Over a candlelit dinner of tuna sashimi, Weev asked if I would attribute his comments to Memphis Two, the handle he used to troll Kathy Sierra, a blogger. Inspired by her touchy response to online commenters, Weev said he “dropped docs” on Sierra, posting a fabricated narrative of her career alongside her real Social Security number and address. This was part of a larger trolling campaign against Sierra, one that culminated in death threats.
Now, seven years later, Kathy Sierra's returned to explain why she'd left and what recent spates of online harassment against women portend for the future if decent people don't organize. Because the situation has grown much more serious since she went into hiding all those years ago. It's more than just the threat of Doxxing to incite physical violence by random crazies with a screw loose.
These days, malicious trolls have taken to SWATting, where harassers call police and make false accusations to induce a SWAT raid. One prominent example is that of game developer Chris Kootra, who experienced a SWAT raid on camera while playing an online video game recently. There is also the troubling trend of developing malicious software intended to harm victims directly. For example, posting images on epilepsy forums which flicker at rates known to induce epileptic seizure. Given that Sierra is epileptic herself, this kind of harmful trolling hits home personally. She writes:
[While not photo-sensitive], I have a deep understanding of the horror of seizures, and the dramatically increased chance of death and brain damage many of us with epilepsy live with, in my case, since the age of 4. FYI, deaths related to epilepsy in the US are roughly equal with deaths from breast cancer. There isn’t a shred of doubt in my mind that if the troll hackers could find a way to increase your risk of breast cancer? They’d do it. Because what’s better than lulz? Lulz with BOOBS. Yeah, they’d do it.
And yet Auernheimer, the man who put her through all this horror, has for entirely different reasons become a kind of 'Net cause célèbre for Internet freedom. After having committed a hack against AT&T where he'd obtained the email addresses of thousands of iPad users, he attracted the attention of federal authorities. In due course he was convicted and sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for identity fraud and conspiracy to access a computer without authorization. A conviction and sentence many thought egregious. Attracting support from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and prominent Georgia University Law Professor Tor Ekeland, the two worked together to craft an appeal and overturn the conviction. In April 2014, they succeeded. Auernheimer is now free.
Ekeland wasn't the only one bothered by the government's case. Even Kathy Sierra disagreed. Yet she's appalled that somehow she'd been dragged into supporting the very man who'd abused her.
But you all know what happened next. Something something something horrifically unfair government case against him and just like that, he becomes tech’s “hacktivist hero.” He now had A Platform not just in the hacker/troll world but in the broader tech community I was part of.
... But hard as I tried to find a ray of hope that the case against him was, somehow, justified and that he deserved, somehow, to be in prison for this, oh god I could not find it. I could not escape my own realization that the cast against him was wrong. So wrong. And not just wrong, but wrong in a way that puts us all at risk.
The lawyer Ekeland, in recent commentary at Wired, continues to defend Auernheimer as having been wronged by an overzealous prosecution, the precedent of which could have significant ramifications for 'Net freedom. "...the crucial issue here is not weev or his ideas but the future of criminal computer law in the U.S. You may think weev is an asshole. But being an asshole is not a crime, and neither is obtaining unsecured information from publicly facing servers."
Which leaves Sierra lamenting that Auernheimer still hasn't been charged and convicted for what she considers the real crime of harassment he'd committed, harming her and countless others. Where's the justice? Inciting violence and dissemination of 'fighting words' are not free speech. Yet, as she admits, unless you're a celebrity you're "...more likely to win the lottery than get any law enforcement agency to take action." So there is none. "We are on our own," she laments. "And if we don’t take care of one another, nobody else will."
So she came back to push back, to push back against prominent journalists and members in Tech who'd conflate prosecutorial violations of due process with the right to disseminate harassment and cruelty.
I came back because I believe this sent a terrible, devastating message about what was acceptable.
... To push back on the twist and spin. I believed the fine-grained distinctions mattered. I pushed back because I believed I was pushing back on the implicit message that women would be punished for speaking out. I pushed back because almost nobody else was, and it seemed like so many people in tech were basically OK with that.
