Friday, September 24, 2010

Today's fakes: internet vigilantes who entrap and humiliate

This is one of those stories I learned about very late. It started when I saw a piece of news on c|net, but that's the end of the story. To start closer to the beginning, it seems there's a vigilante group called Perverted Justice. Started by a geek who wanted to act out his feelings of rage against an alcoholic father (according to this 2007 Rolling Stone article on the group), they began online flirtations with men, claiming to be underage girls, then publicized the hapless men's pictures and chat transcripts. This was so successful (successful from their point of view) that they began partnering with MSNBC on the show "To Catch a Predator," turning their online stings into a reality TV show. The show resulted in the conviction of over 200 men for attempted sex acts with underage girls, even though there never were any underage girls, just adults posing as girls for the sheer purpose of entrapping would-be molesters.

If these tactics sound dubious to you, the D.A. in a Dallas suburb would agree -- he refused to press charges against two dozen men who were netted by these antics after one of the men who was ensnared (but who didn't even show up at the house of the supposed jailbait), a prosecutor in a neighboring locality, shot himself.

Okay. So along the way, one of the people who became angry at the tactics of Perverted Justice was one Bruce Raisley. He embarked on a campaign to publicize and embarrass the organization, leading the founder of Perverted Justice to retaliate by posing as a woman -- not even underage this time, but using the same flirtation tactics which had proved so successful -- and getting Raisley to leave his wife and show up at an airport with flowers ready to meet his internet love. The P.J. founder sent a confederate to take pictures of the hapless Raisley, and then posted them on its website with the taunt: "Tonight, Bruce Raisley stood around at an airport, flowers in hand, waiting for a woman that turned out to be a man... He has no one. He has no more secrets... will only tolerate so much in the way of threats and attacks upon us."

Well, that would piss me off, all right. And Raisley was so angry that he downloaded some software and launched botnet attacks on several websites, such as Rolling Stone and other publications which had reported P.J.'s trick on him. And today, to bring this to a close, Raisley was convicted of computer crimes and faces ten years in prisons and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Here is a more detailed story.

The Perverted Justice group (archive of stories about them here continues its antics. As far as I can tell, they've never been accused of a crime or suffered any negative consequences as a result of their activities.

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