Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The return of the YouTube Hater, Online Bully, and possible Identity Thief

Anonymous YouTube Hater profile hoochee003 (possibly aka BloombergForLife, CIoeBuckingham, LordCarruthers, hoochee002, et al.) strikes again.

On YouTube, we all know about members who leave nasty comments. We call them, "haters." But some members cross the line, like the owner of the anonymous profile, "hoochee003."

During the 2009 campaign for New York City mayor, hoochee003 posted many harassing comments on the activist YouTube videos that were made by Suzannah B. Troy and I. Some of hoochee003's comments were inane and harmless, but the volume of comments were sometimes great, and the fact that hoochee003 would jump from one activist's YouTube account to another showed that his intention was to harass and bully online activists.

Since many anonymous comments were posted on our videos leading up to last year's mayoral election, it has become suspicious that so many hateful, nasty, and negative comments could be generated in such a short period of time from a series of anonymous YouTube profiles. One of the anonymous profiles even represented that he was Tony Avella, the former New York City Councilman. At times, it has been thought that all of these anonymous profiles were the act of one person working under different YouTube usernames. After Ms. Troy informed the real Mr. Avella of the suspected identity theft, action was taken to suspend the fraudulent account.

As a result of the way Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Council denied voters a referendum on term limits last year, an internet community was created, in opposition to the unethical and highly questionable official acts by the Mayor and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Because many online activists were linking to each others' blogs, online posts, and YouTube videos, these anonymous profiles were able to stalk the opposing online activist community. There is evidence to show that the owner of an anonymous profile would jump from one activist's message to another's, in a series of coordinated actions, the sole intention of which could only be described as harassment.

This week, one of those anonymous YouTube profiles has returned to further post hateful comments.

If the Internet is all about the democratisation of communication and interconnectedness on a massive, world-wide scale, then there is something wrong when the likely owner of a series of YouTube profiles abuses the platform that is supposed to facilitate a two-way conversation over the Internet. Where the owner of these anonymous profiles may cross the line is that his or her actions can be deemed harassment, because the hateful comments are perpetual, there is no way to have a meaningful conversation with the profiles' owner, and the one-sided nature of the offensive comments only causes frustration and are clearly intended to disturb or upset the productive online community. It threatens to disturb, silence, or censor the independent voice of online activists, who are trying to make a positive contribute to the online community and to New York society.

From September 22-23, 2009, Ms. Troy's YouTube account was suspended by YouTube for reasons that were never clearly explained. This possible act of censorship by YouTube (many of Ms. Troy's videos involve the subjects of her art, her reviews of the arts, and her views of politics) is in striking contrast to how YouTube tolerates anonymous users like hoochee003 (and other online bullies), who post pejorative, racist, sexist, offensive, and homophobic comments.

How can YouTube respect hoochee003's freedom of speech, when it clearly lacks the integrity to respect Ms. Troy's ?

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