On September 18, 2005, a new website was created by unknown individuals that attacked and defamed a local business, its staff, and its clients. They added material to it over the next couple of weeks, then started spreading links to the site so that others, particularly the people being defamed, would discover it. The website was available to the world at large, and became well known around the company that was targeted.
While the website was done anonymously, the company was named, and it contained enough information for anyone involved with the company to determine who was meant by the nicknames they used in their libel. The people behind the website were under the mistaken impression that using a nickname protected them from liability and allowed them to defame everyone with impunity.
Some of the content was grotesque in no small degree. Through the use of innuendo and plain language, defamatory comments were made about identifiable individuals. There was a section that directed insults at the underaged daughters of one person involved with the company. Anyone visiting to the site would know who and what was meant, and the nicknames could be easily looked up elsewhere, including the company's own website. The comments they published used slang terms that in their ordinary meanings were maliciously false and defamatory, and were understood to mean:
- that the young girls were groupees
- that the young girls had an incestuous relationship with their father
- the young girls might look hot if the webmaster got drunk enough
- the young girls had been caught prostituting themselves at the company premises
- the young girls fed themselves by scrounging for food dropped on the ground
- the young girls mouths were being wasted by yapping and should be used for sexual purposes
- that the best way to shut the young girls up was for a sexual assault to be committed on them
The website did not only direct its vitriol towards the children. In other parts of the website, several other hurtful comments and threats of violence appeared. Many of the postings were sexist and vulgar, and some made criminal accusations against individuals at the company. It appeared as if the website had been designed so that its victims and associates would read it.
There were two people involved in the creation of the website. It was a forum-style layout, with many of the postings consisting of back-and-forth banter. They also signed up many user names to make it appear as a very busy site with lots of different participants, and the site owner spent considerable time talking to himself, apparently on company time.
Some of the information they posted intentionally impersonated other people attached to the organization. It even contained gratuitous sexual insults towards a female client that had just given a tearful testimonial praising the company, posing as her husband. These postings were all later traced back to the site owners by cybersleuthing efforts.
I got involved when somebody brought the site to my attention. There was an entry on the site that was defamatory of me in connection with my previous run for mayor, and it stated that an act of violence should be performed on me. The company was a client, and I hosted their official website. The last thing I wanted was a rogue website available to the whole world that attacked my client, which might possibly even be blamed on me. Using my IT skills, I became determined to protect my client and have the website shut down.
First, I made a complaint to the company hosting the disgusting comments using their abuse mechanism. They responded that the complaint would be passed to the site owners, who were given an ultimatum to remove some, but not all, of the defamatory material. Then I set about discovering who was behind the site, which was hosted in California.
Almost immediately, I was able to obtain the IP address of everybody on the website. This revealed that there were only two people behind the postings, with plenty of other people visiting the pages who had seen the site advertised elsewhere. I laid some traps, and sent some bait. Before long, I started learning who might be hiding behind those IP addresses.
The IP address of the site owner belonged to a radio station in London. The next challenge was to find out which computer in the organization was accessing the site. I had some suspects in mind, but had to be sure of their identities, because it turns out they held prominent positions within my client's company. There was no room for error or false allegations. The radio station likely had no idea its resources were being used for unlawful purposes on company time.
Tracing the other IP address revealed the use of a computer at the parent company of my client. They continued posting libellous material on their website, oblivious to the fact I had deduced their identity already. At this point, I brought in the assistance of other individuals to help me verify the evidence. I also created a "robot" program which visited the impugned website every minute, saved the pages to disk, and logged the usernames on at the time to match with IP addresses.
The first big break came when I sent an email with my banner to the DJ of the London radio station. He replied, and this gave me his IP address, which matched the profile used on the rogue website. Then I emailed the DJ who came on afterwards, and he confirmed it was the studio computer, used only by the person on-air at the time. Most of the postings to the website were time-stamped between songs when the suspect was heard on the air. The rest of the postings and site visits from the suspect's account came from his residential Rogers internet service.
I confronted the DJ in person about the defamation he allegedly posted on his website. He denied knowing anything about it, and claimed he was off sick all week, even though I heard him live on the air.
Turning my attention to the other person involved, I very quickly traced his site postings to the manager of the defamed company - my client himself! This was an unexpected complication. I had just emailed my client advising him of the site that was in operation, outlining how I had found out who was behind it, and the steps taken to have it shut down and the culprits prosecuted. The email logs linked his computer to the website. He and his friend at the London radio station started to panic.
At this time, one of the people helping me was able to change his online identity to "FU2" that was used by the company manager. When the DJ saw his friend's user name online, he started a chat session not knowing it was really somebody else. My assistant played along, recording the text to send me. "Kurtz" is the site owner.
FU2-- LMAO You must be Buzzed
Kurtz-- too funny...hahaha...did you see those other emails that came in??
FU2-- Ya. So what now?
Kurtz-- ahhh f**k him...when will I ever see him after the banquet??
In one of the posts he says that he could sue for slander...but how? I NEVER mentioned a name...only nicknames from here...so sue me...MORON!
FU2-- If he goes
Kurtz-- ahhh good point...if he doesn't go...we should announce that he won't be back and see how long it takes to get back to him!
FU2-- We wont have him back anyhow. Wanna new job?
Kurtz-- I can take pictures...how hard can it be?? Maybe paparazzi can do it?
FU2-- Whens the Giant coming on here?
We need him.
Kurtz-- hold on!
[He logs on as one of his user names and posts a defamatory entry about Giant.]
FU2-- You work on the holiday?
Kurtz-- yep...what's your phone # again??
FU2-- Lmao. Austin is still sending emails.
Kurtz-- that dumb f**ker.
FU2-- He's doing it to get our ip,s. so Iv'e been told. Didnt he send you one last week with his header on it?
Kurtz-- yeah...I don't trust that guy...I wanna stick that camera up his ass.
FU2-- Have you gott'n back on to the ssr board?
Kurtz-- Nope...f**kers locked me out!
FU2-- How the hell did they figure that one out?
Kurtz-- good question...unless they put two and two together...they must think since I'm f**king slim, I'm on her account??
Kurtz-- I'm going to bed...call you tomorrow
Thursday works for me.
Not only did the transcript admit that he had seen the email I sent to the radio station, but that he had a mind to come after me for getting involved. We also learned a little more than we bargained for - that the person, who was married, was having an affair with a company employee who was engaged to somebody else.
Later in the evening, when my assistant was still pretending to be "FU2", the real "FU2" came to the site and saw his own user name was already online. We suspect that he immediately called "Kurtz" to warn him, who jumped out of bed and very quickly deleted everything on the website, replacing it with a notice that his site had been hacked while he was away for two weeks.
Then they posted a series of statements attempting to distance themselves from material that had appeared previously. Everybody already knew who they were, and shockwaves rippled through their company. Many people were astonished that the company's own manager could do something so stupid against his own staff and clients. A few days later, the entire domain was deleted.
While many people were affected by the website, nobody had the legal resources or knowledge to sue. Defamation actions are extremely complex and expensive - not something for Small Claims Court. I sent a legal notice to the parent company, but they refused to respond or take any action against their manager. The DJ and company manager never issued an apology, and having kept their jobs, they began to systematically retaliate against anyone who played a role in exposing their twisted hobby. I lost the account as a result of trying to help.
The whole story, including the identities of the DJ and manager, were posted online at the time, where it was viewed by them. Instead of denying the allegations, they pretended to be somebody else.
It remains unclear what the motives behind the website were. At the time it existed, the manager posted material in other forums defending his company, using his own name. He may have been intending to take credit for "discovering" it and having it removed. Or he may have intended for others to be fingered with the blame.
As a partial result of defamatory and sexist material posted on the rogue website, and allegedly announced over the company PA, one of the victims filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal claiming sexual harassment. The woman also alleges she was intentionally hit and seriously injured at the company premises despite warning the owners that she had been threatened.
She has filed a civil action against the company based on those allegations. All the website documents and logs were turned over, and also sent to local media who were interested. Both actions are still before the courts, and the allegations have not been proven.
At this time, we will decline from identifying any of the parties or companies involved, since improper comments against minors form a part of the allegations, and actions are still pending adjudication. The DJ is still on the air at a different station, and the manager was let go a couple of years later for other reasons unrelated to his participation in the website.