Feb 18 2009

Serendipity or If you aren’t willing to own your words you ain’t got no business saying them.


I don’t feel like reading my last entry right now but, best I can recall, I mentioned I was being ambushed as moderator on the local newspaper’s forum. Well, the admin decided to abolish the two remaining moderators, and after that had been done I discovered at least one of my posts had been edited, with no trace and without my consent or knowledge. I’ve got copies of a lot of it and may post links here at some future date. Or may not. Also a lot of screen shots.

I must admit curiosity has caused me to check in once or twice since then but I’ve spent my time the past week or so giving my website a much needed face lift. When I started it 98% of the world was using Internet Explorer and HTML was in a previous version (MARQUEE was part of the standard).

But the main part of what I’ve been working on was the documents from the felony cultivation charges, and eviction, and the DFEH complaint arising from being raided in San Bernardino County. I know I was standing in line 3 years ago at the Homeless Services Center here in Santa Cruz waiting to get my name on a list to sleep on a church floor when I got the call from Bill Peterson telling me the Request for Rehearing on the Appeal of the 2nd Unlawful Detainer was denied. I spent six months without access to my computer or the internet (other than to check my mail and make the occasional blog entry) standing in line all day to sleep on a church floor. And when, through scrupulous budgeting, I’d paid off my credit card enough to get a laptop and was within a few months of being debt-free and therefore able to get my own place, they banned me.

So I spent weeks, maybe months, sitting in a motel room on my credit card putting the documents up on my website in hopes some lawyer or philanthropist would find them and think it a good case and push an appeal. Or a civil suit. I scanned all the documents and transcribed all of the Court Briefs and Transcripts, as well as the entire Search Warrant and Sheriff’s Report so they could be found through a search.

For years I’ve been meaning to fix those pages but it’s just recently I’ve had the heart to revisit all that trauma and loss. I must say, after being able to take a look at the pages and the code undisturbed (and with a little more knowledge and experience) I am amazed any one could find them or bother to read them.

I’ve also added a link to my blog here which you will find on the left that you can click to subscribe. You can either have new entries emailed or subscribe to an RSS or Atom feed.

One of the things I’m struck by is how many times I was in the middle of revising or creating some part of my website and got interrupted (like being arrested and/or assaulted and/or harassed) with the result that I never got back to it. It does seem there aren’t many bad links and most of them are in this blog and got listed on the bad links report because they point to my old www.palmspringsbum.com domain rather than my new www.palmspringsbum.org domain. But since I still have the old domain and have it redirected to the new domain those links should work just fine.

I found a link checker free and tried to get it to do a thorough check of my site, but after it ran for over 20 minutes and had examined almost 100,000 links and I began to realize exactly how many links were actually on my website I aborted it before it used up all my bandwidth and memory.

It was going to go through every link on every page of my forum (over 2,000 threads containing mostly news articles) and my genealogy (containing over 75,000 individuals with dozens of pages for each individual) and it could very well find a gazillion links. I truly had never realized both how “deep” and how “wide” my website is. The link checker found 2,463 links just from my Morongo Valley Timeline, and that was excluding links to links in my genealogy, forum, or main web pages.

The felony cultivation group of documents I just finished putting in a database and giving a face lift total 110 pages alone. I would guess at least 2/3s of those are transcribed (with a thumbnail of a scan of the original document with a link to click to view the scan at original size), with the remaining third being only images of documents and therefore not searchable. I would guess there are twice as many documents for the Eviction and about as many for the California Department of Employment and Fair Housing Complaint and again as many pages of notes. And I guess the only reason I bother to clean up all those webpages now is vanity. They look really crappy. I don’t have any hope of seeing any justice over any of it any more. I guess now it’s just a testament to how much I’m worth to the government, which is more money than I could ever dream of having.

While working on my site I did divert myself with scanning Topix from time to time and was truly struck that a day or so after I’d had more than enough of The Sentinel Forums and it’s gang of trolls, sock puppets, and character assassins a 60-year-old defense lawyer was suing Topix to get the IPs of some 179 posters for a libel suit. From what I’ve read there are a lot of parallels between what happened on Topix to this 60-year-old defense lawyer and his wife and what happened to me on Topix, and especially on The Santa Cruz Sentinel’s Forum.

Texas judge orders site to identify anonymous trolls, flamers

The right to flame someone online has typically been protected by the courts, but a Texas judge has decided enough is enough when it comes to 178 anonymous comm enters on Topix.com. The site has less than a month to hand over identifying information about the Internet trolls.

By Jacqui Cheng | Last updated February 11, 2009 11:45

A Texas judge has ordered an online news site to unveil identifying details about 178 anonymous commenters on the site. The order came after a couple, Mark and Rhonda Lesher, sued the numerous anonymous commenters posting to Topix.com for making what they considered to be “perverted, sick, vile, inhumane accusations” about them.

The Leshers were originally thrust into the Texas spotlight in 2008 after being accused of sexually assaulting an unidentified former client of Mark Lesher. That’s when thousands of comments began piling up on the community news aggregator Topix to discuss the sexual assault charges. As with most things on the Internet, many Topix users felt free to let loose with nasty comments about the Leshers.

The Leshers were found not guilty of the charges after a criminal trial. That, however, wasn’t the end of the 70-some individual threads posted to Topix about them. “It just… basically made us both feel like common criminals,” the Leshers told the Dallas Morning News (via TechDirt). “It’s like someone had basically raped us of our reputation and our standing in the community over and over and over again.”

That’s when the Leshers chose to sue a number of Topix’s anonymous commenters (but, interestingly, not Topix itself). The law firm representing the couple, Connor & Demond PLLC in Austin, told Computerworld that the lawsuit was limited specifically to the posters whose statements were considered defamatory under Texas law.

The complaint filed by the Leshers details many of the comments made by the anonymous defendants. Some are certainly lower blows than others—insinuating that Mark drugs women and that Rhonda is the “Herpies Queen,” and that the couple may have AIDS, among other things—but not all of the comments are as bad. Some merely accuse the Leshers of being liars, and others even say to wait for confirmation of some of the accusations.

Regardless of what we think of the comments, however, a Tarrant County judge clearly felt that they were libelous enough to order Topix to cough up personal information on the anonymous posters. The problem is that this order seems to ignore a number of previous rulings protecting the anonymity of Internet commenters, no matter how trollish.

In 2005, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that an anonymous blogger could remain anonymous after being sued by a local councilman and his wife. The blog in question had questioned the councilman’s sexual proclivities, among other things, which the couple considered defamatory. A lower court granted the request to identify the blogger, but the Delaware Supreme Court overturned the decision. Then, in January of 2008, two female law students who were the target of vicious online attacks admitted that they had been unsuccessful in digging up personal information about a handful of anonymous posters, and had so far hit a dead end when it came to getting a court order.

One month later, a California appeals court reversed a previous decision that would have allowed Lisa Krinsky, COO of a Florida-based drug service company, to subpoena 10 anonymous Yahoo message board posters’ real names. The court said that the commenters were allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights and speak their minds, even though some of the comments were quite scathing and potentially libelous.

Topix, for its part, appears to be doing its best to ensure that it only hands over exactly what is required, and not a bit more. Topix CEO Chris Tolles told Computerworld that the company takes privacy very seriously, and that the company would not “simply hand over all of our records” without reviewing the subpoena in detail. “We prefer to make sure requests are clear and specific and not overly broad,” he said. According to the order, Topix has until March 6 to give up the information.

“The Lesher’s Petition petition to bring action against 178 commenters for defamation

Here’s a link to the Topix thread about the Topix thread (currently at 2,406 comments).

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