers would have to cut-and-paste the URLs into their browser to access the Perverted-Justice site — which would pull up the requested page rather than re-directing the users to an anti-Wikipedia announcement.


But Perverted Justice left their announcement online anyways, pointing its readers to another site called "Corporate Sex Offenders .com."

In fact, Wikipedia was the sole reason that Perverted Justice created their "Corporate Sex Offenders" site in February, according to their announcement. The site lists two web companies as "aggressive corporate sex offenders" — YouTube and LiveJournal. While applauding YouTube for removing some "advocates" of pedophilia, their page argues that YouTube "is still rife with pedophiles and predators on their service." (And they add that YouTube has yet to clarify their policies for pedophiles.) LiveJournal's offense is similar, according to the site — they've failed to delete the accounts of pedophiles. "LiveJournal is as welcoming of pedophiles as they are kids, adults and teens."

Their Wikipedia page also alleges that one pro-pedophile activist labelled Wikipedia's pedphilia page an "important platform for us," since it's Google's top search result. (And that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales once personally banned a pedophile editor.) It concludes with a condemnation of Wikipedia for having a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy about pedophilia.

And then it includes their list of Wikipedia's suspected pedophile editors.

See Also:
Jimmy Wales Will Destroy Google
The Perversions of "Perverted Justice

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Monkey v. Dog v. Wikipedia

Battle of the Bulldog and the Monkey

A monkey versus a dog. Who would win in a fight?

Wikipedia has the answer, but sometimes being a source of such answers comes at a price.

As with seemingly every other topic on the site, an anonymous expert sprung from the grass roots to detail the fascinating, hidden history of prizefights between dogs and monkeys. "A quite unusual fight between two animals was staged in Worcester," read his description of one fight, taken from an obscure magazine article from 1799.

The wager stood at three guineas, according to which the dog would kill the monkey in at most six minutes. The dog's owner agreed that the monkey would be allowed to defend itself with a stick about a foot long.

Hundreds of spectators gathered to witness this fight and the odds stood at eight, nine and even ten to one in favour of the dog, which could scarcely be subdued before the fight. The monkey's owner took a stick, about twelve inches long, from his coat pocket, tossed it to the monkey...


There's even an illustration — titled "Battle of the Bulldog and the Monkey" (above) — from 1799.

So who won the fight?

The monkey.

The monkey was amazingly nimble, jumped about three feet high in the air and when it came down landed directly on the dog's back, bit firmly in the dog's neck, grabbed his opponent's left ear with his hand thereby preventing the dog from turning his head to bite him.

In this totally surprising situation the monkey now began to work over the dog's head with his club and he pounded so forcefully and relentlessly on the dog's skull that the poor creature cried out loudly...


Eventually the dog's corpse is carried from the ring. ("Yet, the monkey was only of medium size....") Yes, it's a cruel fight-to-the-death. What's more surprising is that someone in 1799 went to the trouble of carving an engraving to commemorate the event. (Hey, 18th-century dog-fighters — get a life!)



Then again, back here in the 21st century, Wikipedia editors would pick apart a description of the event sentence by sentence in a dog-fight of their own. Reading the article's "History" page ultimately offers its own morbid spectator sport. In a six-part, 1400-word entry, user SirIsaacBrock (according to his user page, a Canadian MBA) first described recreational "monkey baiting" in March of 2006 — and was unaware that his status as a Wikipedia editor would soon come to an end.

"Monkey-baiting is a blood sport involving the baiting of monkeys," his original entry began — linking the words "blood sport," "baiting," and "monkeys." Within two weeks another Wikipedia user had tagged the article with a warning flag.

It is proposed that this article be deleted, because of the following concern:

this seems like nonsense


The user was later reassured by Sir Isaac's involvement in another full-scale WikiProject — documenting various forms of animal baiting — and left an apology on Sir Isaac's own Wikipedia discussion page. (Six days later, another user would also add: "Thanks for the correction in Badger Baiting...") In fact, there's a whole series of Wikipedia articles, on everything from duck baiting to rat baiting and donkey baiting.

"Badger-baiting is a blood sport involving the baiting of badgers."

"Donkey-baiting is a blood sport involving the baiting of donkeys...."

But the monkey-baiting page remained controversial. Sir Isaac presented an 1820 description of a second monkey/dog fight — this time between a dog and Jacco Macacco, "a celebrated monkey gladiator" who could dispatch opponents in 3 minutes.

"What a monster!" said a greasy butcher, who sat there with open mouth, a red nightcap on his head, pointing at Jacco Macacco. "I bet a leg of mutton on the monkey! You could strike me down if I ever saw such a thing before in my life... "


"It is amazing how many owners would send their dogs to almost certain death," Sir Isaac had written.

"This strikes me as unwiki," another editor complained, saying it was not objective fact, and adding, "I personally do not find it 'amazing.'"

Another user complained about the article's "wholy innapropriate origional research [sic]." Of course, research about 18th-century animal fights is hard to find — and a year later, the article remains online, a testament to one user's dedication to his personal topic of interest.

Within four months of creating his page about monkey/dog fights, a warning appeared on his user page saying he'd been identified as "the puppet master of one or more abusive or block/ban-evading sock puppets." (Sock puppets are deceptive online identities.) He has since been banned from Wikipedia.



In a way, it's ironic. SirIsaacBrock was a man who could tell you who'd win in a fight between a hunting dog and a rage-filled monkey — but he couldn't stay online against a handful of Wikipedia editors. Will he be hard to replace? How many amateur historians are available with an interest in monkey-baiting?

We can only hope that his obsessive and self-destructive work will inspire a new generation of Wikipedians to continue to monitor this deserving subject matter. Or, better yet, perhaps there's another sock puppet out there at this very moment, waiting to ambush us with the latest and greatest in monkey-baiting.

See Also:
Jimmy Wales Will Destroy Google
John Edwards' Virtual Attackers Unmasked
Dear Internet, I'm Sorry
10 Video Moments from 2006
Worst Vlogs of 2006
The Cartoon Porn Shop Janitor: Carol Burnett vs. Family Guy

Read More

EFF Attorney Jason Schultz vs. Stephen Colbert

Starting with a whiteboard and a teacher’s instincts, Jason Schultz makes the Michael Crook free speech case as clear as a flowchart. He also explains why the EFF made a video apology part of the settlement.

Please note that this video was posted to Blip days before Stephen Colbert ripped Jason Schultz off, using a whiteboard to diagram the problems of the EFF’s case against Viacom to John Perry Barlow!

Colbert and Barlow

To watch the Schultz video, click here.
To watch the Colbert video, click here.

See Also:
Crook Apologizes
In the Company of Jerkoffs
The Case Against Crook
Steve Wozniak v. Stephen Colbert — and Other Pranks

Read More

Official Launch: 10ZM.TV

One of the reasons for the "video apology" term in the settlement agreement with Michael Crook is that we were already planning to launch a video property. Having Crook's apology in video seemed an appropriate format, and its wide viewing would help get some visibility for this new effort. We figure he owed us that much. There are a few things we're going to experiment with in the show, called 10ZM.TV, and hosted on the Blip.tv video sharing network. First, we'll be collecting video commentary from web figures on stories and themes we explore on our various other properties, such as this site, The RU Sirius Show, NeoFiles, Destinyland and Pastor Jack. Second, we'll record bits from our own writers and commentators. And finally, we're going to publish hot little bits from the continuous series of mind-blowing interviews conducted by RU Sirius. Rudy Rucker's interview is the first one we videotaped, so you'll see several clips from that in the coming weeks. So stay tuned, subscribe via RSS or iTunes, or watch Rudy Rucker now:
Science fiction writer Rudy Rucker, author of the book, Mathematicians In Love, claims that any natural process can be regarded as a computation, and that computers are not "digital."

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“Dear Internet, I’m Sorry”


Crook on Fox News

Even while delivering a video apology "to all bloggers, webmasters and other individuals" as part of a settlement agreement with 10 Zen Monkeys, he somehow seems determined to be the most hated man on the internet — if he could just get people to stop ignoring him. (You'll find that video further down on the page.)

But, let's back up a bit first...
I'm writing a new story for 10zen tonight.

Dana Plato?

Nah, the piece is about that Michael Crook guy.

That's how it started last September. We'd already written about a Seattle prankster named Jason Fortuny, who'd pretended to be a woman on Craig's List and then published horny male respondents' private info on the internet. In the fateful 27th comment on that story, a new site popped onto our radar.
He's inspired a website that exposes people nationwide — craigslist-perverts.org

That web site was registered to Michael Crook, and to this day I'm convinced Crook himself left the comment, hoping to skim off some of the attention. Sure enough, the site showed that Crook had duplicated Fortuny's stunt; he'd posted a fake ad on Craig's List pretending to be a young woman seeking sex in Syracuse, New York. But no one even noticed; according to Crook's own blog, he only got a few dozen responses. He tried posting more fake ads in more cities — Las Vegas, Dayton, South Jersey, Kansas City, and Anchorage — and created a web site with the results.