Auernheimer, for his part, remains unapologetic. Responding to Sierra on Livejournal, he writes:
Yesterday Kathy Sierra (a.k.a. seriouspony), a mentally ill woman, continued to accuse me on her blog of leading some sort of harassment campaign against her by dropping her dox (information related to identify and location) on the Internet.
... Kathy Sierra has for years acted like a toddler, throwing tantrums and making demands whenever things didn't go her way. She rejects any presentation of polite criticism or presentation of evidence as some sort of assault on her. She was the blueprint for women like Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, who also feign victimhood for financial and social gain. Kathy Sierra is the epitome of what is wrong with my community. She had something coming to her and by the standards set by her own peers in the social justice community, there was nothing wrong with what she got.
Some people never change.
How do US authorities feel about foreign nations hacking into US military and corporate computers? For example, this story: Chinese authorities hacked into Pentagon and other sensitive computers:
China’s military hacked into computer networks of civilian transportation companies hired by the Pentagon at least nine times, breaking into computers aboard a commercial ship, targeting logistics companies and uploading malicious software onto an airline’s computers, Senate investigators said Wednesday.
A yearlong investigation announced by the Senate Armed Services Committee identified at least 20 break-ins or other unspecified cyber events targeting companies, including nine successful break-ins of contractor networks.
Earlier this summer, in an apparently unrelated investigation, the US accused five members of the Chinese military of hacking computers for economic espionage purposes. It accused them of hacking into five US nuclear and technology companies’ computer systems and a major steel workers union’s system, conducting economic espionage and stealing confidential business information, sensitive trade secrets and internal communications for competitive advantage.
I'm guessing they don't like that. Which perhaps is what the United States means by "American Exceptionalism".
There's lots of useful free stuff for people who want to emulate ancient computers at pdp11.org.
Exactly. The value of a PhD is diluted by accessibility. The wrong social classes have entered the marble halls of that ivory tower. What's needed is to make the PhD even more accessible by opening the gates to the front courtyard of that educational tower. That way everyone can become a PhD. And to really set yourself apart, private institutions will form to teach "Super PhDs" where only the absolute best gain entrance. Of course, earning a Super PhD takes longer. A newly minted star professor might win tenure and emeritus at the same time. But by these measures, we'll strengthen education, the labor market, the economy and freedom itself.
It's more Cancer Socialism. Clearly, an unregulated private sector education market would lower interest rates and high college tuition costs across the board by fertilizing fields of opportunity ploughed and ready for planting by the roughly calloused hands of entrepreneur students.
I'm all for writing a book. But to set financial expectations appropriately, you should read this first.
As we all know, there's no problem in the labor market that can't be solved with more education.
As President Obama says at the official White House web site, "Earning a post-secondary degree or credential is no longer just a pathway to opportunity for a talented few; rather, it is a prerequisite for the growing jobs of the new economy." Because, as he notes, "With the average earnings of college graduates at a level that is twice as high as that of workers with only a high school diploma, higher education is now the clearest pathway into the middle class."
To help sustain this middle class, the President has proposed policies that will:
Therefore, earning a PhDs must not be enough. What we need is a new credential. Something beyond PhD. A... "Super PhD" that will help high achievers stand out to those employers seeking only the best. Of course, that means longer class schedules, more lab training, in short... more education.
Don't worry, our financial institutions are here to help. Banks will be happy to lend you more with government backed student loans. It's the least they can do for a beleaguered middle class too uneducated to succeed in this high tech economy.
America is that Shiny City upon a Hill, a place where gleaming gold coins lay scattered about ripe for the picking. You only need more education to find them. A new life awaits you in that shining city on the hill. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure! So come on America, become a go-getter and land that Super PhD! The Sciences are just filled with Gold Coins of Opportunity in this Shinny City on a Hill for those with the right education.
It's the advertising that pisses me off. Easy to turn of WiFi. And I'll never do anything about tower triangulation anyway, other than yanking the battery.
"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller