Sunday, January 31, 2010

Is It a Good Idea to Flag This?

I've been cyberstalked a few times in my life.

The first time was back in 1998 when a Dark Crystal fan from my Crystal Corner group harassed me both on my old personal home page and the group. It got bad enough that Yahoo! Groups (then ONElist) deleted both of our accounts because of our complaints. He claimed I said many things I didn't; this is the reason I now archive every E-mail I send (I currently have sent mail archives going back to March of 2000).

Another time has been extensively chronicled on this blog. In brief, a troll posted harassing comments on my blog and threatening comments on Riin's. Eventually, when I captured the IP address, the police were able to trace the stalking back to a former co-worker who apparently took exception to my ideas on love and romance, particularly polyamory, and decided to "teach me a lesson." She backed off once she realized I was tracing her but not before I got her name. :)

Cyberstalking can be scary but mostly it's just frustrating. The Internet makes it all too easy to be anonymous. Yes, it's possible to trace a stalker's IP but, unless your stalker is stupid enough to send you an E-mail or something, it's hard to get an IP particularly if your stalker only harasses you by comments on your blog or YouTube account (though, if you're reasonably tech-savvy, you can still capture a stalker's IP with web traffic tracking services like Statcounter).

Jonathan Paula, producer of my favorite YouTube series Is It a Good Idea to Microwave This? and the show's stars Jory Caron and Riley McIlwain, are currently being cyberstalked. Someone on YouTube has taken a dislike to the microwave show and has been "flagging" the videos for "inappropriate content" for minors. There is nothing inappropriate on the show whatsoever; the flags are solely for the purpose of harassing the show's makers.

Is It a Good Idea to Microwave This? recently celebrated the completion of the show's 200th experiment:

In the annotations on the above episode, you'll see Mr. Paula announce that the show has been flagged so much lately that it's in danger of being flagged off YouTube entirely; that's how bad their situation has gotten.

Mr. Paula is a YouTube partner which means he actually makes revenue from the viewing of his videos; false flagging robs him and his coworkers of revenue. This revenue isn't just "mad money" for him and his friends; this is their full time job as he explains in the Is It a Good Idea to Microwave This? behind the scenes special here:

What this amounts to is this stalker is, for all intents and purposes, "docking their pay." Mr. Paula has been attempting to deal with the situation but apparently YouTube's response has been less than supportive and it seems to me the more he complains about the flagging the worse it gets.

This dovetails with my own experiences. Stalkers do what they do to try to provoke a response from their victims; the more you respond the more they do to provoke you. I think, as a short term solution, Mr. Paula should stop mentioning the flags. Doing so is a bit like trying to put out a fire with gasoline (and he and his friends know a little something about putting out fires on the show ;)); it only makes the situation worse.

So what should he do? Well, I've never had a "partner" account with YouTube but given how customizable the channel seems to be I imagine you can add HTML code to video descriptions. Mr. Paula might want to consider installing Statcounter into the description of each new video of the show from now on; that way he can capture the IP address of the person responsible for the flags.

Once he has the IP address, he can file a complaint with the police. A subpoena can be issued to the Internet Service Provider who can then, using the IP, date and time the stalker connected, identify the perpetrator. Once they know who it is, Mr. Paula can press charges under
Chapter 265, Section 43 of the General Laws of Massachusetts for stalking.

I'm going to send a link to this blog entry to Mr. Paula so he can see this suggestion. Mr. Paula, if you're reading this, if there's anything I can do to help just let me know.

In the meantime, I urge all of you reading this blog to go check out Is It a Good Idea to Microwave This? It's thoroughly entertaining, particularly the later seasons, and it could use some supporters right now. Subscribe, rate and enjoy!

I think I'll add these guys to my regular prayers to St. Rita as well; my religious readers, whatever your faith, I urge you to do the same.

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