We noticed, but we weren't impressed. The original title for our article about Crook was "wannabe asshole," although we later changed it to In the Company of Jerkoffs, calling Crook "another sad member of the 'griefer community'... not only pathetic, but a pathetic copycat."
As an after-thought, I'd sent Jeff Diehl, our editor, a screenshot from Crook's appearance on Fox News to accompany the story. ("I think the bad hair and stiff tie and collar say a lot about the guy...")

We knew Crook wouldn't like it — but that's life on the internet. (I'm sure the men who answered his fake Craig's List ad didn't like it when he called them at work, either.) Life continued at our up and coming webzine — our next story questioned the press coverage about Willie Nelson's September arrest for possession of mushrooms. And then something weird happened...

Our internet service provider got a nasty email from Michael Crook. Crook wanted the embarrassing picture taken down, and to make that happen, he was pretending he had a copyright over the screenshot from Fox News, citing the "Digital Millenium Copyright Act" (or DMCA). I suggested a new headline for Jeff. "Syracuse jerk uses heavy-handed DMCA mumbo-jumbo to try to intimidate web pages he doesn't like."

We were clear that Crook had no legal claim. But his amateurish legalese spooked our spineless (pre-Laughing Squid) ISP, who asked Jeff to remove the image anyways. Jeff knew there was something wrong. In the world we live in, internet services can absolve themselves from future legal liability — if they quickly remove the suspect material. This means if someone wants an embarrassing picture taken down, simply masquerading as its copyright holder can be enough. So Michael Crook was pretending he owned a copyright on someone else's picture of his face.



Crook's legal interpretation was as laughable as the Batman comic book where the Joker claimed a copyright on a fish that looked like him.

But deep within the DMCA law is a counter-provision — 512(f), which states that misrepresenting yourself as a copyright owner has consequences. Any damage caused by harmful misrepresentation must be reimbursed. In 2004 the Electronic Frontier Foundation won a six-figure award from Diebold Election Systems, who had claimed a "copyright" on embarrassing internal memos which were published online. So not only was Jeff Diehl legally free to publish Crook's picture; Crook was in violation of the law for pretending he owned a copyright.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation now agreed to represent us. Crook hadn't just issued a copyright notice to 10 Zen Monkeys; he'd sent them to other web sites, again pretending to own the copyright on Fox News' image, to trick the sites into taking his picture down. (There were even cases where he served DMCA notices to websites that published Fair Use quotes from his blog.) Crook was a serial abuser of the copyright law — and so far his misuse of it had been rewarded every time. Some webmasters and bloggers obeyed the takedown notices without considering the counter-claim process, to avoid having to give Crook their identifying information — which he'd publicly demonstrated he enjoyed using maliciously.



But it was a mistake to try his stunt anywhere near Silicon Valley, where people closely follow how technology is evolving, and care deeply about protecting free speech online. Local web stars cheered on the lawsuit at sites like BoingBoing and Valleywag (where Nick Douglas wrote, "This Emo Kid is Getting Sued," and later begged Crook for a DMCA takedown notice of his own — which he got and displayed proudly). Someone had finally noticed Michael Crook — but for all the wrong reasons. Web sites were now re-posting even more copies of the picture he hated.

Crook tried hiding from the delivery of the legal documents — then later blustered on his web site that he'd successfully re-structured his business holdings to make it hard to collect. In a futile go-for-broke strategy, he then sent even more bogus DMCA notices — to other web sites which were reporting on his original bogus copyright notice. "I wonder if this is another one of his stunts for 'bad attention,'" I asked Jeff. "Everyone online hates the DMCA; maybe he's deliberately abusing it, the way Andy Kaufman used to bait professional wrestling fans."



For a brief moment it was Michael Crook versus the internet — until Michael Crook lost in a blow-out. Ignoring Crook's amateurish legal posturing, Fark.com users created over 50 versions of the supposedly-forbidden photo, photoshopping Crook's face into even more embarrassing poses. Someone tracked down Crook's high school yearbook photos (which, ironically, ended up being mocked in the blog of the original Craigs List prankster, Jason Fortuny.) Someone even uploaded the photo into the virtual gaming world Second Life. (Crook then tried unsuccessfully to issue a DMCA notice against a photo of that photo.) The ongoing mockery became a kind of online seminar, reminding web surfers to stand up to copyright law abusers, and to never pay attention to the Michael Crooks of the world.

In November, web writer Tucker Max called out Crook for an online debate. Crook accepted — though he only made three short posts, apparently caught off guard when Max refused to take Crook's weird positions seriously and instead attacked Crook himself. "You are desperate for attention," Max wrote, "and the ability to feel something, anything, you are willing to be the most ridiculed, hated person on the internet. Look at yourself dude. Look at your life." Max even claims he used his contacts as a law school graduate to guarantee that Crook, who says he wants to one day be a lawyer, will never pass the bar.

But abusing copyright law was only Crook's latest attempt at provoking attention. He'd previously claimed to hate the military, Jews, gays, immigrants, non-whites and children. Max noted that Crook tried to join the army, and had been rejected; and that Child Protective Services had taken his children away. Were Crook's attacks just a misguided lashing out over his own bitter failures?

The online world was faced with the griefer paradox: that griefers want bad attention, and the only real answer is ignoring them. Behind the scenes, the EFF was working to establish the only true point of the case — that web sites didn't have to buckle in the face of bogus copyright threats, and that abusing the DMCA would bring consequences.



Because Crook proved himself to be legally indigent, and was representing himself in an incompetent way that would likely have lessened the impact of an official judgment, it was decided that a settlement agreement could accomplish just as much, possibly more. Crook eventually signed such an agreement. It requires him to 1) take a course on copyright law basics; 2) never again file any cease and desist notices concerning the image of him on Fox News; 3) withdraw each and every DMCA notice he served regarding the image; 4) refrain from filing any DMCA notices for 5 years unless the material in question is personally authored, photographed or originated by him; 5) include in any DMCA notice during that 5 year period, URLs pointing to the EFF's web page summarizing this case; 6) turn over ownership of any domain names to Jeff Diehl and 10 Zen Monkeys if he is caught violating any of the terms of the agreement.

And, finally, he had to formally apologize to those he harassed. In video. Here now, is that video:




Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.


Subscribe now to MondoGlobo's new video show, 10ZM.TV!

In the San Francisco Bay Area? Celebrate free speech and the EFF: Free Speech Ain't Free!

See also:
EFF's Jason Schultz Explains the Crook Case
EFF's Diehl v. Crook page
Settlement Agreement
In the Company of Jerkoffs
The Case Against Crook
Crooks of the World Hurt Copyright, Free Speech
Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued

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Who are Second Life’s “Patriotic Nigras”?



They're brash, articulate and unapologetic; and they have a message for America. Mudkips Acronym is co-founder of "the Patriotic Nigras," the group who attacked John Edwards' virtual headquarters in Second Life, and Wednesday he agreed to an email interview.

Talking about Second Life and the blogosphere, Mudkips explains how his group operates and their pranksterish motivations, and insists that... no, they're aren't Republicans.

LOU CABRON: Why did your attacking avatars wear "Bush '08" buttons?

MUDKIPS ACRONYM: Everything we do is for laughs, and we thought "Bush '08" would be interpreted as humor — as I'm sure you know, Bush obviously can't be re-elected in '08.



However, the resulting aftershock from the "blogosphere", particularly on the left, has been enormous, when they thought the raiders were Republicans. This was completely unexpected, and frankly hilarious. I'm a bit disillusioned with my own party after this event, actually, as someone who did read blogs like the Daily Kos and expected some honest and truthful journalism. However, it seems as if everyone played a giant game of telephone, taking the Republican assumption and adding on more and more anger and hostility as it went on.

While I felt Kerry was a bit wishy-washy, I voted for him in 2004. I'm sort of conservative on economics but very, very liberal on anything else. I'm all for Bush impeachment over the Iraq war and all that jazz. I'm currently rooting for Obama, but that doesn't mean we won't raid him or anything. We'll hit anyone if it's funny, and if the guy I want to be president in 2008's campaign provides the lulz, we'll certainly not cross him off our list.

I'm not going to deny Patriotic Nigras is a troll group. We exist primarily to make people mad. Unlike most trolls, however, the attention is not the biggest concern. However, the reaction to this whole mess has been a troll's DREAM. An "attack," placed in an unofficial spot on an unofficial blog, has been a large story if only because the political persecution factor was tacked on to it.

While a few of us might be racist or something (who knows with this group), that's completely irrelevant to our cause. N3X15, our webhoster guy and acting Second Life leader, is a Republican. I probably disagree with him on a lot of things. But we're willing to overlook that in the fact that we all are allied to the same goal. I think laughs transcend party lines.

I think this whole incident is telling of where our priorities lie (and by "our" I mean America, if you happen to be outside the U.S.). But let's not make this too much of what it isn't.

Returning to the Bush thing, my answer would be "for the lulz". Claiming to be from the Republicans, we thought, would just add some irony to the whole thing. We didn't know that it would become the centerpiece of the event.

LC: Can you tell me about your group? How many people are in it?

MA: We have around 70 members on the forums. Of those, maybe 35 are active and confirmed.

The first attack was somewhere in December or January. I don't remember exactly when, but it was around Christmas-time. Like it says in the Encyclopedia Dramatica article, though, the first attacks were somewhat sparse. Me and a couple other guys, doing random crap.

