May 09, 2003

Slashdot Reflect

So, my site got a burst of activity yesterday generated from referers from Slashdot. Was it some hard-earned credit from my extensive activism work? No ...

It turned out that Michael Sims, Slashdot "editor", had thrown a tiny temper-tantrum on Slashdot's front page, posting an article about Microsoft full of ranting e.g.
"You have seen the stupid Passport hole in an earlier story; also the iLoo, although that hasn't stopped you from submitting stories about it, oh no.".

How does this suddenly result in many hits on my site? Well, "FortKnox", a popular and prolific commenter, took Michael to task in a comment, for editorial conduct "Childish... just pathetic"". Which then generated a thread with enough references to Michael Sims' domain-hijacking so that there was spike in traffic to me.

Frankly, this all impresses me - and scares me - on many levels. It's easy to dismiss as merely pointless flaming. But no, I believe there's a great deal to ponder here. Initially, there's the humbling fact of how much comparative traffic it generated. That is, even a fairly minor critical thread is order-of-magnitude comparable to my site-readership.

More troubling, though, is someone's comment of:

I see references to Seth Finkelstein appearing already. With any Michael thread this is no surprise. I don't know who was right or who was wrong, but I do know that it has no bearing on Digital Rights Management. It's a private spat, let it stay that way. Taco clearly feels confident in Michael Sims and frankly, it's Taco's call.

There's one of the activism-problems for me, in a nutshell - "Taco clearly feels confident in Michael Sims ..." (Taco's in charge of Slashdot). Bennett Haselton has said "The only legitimacy that Michael has is through his position as a Slashdot writer ...", and it's true. Jonathan Wallace lamented "If the ACLU's webmaster had trashed the organization's site, I think everyone would pretty well recognize he was a Bad Character and Not To Be Trusted.".

But Slashdot keeps up Michael's reputation, and so his massive destructiveness, no matter how much it's denounced, has no consequences. Now, people tend to tune-out here, complaining about whining, but this is profound.

If Michael Sims goes a bit nutty about Microsoft and unappreciative readers, that hardly matters much per se, But it's part of a pattern of abusiveness, where he's overall given carte-blanche to make accusations on the front page of Slashdot, and the worst thing that seems to happen is it later might be changed. That's the power of journalism.

People do not understand my deep desire not to do legally-risk activism work in the face of journalistic invulnerability used with malice aforethought. If I get sued, I don't want to be fighting a hatchet-job posted the front-page of Slashdot (nor elsewhere, but that's another article). And that just doesn't get across. It's so monstrous, so contrary to mental models of reasonableness, that it's not credited.

To me, every element of my concern is backed-up with solid evidence. Michael Sims stole the Censorware Project domain (search for "flipping out on us", and I didn't write that!), broke legal trust placed in him with sensitive information about my censorware decryptions, and more. Yet he remains backed by Slashdot, and regularly rants and attacks from their front-page. It's no stretch at all that he'd do me ill there if he had the opportunity. After all, he's already done everything from hijacking an organization's domain, to breaching legal confidences, it happened.

It's not a "private spat", when I have extreme legal liability as my downside and the opposing downside is ... what? ... a few comments in a discussion-thread???

It's not worth it.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism , journo | on May 09, 2003 09:44 AM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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