As for hating John Edwards himself...nah. He (actually, the camp seems to be unofficial, so rather whoever set it up and posted the news on the blog) was simply a high-profile target exploitable for maybe a day or two of chuckles, maybe more, at least we thought at first.

It was only when we'd become able to get to a critical-mass of sorts of members that the "attacks" become organized and large-scale. I'd put that around the time of the third Fort Longcat, the middle of January. Once we got that set up, we were able to organize efficiently and had a place to retreat and regroup when things didn't go right.

The planning for the Edwards attack was actually fairly minimal. We have experience doing this sort of thing with the furry and gorean sims. However, and without trying to be too dramatic, we did have "spies" in and around the physical Edwards campaign HQ.

Our original plan was to arrive in a bunch of Black Hawk helicopters and have sniper areas. We had it planned out for a while, but a couple people from the organization decided to go in prematurely. Like I've said, it would have caused much more of a hubbub had the original plan went through!

LC: What do you tell people who say your group is racist?

MA: As an organization, we have no racist, sexist, or political bias, except in the case of when it serves our interests. The "nigra" thing could be seen as a racist remark at first glance, but Encyclopedia Dramatica explains it well

"Since the Internets is largely Anonymous and because the term was invented by a /b/tard (a cyber being of indeterminate and irrelevant sex/age/heritage) in the virtual, 'colourblind' environment of Habbo Hotel as a way to say 'nigga' without alerting their dirty word Department of Habboland Security feds, any suggestion that the word 'nigra' is racist is not only completely without merit, it's racist against the inhabitants of Internets."

LC: So how are you able to operate in Second Life?

MA: Even though Fort Longcat was deleted by the landowner, we're still setting up small scale forts to organize. Since our forts are usually deleted within the week by landowners, we're constantly on the move, and the fact we have permanent forums (no ProBoards free stuff that can be taken out from under us) now has helped keep us together. Our webmaster has engineered a half-working separate Second Life server/sim as well, where we can meet up independent of the main grid.

As to who we are, all I can say is that we're big-A Anonymous.

LC: So what kind of people are in the group? Are you high school students, middle-aged geeks...?

MA:The stereotype of us being high school geeks with acne is funny. Most of our members are well in their twenties and even thirties. The site where we originated from from has an active no-under-18 policy.

As for the site's identity, I have to clarify two things:

1. We're not from Something Awful.

2. Ebaumsworld is a cover, and we're not from there. Rule one in our book is "do not mention the site we come from." Anyone caring to analyze the content (signs, things we say, the "nigras" part of our name) of our raids, however, should be able to figure it out with a little Googling. However, while we originated from that board, we're a separate entity and do not organize there.

LC: Is your group worried about getting busted?

MA: Nah. As far as bans go, IPs can be changed, we can spoof MACs, we can change or send gibberish HD IDs. Thanks to our resident programmers, and Linden Labs' generous open-sourcing of the client package, we have tools that can do most of that already.

As for getting in trouble in general - no. First off, cases involving prosecution on Internet sites require tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, are often dragged out for years, have little evidence to support their claims, and so forth. Add that with the fact that everything being done is according to the game world's own mechanics, and I'm not too worried about anything serious going on.

I think if someone were to be sued (even in a civil court) for putting giant phalluses on somebody's Internet lawn, they'd be laughed out of court. If anything, Linden Labs is attracting more attention to Second Life thanks to this incident. Nevertheless, you're still going to have people like intLib threatening us with obscure felonies to try to dissuade us. At that point, the best way to deal with them is to ignore them.

LC: You sound very libertarian.

MA: I don't support all libertarian causes, but I am of the opinion that people should be able to do what they wish unless it negatively impacts someone else. I'm anti-drug but completely for the legalization of marijuana (though I don't use it), as well as completely against the Patriot Act and things that I feel invade American liberties.



LC: So what happens next? What do you think the Edwards camp should do?

MA: Good question. I'll assume you mean the campaign and/or the people supporting it, not the physical location itself.

The fact is, Second Life is not a credible or effective way to make a campaign statement. Whether or not the headquarters was officially sanctioned by the Edwards campaign, having something like this is a waste of time. Second Life's actual membership numbers are vastly inflated, as is the more literal artificially inflated Second Life economy. The bubble will burst eventually.

Anyways, if the Edwards campaign wants to try to get more public support, they need to take less time trying to be edgy and Web 2.0 and more time focusing on issues and traditional publicity. It's nice when someone takes the trouble to make a video on YouTube explaining their campaign goals, but half the time they're recycled or just plain corny. If anyone in the campaign wants to bring the young demographic in, they need to actually care about their potential constituents, not just put out a video of old campaign meets with cheesy background music, set up a fort in Second Life, and be done with it.

LC: What are your plans for the future?

MA: Well, we'll keep bombing the furry sims, but other than that, who knows?

If I say anything else, there might be some lockdowns, but other candidates in Second Life are a possibility. Anything high-profile is fair game.

See also:
John Edwards' Virtual Attackers Unmasked
Craiglist Sex Troll Gets Sued
Thomas Hawk versus Rent-a-Cops
20 Wildest Reactions To Obama's Victory
The 5 Faces of Bush

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John Edwards’ Virtual Attackers Unmasked



The attackers have been identified — and they're alive and gloating.

"Guess what: we're not Republicans. In fact, I'm one of the most hard-core liberals I know."

A post on the John Edwards blog claimed credit for an attack on his campaign HQ in Second Life — saying that "We simply did it for the lulz... The fact you were so bent out of shape to make a blog post on the OFFICIAL JOHN EDWARDS BLOG about how some people placed a bunch of shittingdicknipples on your lawn is mighty telling."



The post was deleted from Edwards blog. (Its last line was "Enjoy your AIDS!") But the poster used the name Mudkips Acronym, which also turns up in a January entry on Encyclopedia Dramatica, identifying him as a member of a longstanding Second Life "invasion group." Its name is given as "Patriotic Nigras: e-terrorists at large," and Saturday the entry was updated to claim credit for the Edwards attack.

This would make the Edwards attack just the latest installment in a longer history of random assaults. The page describes the group's first attacks as griefing pranks on Second Life's "Gay Yiffy" virtual nightclub — blocking the exit doors on a disco's private rooms, and filling its dance floor with an annoyingly large box. They returned to build a wall with a swastika of American flags, and eventually acquired a "Doomsday" weapon that creates endlessly replicating cubes.

The group also claims weapons like "the Dong Popgun" (which fires a barrage of penises), and the "Cosby Block" (a profilerating posters of the Jell-o pudding pops spokesman). One Second Life blogger accused the group of distributing the infamous Goatse picture, a tactic confirmed by a Second Life newspaper. And the group's ultimate weapon — the "Mario mosh pit" — even floods an area with images of Nintendo's Mario character.

YouTube footage apparently captures the attacks, set to musical soundtracks like "America: Fuck Yeah", or the soundtrack to Star Wars. A climactic January attack targeted another night club in Second Life, according to their Wiki page — followed by a permanent ban of the group's members. (They believe Second Life had successfully identified their computer hardware, according to the web page.) It claims the group is now armed with an "unbanning" tool, and having grown to at least 15 members, now hides in a secret base somewhere in Second Life's virtual sky.

On the Edwards blog, Mudkips Acronym also posted that "we had something much bigger planned, and the actions of a few in the organization sort of spoiled it." Even then, he was amused by the online coverage and wrote that "If this sort of hilarity is getting out after something rather routine, we can only dream of what would happen later."

John Edwards had been running a flawless online campaign, with a web site promising Edwards will "ensure America's greatness in the 21st century." The candidate assembled an impressive online outreach effort, with pages on all the major social networking sites. (Although his LiveJournal site still sports embarrassing ads for cheap flights to Las Vegas because the campaign didn't pay the $2.00 a month for an ad-free account.) Last month an Edwards volunteer decided to create a campaign headquarters in Second Life — prompting mixed reactions. ("Edwards To Pin Down Crucial Techno-Savvy Shut-In Vote," joked Wonkette.) But other Edwards volunteers were clearly excited. "Excuse me, your netroots are showing!" gushed a poster on the Edwards site. "The Edwards campaign once again proves its Web 2.0 credentials..."

It was barely more than two weeks before the attackers struck — setting off an interesting discussion about the state of the online world.

"This is the modern-day equivalent of hippies freaking out the squares," wrote a blogger at Wired. "You see countless news stories about this, over and over again: the gray humorless drones of political parties or corporations rushing to establish a presence in Second Life because it's the thing to do, only to find themselves staring directly into the collective Goatse.cx of the Internet's soul."

One of the attackers struck the pose of a manifesto writer. "[T]he truth is, there is something terribly wrong with Second Life, isn't there...? [W]here once you had the freedom to object, think, and speak as you saw fit, you now have IP bans and hypocritical labelers coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission."

But their real motivation seems to be the thrill of griefing. "You don't have to have furries to be a target," notes another comment, "all you have to be is so full of yourself that you freak out over an attack. Freak out once and they'll come back because the more you struggle and complain, the funnier it is."

And one poster goes even further. "The thing is... griefing is pretty much the only way to make Second Life fun if you aren't a furry or a pedophile or something."

Second Life's creators, Linden Labs, were compelled by the incident to issue a middle-of-the-road response ("At Linden Lab we do the utmost to ensure the protection of creative expression, within certain bounds. Ultimately, instances in which residents engage in vandalism will have to be taken on a case by case basis according to our terms of service.") And Second Life boosters had already been sharing their tips for dealing with griefers. But perhaps the best summation came from a comment at the Game Politics site.

"Why does everyone think that this was political? This is what happens in Second Life."

According to the Second Life Herald, the Edwards virtual HQ had already been targeted by a pesky next door neighbor who insisted on touting the presidential candidacy of John Edward — the psychic host of TV's "Crossing Over."

Q: Will Edward be making a visit to SL?
A: He's already here. He's inside all hour hearts and minds. Because he can read them.
Q: how can he concentrate?
A: I imagine he just squints his eyes really hard

In an unpredictible online environment, political campaigns will face situations that are new and unexpected. (The Huffington Post went to the trouble of pointing out that while Edwards had a virtual headquarters, there were "scantily clad vixens nearby.") One observer even found their way to Edwards' blog and posted "John, welcome to the internet. If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen, but if you are willing to laugh at the insanity you'll find many friends there."



As a kind of confirmation, the online pranksters themselves updated their Encyclopedia entry with a link to an apparently-related web page. Accessing the page plays the dramatic finale to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture while showing a picture of a giggling anime girl — and a five dollar bill with John Edwards' face.

"Sorry we broke your intertube campaign, Mr. Edwards," it says.

"So here's 5 bux."

See also:
Who Are Second Life's "Patriotic Nigras"
Steve Wozniak v. Stephen Colbert — and Other Pranks
Thomas Hawk versus Rent-a-Cops
Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued
Is Yahoo/Flickr DMCA Policy Censorship?

Read More

Has Michael Crook Harassed You?


Note: The above screen capture is from a 2005 Fox News Channel appearance. The image has been re-inserted on November 15th, 10 business days after filing a counter-notice (PDF) in response to a DMCA takedown notice filed by Michael Crook which forced its removal soon after it was originally published.

Are you a blogger or webmaster who tried to cover the story of DMCA fraudmeister, Michael Crook, only to be served a DMCA takedown notice by him? Maybe you covered the antics he's performed with websites he owns such as forsakethetroops.orginfo, craigslist-perverts.org, racismworks.com, or denytheholocaust.com.

Did you choose to comply with his DMCA notices in order to avoid the possibility of legal action? If so, then your story could help 10 Zen Monkeys and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in our civil lawsuit against Crook.

Please take some time to tell us your story. It's the best way to help ensure that nefarious griefers like Crook are no longer able to use the DMCA to violate Free Speech and silence critical commentary.

We would also ask that you post a link to this page on your website(s) to help broadcast our call as far as possible. Below is a graphic and HTML that you can put on your site:

Crook vs. the Internet

<a href="http://www.10zenmonkeys.com/2006/12/27/crook-harass/"> <img src="http://www.10zenmonkeys.com/images/crookdork.jpg"> </a>

For all the latest on the lawsuit and related events, start here.

Please contact us now with the details of your Michael Crook experience!
{mailform}

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The Crooks of the World Hurt Copyright, Free Speech



Note: The above screen capture is from a 2005 Fox News Channel appearance. The image has been re-inserted on November 15th, 10 business days after filing a counter-notice (PDF) in response to a DMCA takedown notice filed by Michael Crook which forced its removal soon after it was originally published.

Michael Crook claims to be a "friend" of copyright law, but he takes his twisted notion of friendship to a dangerous extreme. On his "Facts vs. Fiction" page, he says that, while he supports free expression, "copyright holders have stronger rights than the idiots whining about 'free speech.'"

However, his recent abuse of the DMCA has not only jeopardized free speech rights, but also the rights of copyright holders on the Web. In addition to being a blatant attack on the free expression of critical commentary, Crook's false DMCA filings may make it harder for Webmasters with legitimate copyright issues to resolve them efficiently and effectively.



Crook's antics, in the long run, may even lead to new legislation that will make it more difficult to fight scraping, content theft and plagiarism.

Safe Harbor Abuse: A Brief History

The safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, when compared to the anti-circumvention provisions, have largely escaped controversy. However, abuses of the provisions via the notice and takedown procedure Crook is so fond of, did not begin with Crook.

The most famous case of DMCA abuse involved the Church of Scientology (COS) who, in 2002, filed a DMCA notice with Google to get many of their critics delisted from the search engine. Though the content was re-listed following counter-notices, the issue drew a great deal of attention to the potential for abuse that came with the safe harbor provisions.

Sadly, the Church of Scientology's abuse of the DMCA has continued since then. At least one site was the recipient of a DMCA notice in September 2005 and the Church has sent so many that they have been nicknamed “Avagrams” after Ava Paquette, the COS attorney that signs most of them. There is even a song spoofing Avagrams.

The potential for safe harbor abuse was brought to light again in November of 2005 when the University of Southern California released a study (PDF) that claimed 30% percent of all DMCA notices “presented an obvious question for a court (a clear fair use argument, complaints about uncopyrightable material, and the like).”

Though the study had several flaws in it, especially in regards to its sample, it raised several questions about the viability of the safe harbor provisions and was widely circulated in copyright circles.

When put in this context, it appears that the Michael Crook notices are just another in a long string of DMCA abuses. However, as the EFF lawsuit shows, this is no ordinary case of safe harbor abuse — it is something much larger and much more dangerous.

Extreme Abuse

The Michael Crook notices are not a simple matter of a copyright dispute that should be settled by a court. He didn't just omit information on the DMCA notice or make an honest mistake in the complicated world of copyright law. There are with Crook no intricate fair use debates, or nuanced questions about complicated copyright issues. It's about as cut and dry as copyright law gets.

Michael Crook does not own the copyright to the image in question. It is that simple. With photographs and videos, copyright law protects the photographer, not the model. It even says so on the United States Copyright Office Web site in plain English. Despite his claims of holding a “copyright interest” in the work, its copyright belongs squarely to Fox News, who has given clearance to use it.

However, even if Michael Crook did own said copyright, the use is almost certainly fair. Transformative uses, uses which are for a different purpose than the original, are almost always protected as fair use, especially if they are for commentary/criticism and do not impact the potential market for the original work. It's almost impossible to imagine any judge deeming this use to be infringing.

The problem with such a flagrant abuse is that it creates a backlash that, while understandable, often goes too far. While there is certainly a need to change the DMCA to add protections against false notices and hosts should be more intelligent about how they handle DMCA notices, there is still a need for hosts and copyright holders to work together to fight cases of infringement that go beyond what is generally considered acceptable on the Web.



Without cooperation, the Web becomes even more ripe for spam blogs, massive content theft, plagiarism and other abuses of the liberal ideas about sharing that have become the norm on the Web. However, the Michael Crooks of the world only breed mistrust, making hosts more hostile, instead of merely skeptical, about copyright infringement claims. This can prompt them to reject potentially valid complaints, leading to both headaches for Webmasters and legal troubles for the host.

It can also prompt both hosts and users to move their servers to countries with weak copyright laws, even if they have no plans on engaging in copyright infringement. Though the EU, Canada and Australia all have some form of safe harbor legislation, many other nations do not and if false DMCA notices become a problem major hosting operations might shift to or start up in those countries, meaning that no recourse will be possible for those with legitimate concerns.

This could recreate the lawlessness that was common when the Internet first started, making the Web not just easier for those that wish to infringe copyright, but also for those that want to peddle scams and generally pollute the Web.

However, the greatest problems with these false notices might start at home.

The Voters Are Restless

Free speech is probably the most valued right in the United States. Though both free speech and copyright are protected by the U.S. Constitution, it's the first amendment that most, including myself, hold the closest to their hearts.

When free speech rights are attacked, people respond. If false DMCA notices become enough of a problem, it is only a matter of time before voters take notice. If that happens, then politicians will take notice and the law will likely be rewritten.

However, the United States safe harbor provisions already provide a great deal of protection against false notices, especially when compared to the EU system (PDF). If hosts were wiser about how they handled notices rather than simply rubber stamping them as they crossed their desk, false notices would be much less of an issue.

Still, some changes to the DMCA would be welcome. However, there is always a risk that Congress will make things many times worse on the second try. If they slip up either way, throwing up too many roadblocks or offering too little protection, the effect on the Web could be catastrophic.

Copyright is a delicate balance and it is a balance generally best set not by lawmakers, but by public consensus and market forces. Those with smarter copyright policies will go farther than those with bad ones.

However, dramatic shifts in the law might make it impossible to find such an equilibrium. The current system isn't perfect by any stretch, but individuals and organizations have done a great job expanding on it to find a more realistic balance.

For that kind of building to continue, copyright law cooperation and consistency, both in law and practice, will be key.

Conclusions

The best possible outcome for this case would be a swift victory by the EFF and Diehl. Hopefully that will deter future abuses of the safe harbor provisions and encourage hosts to develop more intelligent processes for handling DMCA complaints.

Fortunately, that outcome seems all but certain. The copyright issues are about as clear cut as they can be and Crook seems to be doing very little to further his case.

In the end, Michael Crook himself is not much of a threat to free speech or copyright. However, the Michael Crooks of the world, are.

Other 10 Zen Monkeys articles on Michael Crook

Jonathan Bailey is the author of the Plagiarism Today blog.

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Crook’s Internet Club

The Internet's most hated figure, Michael Crook, who is on the verge of being legally humiliated in court thanks to griefer dumbfuckery using nefarious websites, belonged to the Internet Club in high school, where he trained students "on how to use the Internet properly."

It makes one wonder what the curriculum must have consisted of... Who could've known, back in the year of 1997, to what heights Mr. Crook's life would lead? Somehow, a modest start showing newbies the basics of internet technology allowed him to, less than 10 years later, rise to the position he holds now: President and CEO of Michael Crook Internet Properties!



UPDATE

In the last five days millions of web surfers have learned the legend of Michael Crook — his story, his image, and his attempts to squelch it by abusing a badly-written copyright law.

Crook objects to the use of a goofy picture taken from his 2005 appearance on the Fox News network. But Xeni Jardin, a BoingBoing writer, posted that she's since contacted a producer at Fox News, saying they'd "laughed, asked why Crook was claiming rights to an image that Fox produced, then said Fox had no problem with BoingBoing or anyone else posting the thumbnail image online."

It's becoming a giant parable — showing people online how easily copyright law can be mis-used. But in a new twist, they're responding, rising up in an an impromptu celebration of free speech. TailRank CEO Kevin Burton re-published the photo, urging Michael Crook: "Please send me a fake DMCA takedown notice... I'm going to auction it off on eBay and give the proceeds to the EFF!" Fellow griefer Tucker Max also republished Crook's photo, writing that he was calling Crook's bluff and adding "Fair warning: I OWNED the last lazy-eyed douche to come at me." (A debate has apparently been scheduled between the two for Wednesday at 3pm Eastern time.)



The writers at TechnOccult not only re-published the photo on their blog and MySpace page — they urged others to do so as well, even including the necessary HTML text. "By standing up to intimidation and spreading the word about this case," they wrote, "you can help the fight for free speech online." And soon the image was appearing on blogs around the world. Pranksters at Fark.com even started a contest, photoshopping Crook's picture into new satirical settings, showing him assassinating President Lincoln, tormenting William Shatner, and appearing as the photograph on a box containing a douche.

IN THE COMPANY OF GRIEFERS

Also republishing Crook's photo was the original CraigsList sex pranker, Jason Fortuny, who also dared Crook to send him a DMCA notice. ("Operators are standing by.") Ironically, Crook first gained the attention of 10 Zen Monkeys after mimicking Fortuny's Craig's list experiment of republishing the responses he received to a fake ad pretending to be a woman seeking casual sex. Now the two men are apparently locked in a weird online rivalry. Friday Fortuny went to the trouble of adding a new entry to his official blog scrolling 20 copies of Crook's photo, along with more abusive commentary. ("This is Michael Crook. He has AWESOME hair. In his spare time, he likes to DMCA websites.") How did Fortuny handle the DMCA notices he received? "I send the counter notification to my webhost, who then notifies your attorney, and your attorney notifies you and follows up with something like 'this will cost thousands of dollars to follow through.' And then you swallow, and smack your forehead, and you don't respond within the alloted 14 day period specified in the counter notification and my shit goes back up...Thanks for playing. All contestants on the RFJason Show get 'The Craigslist Experiment' home game and free turtlewax."

MICHAEL CROOK RESPONDS

Crook joined the online conversation, and Friday even created a new domain - FuckEFF.org. Lambasting "the almighty Electronic Freedom Frontier," he decries the group's lawsuit as malicious prosecution — then 15 words later writes "I will go broke ensuring [Jeff Diehl] incurs eternal financial misery for going after me."

Crook says the action against him will "expose arrogant hippies such as the EFF and Jeff Diehl" — not as defenders of free speech, but as "arrogant abusers of the legal system." Apparently confused by the word "frontier," Crook free associates that the group is "renegades who feel the Internet is the Wild West, and that they can do whatever they wish." Jeff Diehl and the EFF are "hippies," he writes again, but thwarted by the DMCA, they cannot "rule the internet."

"All of this fuss could have been avoided," he writes wishfully, "had they simply shut up, asked no questions, adn [sic] complied with the law." Calling the DMCA a "wonderful law," Crook argues that the EFF suit "is about publicity and pity-whoring..." (Although his own official statement on the matter includes contact information for any media outlets seeking to interview him.) In fact, later his position on attention-seeking becomes more clear. "It's unfortunate that their true movitation is intimidation, publicity, and pity-whoring" he writes — above four Google AdSense ads.

To draw more traffic from search engines, Crook augmented his anti-EFF page with over a dozen different hidden keywords in its HTML code, including "hippie lawyers," "jackasses," and "whiners."



And he's also helpfully includes a banner ad where you can download Firefox. At the bottom of his web page he's posted that it's copyrighted to "Michael Crook Internet Properties" — so don't get any funny ideas. Although ironically, all four of his AdSense ads are recommending attorneys. ("We Fight For and Defend Your Rights! Call 24/7....")

THE MONKEY'S BARREL

As Crook voiced his opinions about image control, the online world apparently decided to join the discussion. Saturday someone sent Michael Crook's dorky high school yearbook photos to 10 Zen Monkeys in a show of support, saying they'd gone to the same school as Crook and remembering that "he was always kind of a spaz." (In the yearbook's section for a quote or favorite memory, Crook offered "I'm the great Cornhuho!")

It's just one of many responses to the original article. "Been there, done that," wrote a director from Black Box Voting, adding he "beat Diebold Election Systems Inc. when they were going nuts trying to DMCA-slam websites."

Another commenter challenged Crook's argument that his presence in the photo grants him a copyright, saying it raises an interesting question "about the photos he published of men who had answered his CraigsList ad. (Who would presumably then enjoy the same copyrights.)"

A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY

It's an exciting moment, as the tubes of the internet fill up with dozens of conversations, all about the same topic: a flaw in online copyright law.

A law student at New York Law School writes that the legislation "promotes a 'shoot first, ask questions later' response from ISPs," but notes that the counter-notification policy also creates a "game of chicken" situation in which "the ISP is only obligated to listen to the last party to speak on the issue." He identifies the problem as the default assumption that a copyright infringement is taking place. "If an ISP were to contact users of DMCA takedown notices before removing the material, this assumption isn't that strong, but most ISPs don't behave this way... once the ISP gets a takedown notice of any sort it will usually just pull the material down and let the user know in due course." And even if a counter-notification is filed, the ISP still observes a 10-day period of time where the contested material remains offline.

Technology writer Thomas Hawk writes "I think it's abusive to use the DMCA, a law that was meant to be used for copyright owners to have their copyrighted material taken off the internet, abused and used as a tool of censorship." And Plagiarism Today links to an academic study from earlier this year offering statistics showing the DMCA being mis-applied. The study shows 30% of the DMCA takedown notices being marred by obvious issues like fair use or the targeting of material which couldn't be copyrighted. Nine percent are incomplete. And apparently over half the notices sent to Google were targeting competitors, with over a third targeting sites which weren't even in the U.S. Thursday Plagiarism Today observed that "The problems with Crook's DMCA notices are so numerous that it is hard to know where to begin." Calling the mistakes "a sign of extreme recklessness, or malice," they argue that Crook holds no claim to the image's copyright, and points out the existence of a well-known exemption for the "fair use" of copyrighted materials.

"In the end," they add, "it appears that Crook has done the most damage to himself. The photograph he sought to bury is now plastered all over the Web, his name is now eternally connected with this matter and, perhaps worst of all, he's on the wrong end of an EFF lawsuit."



AN ETERNAL WAR?

Crook has started using new wording in the DMCA notices he's been sending, now claiming he enjoys a "jurisdiction" over the photo, simply because he appears in it. Significantly, in the earlier notice which first caught the EFF's attention, Crook had written: "I swear, under penalty of perjury...that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive copyright..." Crook now swears only that he is the copyright owner "in that the image, though belonging to another source, is of me, thereby giving me certain copyright rights...."

"Feel that?" one BoingBoing reader responded. "It's as though millions of photojournalists suddenly began laughing hysterically at once..."

A new fight has also erupted over the video footage where Crook's image originated. Thursday TailRank's Kevin Burton was surprised that YouTube had removed a movie showing Crook's disastrous appearance on Fox News. Burton contacted a friend at YouTube who apparently restored the footage — but by Saturday night had removed the video again, displaying its standard red-box warning. ("This video has been removed at the request of copyright owner Michael Crook because its content was used without permission.")

But the post-Google era may ultimately bring a new willingness to challenge any perceived mis-handling of copyright claims. Burton simply linked to another copy of the footage he'd found elsewhere online — and hosted another copy himself.

Update: Tucker Max de-constructs Crook

See also:
In the Company of Jerkoffs
EFF vs. Crook

Read More

EFF and 10 Zen Monkeys vs. Michael Crook and DMCA



The Electronic Frontier Foundation is representing 10 Zen Monkeys in a civil lawsuit against griefer Michael Crook for abusing the DMCA and violating our free speech rights.



In September, we published an article about Crook when he mimicked Jason Fortuny by trolling CraigsList and sex-baiting guys into giving him private information which he then revealed on his site (now offline), craigslist-perverts.org. He apparently did not like what we had to say. In a brash and hypocritical (though not at all surprising) move, Crook filed a fraudulent DMCA take-down notice with our then-ISP, knowing that the "safe harbor" provision would compel the ISP to take immediate action, even before proof of copyright ownership was examined.

I was personally given an ultimatum to remove the material cited in the notice (a TV screen capture of Crook's appearance on Fox News Channel), or have my account canceled. Needless to say, Crook did not own the rights to the image, and even if he did, there's a little thing called "fair use" in the context of critical commentary.

Appalled that he was able to so easily, and without any onus of proof, jeopardize my standing with my ISP, I immediately set about moving the site to local San Francisco ISP Laughing Squid, owned by my old pal, Scott Beale — his services are more expensive, but I knew Scott would understand and respect free speech at least to the point of asking me for details before threatening to pull the plug on my site.

The first thing I did after migrating 10 Zen Monkeys was re-insert the image of Crook into the offending article and, sure enough, within 24 hours he had sent another DMCA take-down notice to Laughing Squid's upstream provider. I'm sure he was emboldened by his success at forcing me to relocate my website once, and was trying for a repeat. But this time, Scott indeed called me to get the story. He was as angry as I was, and said I should contact the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (As an ISP, Scott hadn't seen this particular abuse before, and was concerned — it showed just how easy it is under the current DMCA provisions to intimidate a website, for any reason whatsoever.)

"This is yet another case of someone intentionally misusing copyright law to try to shut down legitimate debate on an issue of public interest," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "Crook certainly doesn't own the copyright to the news footage — Fox News does."



The "safe harbor" provision of the law is meant to shield service providers from liability for any copyright violations that might be committed on their clients' websites. It basically states that, upon being notified by letter or email that there is content in violation of copyright, they can avoid any legal consequences by immediately removing it. (The reason the "safe harbor" is even necessary is because of the draconian copyright "protections" built into the DMCA — ones which sacrifice fair use among other things.) But since the take-down notice doesn't require a court order, or any type of judicial scrutiny, it means that shady individuals or organizations can easily use the law to stifle free speech.

"Crook has used a bogus copyright claim as a pretext to squelch free speech," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Unfortunately, it is easy to abuse DMCA takedown provisions and most internet speakers don't have the ability to fight back."

I removed the original image in the Crook article and instead linked to a similar image residing on someone else's server (Crook is widely reviled on the internet, so it's not difficult to find materials criticizing him on Google).

Surprise! Crook didn't like that either, and on October 24th, he filed yet again, this time thinking that the DMCA could be used to intimidate an ISP for a site that links to content that doesn't reside on their servers!

Crook seems to have a particularly malicious interpretation of the DMCA. He has declared on his blog his own campaign to serve take-down notices on sites he doesn't like, regardless of whether he owns the copyright on the material in question. From his blog:
One site has gone completely down. It currently routes to a "Suspended" page. This site has remained down because the webmaster hasn't responded to the complaint. I can't be responsible for that.

None of this is surprising from someone who has devoted so much time and energy finding others in a compromised state — whether it's horny men online, or wounded soldiers — and then systematically hurting them further, for nothing more than a fleeting, self-defeating publicity.

Until now, the instances of social griefing made famous by Jason Fortuny and aped by Michael Crook have brought up mostly privacy issues. In the case of Crook's abuse of DMCA, we see the same childish, ill-intentioned publicity-seeking, but that's not to say there's no difference between Fortuny and Crook. Fortuny has never tried to stop anyone from saying anything about him — in fact, he seems to enjoy the direct negative criticisms he's received. Crook, on the other hand, is clearly operating on a level of complexity that is far beyond his capacities — he wants to be notorious, but then uses unrelated, legalistic (though illegal!) manipulations to silence those who speak out against him. Despite his comical claim to the title of copyright defender, he is creating a real chilling effect on free speech.



Some of the targets of Crook's DMCA exploits have self-censored, in part because to give him attention is a reward he doesn't deserve, but also because they don't understand their rights and cannot afford to fight. The takedown provision of this law is bad for publishers and anyone who cares about free speech, and Crook has clearly demonstrated a reason why. He has also stupidly underestimated the resolve of this publication; we hope to set an example of what can be done when First Amendment rights are fully understood, nurtured, and worn into battle.

Update:
Crook taught students how to properly use the internet
Crook serves DMCA takedown notice to BoingBoing. (BB gets permission from Fox News to post image.)
Tucker Max deconstructs Crook

See also:
EFF's press release
PDF of complaint
In the Company of Jerkoffs
The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny
Jason Fortuny Speaks
Good Griefers: Fortuny vs. Crook

Read More

Good Griefers: Fortuny v. Crook

In the easily spoofed "reality" of the online griefing biz, it's difficult to know the difference between authentic actions and ones that are done merely for publicity, particularly when the publicity-seekers don't have a whole lot of regard for their own reputations.

Jason Fortuny and Michael Crook, who both conducted sex-baiting, privacy-killing pranks on CraigsList, are currently feeding what seems to be a new phase in the lifecycle of the meme. In the process, while trying to turn "bad attention" into revenue streams, they're throwing insults at one another, as well as taking considerable rebuke from various sources.



Fortuny had baited hapless doofuses by pretending to be a woman seeking rough sex. In a blustery online interview last month he taunted his victims, saying his detractors had failed to prove his prank was illegal, and crowing that "I'm still alive... No one's killed me, no one's tried to kill me..."

But last week on his blog he posted a scan of a beautifully handwritten letter, signed, "Mom."
You are my son, and I will always love you; but I don't respect the person you have become. You'll never get the chance to play us again. You're wrong, Jason, to play with people's minds or emotions; and don't push buttons.

I do wish you well.

Good Bye, Mom

Comments of condolence quickly turn to his September notoriety as well. ("Your mom ditched you in a letter?" "Maybe she thought an email would get published on the net and it was safer.") After an earlier post where Fortuny noted he'd been unable to identify his biological father, someone suggested he simply post an ad on CraigsList looking for one. One poster even suggests that the letter itself was another prank. ("Jason has already proven he will do anything for attention," another commenter adds.)

But Fortuny continues to bait his critics. In a mock advice column to future CraigsList prankers, he writes, "Don't worry about lawsuits. They won't happen. Don't worry about getting stalked or beaten. Not gonna happen." Fortuny published what he says are hate mails in response to his prank, including one scolding email from a lawyer in New Jersey. Another blogger claims to have contacted Seattle's prosecuting attorney, and received a response that, "there is no violation of our state criminal code involved here, yet."

Fortuny identifies the experience as "the peace corps of attention whoring: the toughest spotlight you'll ever love."



Meanwhile, Fortuny found himself sharing the spotlight with second-string sex-baiter, Michael Crook. Word of Fortuny's prank had reached Crook in upstate New York, inspiring him to also post fake ads on CraigsList forums two weeks later, again pretending to be a young woman seeking casual sex. By last Sunday the Las Vegas Sun had apparently confirmed Crook's aggressive coaxing of emails and photographs from his victims, including from one married man in Las Vegas. According to the paper, Crook then made taunting phone calls to the man's wife, and to managers and the CEO at the company where he worked. For his antics, Crook was served with an injunction in late September, according to the newspaper, and within days Crook had taken down his site.

Crook's own blog had gloated instead that he'd sold the domain (CraigsList-perverts.org), and he'd added sassily that it meant "the guys that were on there were literally bought and sold." The domain's registration did change — to a fake phone number in New Jersey belonging to a TV station, and a fake address belonging to a group of physicians. A Yahoo.com email address associated with the domain belongs to "Nightshadow Productions," though when contacted they'd claimed plans for "the same busts, as well as the results from at least 15 new busts, some of which are currently going on." Suspiciously, CraigsList-Perverts.org still shows links only to Michael Crook's own sites, and it still appears on a list of domains which Crook himself has for sale. (Its listing says craigslist-perverts.org will be offered free of charge to anyone purchasing CLPervs.org, for an asking price of $250.) Crook's boastful blog has been taken offline, though — replaced with instructions to search engines not to archive it. In an online forum he writes instead that, "It's difficult to get advertisers behind such a website, which is the primary reason I pulled out..." He says that he'd considered putting the site on a server outside the U.S., but, "It's just not worth it to me if I can't bring in the bucks."

CraigsList got involved, according to the Sun article, citing court documents where the popular web site alleges trademark infringement and harassment and threatens legal action against Crook unless he will "formally apologize" to each CraigsList victim. They also interviewed another of Crook's victims, a single 34-year-old homeowner who said he felt violated - and is "considering" hiring a lawyer. A spokeswoman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation even tells the newspaper that online pranksters "may be overconfident thinking that they might not go to court."

Crook responds on his web site, arguing he's too poor to be sued. "Judgments aren't a good thing, but when there's nothing to judge, i.e. nothing to legally put a lien on or seize, it's really a non-issue." He gloats that in any trial he'd use the sexy conversations as evidence, accomplishing "the very same thing these guys want to avoid... [E]verything would become public record, and it would likely wind up in the media, or at the very least under public scrutiny. "

He also bickers with Fortuny over which of them has kept more of their web material online, and argues that he's not ugly, but Fortuny is.

Into the drama comes a third character named "Mr Piss On Ya," a domain registered in Louisville, Kentucky which also matches the name of a Louisville "band" on a Garageband.com page. (Though two of their four tracks are recorded prank phone calls.) The "Mr Piss On Ya" domain shows only a picture of Michael Crook over a supposed transcript of Crook himself being baited into giving his phone number to a pretend online female. ("but what if my wife answers?") The transcript dates back to 2005, and was originally hosted on the fan site for a band called "Flaw" — also from Louisville.

There's no guarantee of its authenticity, and the content seems unusually damning and improbable. (At one point it has Crook saying his penis is "pretty small," and adding later that "I've been in 3 porn films...petite fuckers 1, 2, 3.") Crook had made himself a target for online revenge that spring, moving from an argument that America's soldiers were overpaid to incendiary comments like "Let 'em die in combat — we don't need their ilk in this country!" It's impossible to tell whether the revenge took the form of enticing a sexy chat transcript, or simply fabricating it.

But Tuesday night a tipster calling himself "[email protected]" gleefully forwarded the URL for the year-old web page to 10zenMonkeys, commenting that Crook "seems to have engaged in the same behavior he's calling himself a martyr by trying to expose." Three minutes later, someone calling themself "Michael Crook is a fraud" posted the same URL — in a comment on Jason Fortuny's blog.

Another comment appeared — less than an hour later — responding that the transcript "was long ago proven to be a forgery," and adding, "Fortuny doesn't care about facts, now does he?"



There certainly appears to be a private feud between the two online sex prankers. Fortuny linked to an article about copycat Crook, then made fun of Crook's hair. Someone calling himself "Michael Crook" then appeared in the comments, saying "you can crack wise and insult all you like, but you're the one who was molested as a child (by your own admission), and you're the one who posted about BDSM." (Adding: "And if you're going to insult my hair, get out of that glass house of yours. You're so ugly that my dog wouldn't barf on you.")

Perhaps it's a fitting end to the story: Two online griefers uncomfortably co-habiting the same meme, locked in endless arguments over their respective self-destructing reputations and posturing defensively for an imagined audience of fans and detractors. Or, God save us all, maybe this meme will simply never go away!

See Also:
The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny
In the Company of Jerkoffs
Jason Fortuny Speaks
Craigslist Troll Gets Sued

Read More

Jason Fortuny Speaks



Jason Fortuny

He's not sorry, he'd do it again, and he's buying a gun.

Jason Fortuny became notorious after posting nearly 150 explicit photos he'd received for a fake sex ad on Craig's List. Three weeks later he discusses the aftermath in a 29-minute online interview.



But is he really as cocky as he pretends to be? A close look at the footage reveals that behind the bravado is genuine fear. Although he remains unapologetic and bemused, his internet infamy has left him worrying about an unseen army of invisible enemies.

At one point they even have to stop the filming, because they'd inadvertently said someone's name.

"If you don't know who's stalking you," says Fortuny, "you don't know who's going to come after you in the middle of the night and, uh, kill you."

FEAR AND FIREARMS

"The internet is serious business," the cameraman jokes, noting later that the web page received over one million visits in two and a half weeks.

When reminded that there's a new Jet Li movie called Fearless," Fortuny admits it's "something that I am not."

"How many people told you to kill yourself?"

"I lost count after, like, 20."

A friend even asked an FBI contact about Jason's situation. "What's my recourse here, if I am being stalked, if I am being harassed. What can we proactively do to protect me?" He says their answer was that he could call 911.

"So when are you getting your gun?"

"Probably this weekend."



Fortuny concedes he's never taken a gun class, "but I had a Nintendo for a while so I got pretty good... I need everyone who's going to come kill me to please dress up as an 8-bit duck."

Some people genuinely wondered if he had a deathwish, "because some people are under the impression that if you piss off the BDSM crowd, they'll kill you." Instead he jokes that the BDSM crowd is probably more about consensual pain — then playfully slaps the thigh of the woman next to him.


REACTING TO REACTIONS

"So how many pizzas did you get delivered to your home?"

"I wasn't at home when it happened," he answers, although he does an impression of a pizza deliveryman's voicemail, then promises more updates on his web page. "Eventually I'll get all the hate mail up that I've received."

He claims he also got a few women offering him tail, "and I got lots of people who told me I would be getting some after going to jail. Which — how am I going to go to jail over this?"

The cameraman offers to film Fortuny turning himself in at the police station. But the truth is, no one has gone after him.

"I'm still waiting for a cease and desist letter to arrive — or an actual lawsuit!"

He remembers a blustery comment on his LiveJournal page claiming to have hired a lawyer. But so far all it's generated is a prank by another poster, who described leaving a taunting sign on that lawyer's office which read "ON UR CREGZLST POSTIN UR N00DZ!!!" under a drawing of the LiveJournal icon. (The poster added that while delivering the sign, "I spotted at least three Mexican transsexual prostitutes!")

Fortuny also laughs at the 20 "internet lawyers" who aren't actual lawyers, but "play them on the internets."

"If you're out there and you're making the whole 'illegal' judgment thing, just cite some law. I know some of you out there have gone after the whole privacy and 'intentional infliction of emotional distress', but even that's a little murky."

At one point he even seems to bait the online audience. When jokingly asked if he could swap some of the naked pictures he received, he stares starkly at the camera and replies "Considering that it's my property now, what the hell!"

But later he concedes that "If some good privacy law came from this, I'd actually be really pleased."


MORE VICTIMS?

The woman next to him adds an interesting observation from a Seattle blog. "Despite all the publicity about your ad, there were still all sorts of people posting all sorts of no-strings-attached sex ads with sometimes personal information and pictures right in the ad... So I don't think even you can stop people from trying to get their rocks off."

When asked about future experiments, he smiles. "I think it's only fair we go after women — and I should get what, two replies?"

He discusses the idea of posting an equally too-good-to-be-true ad aimed at women — maybe one pretending to be a sugar daddy. But Fortuny doubts it would have the same impact.

"Women don't reply to ads. What would be very telling would be to get replies from women to an ad like that and watch that none of them put up personally identifiable information or any of their photos or anything like that. Or if they do put up a photo, it's something that's going to be hard to identify."

But even he was surprised by the copycat prankster who lures victims into additional online conversations and researches their lives before publishing all their embarrasing details.

"I didn't even verify that the information is real," Fortuny notes.

"For all I know it could be the joke of the universe on me."

Also surprising were some of the positive reactions he received. "There's a feminist out there who went absolutely nuts, thinks I'm some kind of hero, exposing all these perverts who want to beat up women."

"Did you invite her over for a spanking?" his female companion jokes. "You should have."



Earlier this week syndicated columnist Dan Savage argued that the only villain was Fortuny himself. The men who responded "were doing the decent, responsible thing" - assuring a woman who was seeking a connection based on a trust, Savage writes. "They shouldn't be punished for doing the right and honorable thing."

Fortuny also had some responses that were just plain awkward. His parents laughed, he says, but he also had to explain his notoriety to the men he'd identified in a search for his biological father. What would he have done if a paternity test candidate had answered the ad? "Oh god," he groans. "See? I have my limits."


FINAL WORDS

The interview takes place during a rambly conversationally while eating noodles at a Pho restaurant in Seattle's university district. But all conversations ultimately lead back to Jason's stunt of September 4.

"Why do my noodles hate me?" the woman next to him asks.

"Because you're not treating them nicely. You're stringing them along and teasing them. Which is what you and all women do... Which fully justifies me posting as a woman... I strung them along. Teased them."

"So basically you gave them the same experience they would've gotten anyways."

"Yeah, pretty much. I teased their cocks."

He deep throats his spring roll. The camera zooms in, as he mock-viciously bites off the end. He points at the viewer, then the roll, and then makes a "think about it" gesture. Then continues eating.

"We'll put this on a DVD, mail it as a free consolation gift to everyone who participated."

By the end of the interview, he's taunting his online viewers. "I'm still alive... No one's killed me, no one's tried to kill me.

"If pizzas are the best you can do," he jokes, "oh my, this is sad. I got on the BBC, and the best you can do is pizzas?!"

See Also:
Craigslist Sex Troll Gets Sued
Dear Internet, I'm Sorry
The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny
In The Company of Jerkoffs

Read More

In the Company of Jerkoffs

Note: The above screen capture is from a 2005 Fox News Channel appearance. The image has been re-inserted on November 15th, 10 business days after filing a counter-notice (pdf) in response to a DMCA takedown notice filed by Michael Crook which forced its removal soon after it was originally published.

As little as we like to encourage these guys, yet another sad member of the "griefer community," Michael Crook, is ambushing men with fake sex ads on Craig's List. Like past incidents, the story ultimately reveals a lot about the man behind it. In this case, he's not only pathetic, but a pathetic copycat.

If sex pranker Jason Fortuny is similar to the "Chad" character from Neil LaBute's In the Company of Men, then Crook is the asshole wannabe, "Howard." Not only is his imagination lacking, capable only of putting a slight spin on his hero's methods, but he also possesses a pathological moralism that seems entirely out of place and hypocritical for the behavior he's engaged in.



Clearly following the [tag]Fortuny[/tag] script, Crook pretended to be a 19-year-old female student at Syracuse university with B-cup breasts, looking to hang out "and maybe enjoy a nice, safe sexual encounter." ("I don't care if you're married, single, engaged, whatever. Life is fun. Sex is natural. Friendship is great.") And naturally, when men responded, Michael published their pictures and emails on craigslist-perverts.org — a domain he created Wednesday.

He also visited the "Casual Encounter" listings for five other cities — Las Vegas, Dayton, South Jersey, Kansas City, and Anchorage — publishing variations on his original ad. ("I'm 19, 5'4, 108 lbs, brown hair and eyes, and B cup breasts.") And added the responses to his site.

But he also made the additional effort of replying to his respondents to extract even more-embarrassing emails, and sometimes even instant messaging them. He also did online research, looking up their phone numbers and often claiming to have deduced the identities of his victims. "Check out this magazine article from a couple years ago, where he is in a picture with his wife and the guy whose name he used..." He apparently conned the (possibly married) man into sending a photo of his erection — then sent him one last email asking why he was trolling for girls on the internet and cheating on his wife. "What do you think your wife and co-workers' reaction will be when they find out?" he asks. (Adding that their answers, "along with your pics, will be posted for all to see on craigslist-perverts.org.")

The extra cities were apparently necessary because his original prank generated less than 50 responses and received almost no attention. (Just two comments and one post in his forum.) He brags that the next day his fake ad got 15 more responses. (Possibly because no one actually reads his web site —-Ed.) He claims he's enjoying "exposing the perverts" and "pathetic men" responding to the ads. "I just wanted to see what kind of people would respond on a site like Craigslist, which is known for carrying ads from prostitutes," he writes. But he's also published the names of their wives, and in one case Googled the name of a respondent, then claimed it appeared on other dating sites "including fag sites."

So who is Michael Crook? His web site describes him as a former Mormon, disillusioned after a dispute about how religious programming was assigned spots on a local cable access show. (And the fact that a flirtatious weather guy was tapped to teach teenaged girls in his ward.) In 1999 he was too underweight to join the army, but even after bulking up was told he was medically unfit for service. Seven years later he composed an essay arguing that members of the military are overpaid. ("Financially speaking, it's the Pacific Avenue hooker of our economy.")

He weasled his way right onto TV in the spring of 2005 for creating a web site called "Forsake the troops," which called attention to his belief thatsoldiers are over-compensated. It also called soldiers "scumbags" and "pukes," asking "What idiots risk their life for a country...? Let 'em die in combat - we don't need their ilk in this country!" This led to an appearance on Fox News where Crook's deer-in-headlights performance drew a standard-issue beatdown from Sean Hannity. ("You're ignorant and you're a disgrace... You are heartless, you are soulless, you are mean and you are cruel....") His site later reported he was beaten to death by angry servicemen — though that was obviously a hoax. Instead Crook created related domains like opposethetroops, disownthetroops, and citizensagainstthetroops - although he was apparently trying to auction them off to cash in on their notoriety.

Recently he's registered two more domains — racismworks.com ("Coming soon, a website which will explain why racism is actually a good thing...") and crimmigrants.org ("dedicated to exposing and discussing illegal immigrants.") Both sites, though appear to be little more than their taglines, followed by the words "Coming soon!" But at least some of his anger appears sincere. One blogger claimed earlier Michael had cited anaffiliation with a group to "preserve the rights of white men and women." Recently Michael also created a web page criticizing a 17-year-old drunk driver who killed her friend in a car accident — including what he purports are her phone numbers and address.



But for all his online activity, Michael remains plagued by obscurity. He grew up in small-town Arizona, southern New Jersey, and Las Vegas, according to his web site, and ran a 300-member fan club for an obscure Dutch Eurodance group. He writes that he manages a sports-clothing store and is "pursuing" a criminal justice degree.

Ironically, just four weeks before his Craig's List prank, he'd sent a spate of letters complaining about copyright infringement. It's possible that this article may only further his goal of online infamy, though it remains to be seen whether he can make a career out of pissing people off.

In April a garage band called Permament Ascent uploaded a song about him to their MySpace page. Its lyrics?

"He's a dick. (He's a dick!) Fuck him! (Fuck him!) Asshole. (Asshole!) Fuck hi-i-m. Fuck Michael Crook!"

Perhaps Fortuny and Crook take solace in each other, from within the familiarity of their malicious community. I can foresee a day when this community of nihilistic pranksters hold its first convention, and they spend a week at the Marriott sneaking up on each other, flicking each other's ears and laughing until they drool.

See also:
Crook's Internet Club
EFF and 10 Zen Monkeys vs. Michael Crook
"Dear Internet, I'm Sorry"
Craigslist Troll Gets Sued

Read More

The Secret Life of Jason Fortuny


Jason Fortuny

Jason Fortuny has become famous as an online menace/hero after posting the photos and come-ons he received from nearly 150 men responding to a fake sex ad he placed on Craig's List. He's started an intense debate about the nature of online privacy and dating.

But beyond the practical effects of the experiment, what kind of man would commit such a dastardly prank?

Researching that question, I stumbled across Jason Fortuny's Amazon reviews. He read and reviewed exactly one book over five years -- and two soundtracks for Star Trek movies. ("Reviews written: 4." Helpful votes: 0.) He also awards 5 stars to National Lampoon's Van Wilder ("Reviewer Matthew K. Minerd totally needs to get laid. Dude, relax! It's just a movie.")

He's also been sexually molested by his grandfather.



"I haven't talked to my parents or the rest of the family in 11 years," he wrote in a post on his LiveJournal account in May. It's one of many suprisingly frank glimpses into the 30-year-old's life. "[I]f you had a family where four different members molested you, your mother tended to the prime molestor instead of you, and your stepfather utterly failed to provide for a future, you'd be pretty pissed, too."

Later he posts that two of the perpetrators are dead, and two were under 18.

While there's no guarantee that his LiveJournal posts are true, they offer intriguing glimpses into the personality behind the prank. When someone suggested in May that he keep his current contact information from his family, he answered, "it's too late for the contact information. It's all available out there. Part of my online persona is to hide nothing. Let the psychos come to my door -- I have a pellet gun and a baseball bat and occasional bad breath." He jokes in a later comment that "I miss the days when it was just trolling and making fun of fat people. Life was so easy back then!"

Another poster advises, "just make sure you have someone you trust who you can rant and freak out to if you need to."

"LiveJournal?" he answers.

Eight weeks ago he split with his fiancee. Seven weeks ago he posted about his difficulties with his thyroid and testosterone levels. ("If it works, one of the first things I should notice is the return of my energy, followed by the return of sexual function, followed by weight gain, followed by increased body hair.") He hints at biochemical depression. In July he began selling his Star Trek trading cards to cover $2600 in debt. "Looks like its time to eBay my stunning collection of original Star Wars and Transformers toys and action figures...," he writes. "There are some heartbreakingly awesome Transformers and Star Wars toys in there. I am profoundly sad..."

He also describes a history of malicious pranks. He apparently once claimed to have put pictures of someone's children on a child rape site. In January of 2005 he'd faked a sudden conversion to born-again Christianity, in a post which received 448 comments. ("I was sitting there, New Year's Eve, drinking alcohol by myself, in my underclothes, abusing my body to images of Rod Serling on the TV... And then, without warning, the flood of emotion I had tried so hard to block forced it's way into my consciousness...") This June he'd tried a Livejournal "whoring" project, "friending everyone".


But on May 8 he posts that a friend commented "I no longer have that annoying 'must be the center of attention' drive anymore." Then adds his own self-analysis about his past motivations. "...my ability to keep a crowd entertained and charmed was a major pillar of my self-esteem. If nothing else, I could rock a party. I certainly didn't believe in my professional abilities then like I do now. And, I didn't want to admit that it was annoying. All I cared was that I got my boost when I did my thing - friends be damned."

Fortuny's LiveJournal entries detail everything from his search for his biological father to his recent STD test. There's the checklist for the perfect woman, and the poem he'd written for his fiance in December. He even jokes about falling for someone else's prank -- pretending to be fired over a LiveJournal post. He posts downloadable copies of Star Wars, Fight Club, Blade Runner and Batman Begins, and in April he was attacked by a mailbox-flooding bot.

While it doesn't resolve the question of what motivated his sex-ad prank, it at least demonstrates an online persona that can be abrasive and negative. He complains that "friends' private entries have been read by psycho womenz. Psycho womenz that I went out on a date with once and reeled in horror when she bared her five year old and her smoking teeth..." He mockingly rants against the Girl Scouts, adding "I swear to god the only reason I don't shout at every last one of them is that I know all little catholic girls are uninhibited sluts, just waiting to be liberated from oppressive and neglectful fathers and gods, into the arms of a bustling, accepting, healthy porn industry."

But behind it all are the hints of something much darker. He writes of zombie nightmares -- and family nightmares. "While my nightmares of my parents have not returned," he wrote in June, "I have others that bring up similar feelings of righteous anger. We'll see."



See also:
Craigslist Troll Gets Sued
Good Griefers: Fortuny vs. Crook
Jason Fortuny Speaks
In the Company of Jerkoffs

Read More