Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jun 18, 2014
As some of you know, I play an online game on a site called Empire Avenue. I’ve written about it a couple of times, and if you know nothing about it check out the link above.
This post isn’t really about Empire Avenue, but it plays prominently in this tale, a cautionary tale for all of you who want the cake of freedom of speech and the ability to eat your rights to privacy at the same time. How ugly will this tale end? Stick around…
Empire Avenue has a number of communities where people can get together to discuss all kinds of stuff. I joined a few early on in the game, never liked them much because it didn’t seem anyone had anything to say, and never joined one again.
However, a friend of mine sent me a link to one of the general communities of people who are considered leaders on the site because she wanted me to check something out. Seems there was some general fighting going on about some of the processes in the background of the game that she wanted me to see.
In the middle of it all was this guy, whose name (fake or real) I’m not going to mention, nor his blog, links, Twitter page, etc, because I don’t want to get in the middle of it all; you’ll see why as I get through this story.
Anyway, this guy seemed to be completely out of control. He came into this particular discussion with a chip on his shoulder for some reason and began personally attacking people. He actually came to the defense of someone I’m not even sure he really knows because of something that was said in a Facebook group, and on that one and only point I agreed with him on.
However, he went too far and started calling out anyone he could think of who’s a major player in the game (which is why I’m never mentioned lol) in this forum. And if it had stayed there things might have died down.
But you know that’s not how this story goes. Turned out the guy has a blog on WordPress.com and he started ranting and writing these tomes about the evils of Empire Avenue and naming names and quoting people and pasting images of conversations from the community forum that, in essence, was a major violation of people’s privacy, especially since many of those people had nothing to do with the initial conversation and, in his “wisdom”, he decided to call out those who attempted to call for peace; sigh…
One of the reasons this guy thought he could get away with all this abhorrent behavior is because he went behind a fake name; actually, two fake names, one of those being a deceased actor/comedian. So he went nuts, saying all this stuff about everyone he could think of, posting their images and the like, and boosting it all via his Twitter account as well. He became the Empire Avenue troll; there’s a nice business gift.
And he proclaimed his right to free speech when some of those people complained about his putting their names on his blog and posting them on Twitter, and said that anything on Empire Avenue was his to use as he wished.
However, he started to dislike some of the backlash he started getting on Twitter, and at this point he put out a cease and desist… on Twitter? On Twitter, if you don’t want to see something you just block people, but that wasn’t enough for him. He didn’t want them writing anything about him at all, so he put out a cease and desist against everyone who was against him, and he wrote about it on his blog.
And he started sending letters to Empire Avenue, state and federal agencies in the United States and Canada (where EA resides), and in one instance even called the employer of one of the people he had a beef with to say this guy was harassing him online; wow!
But he made some mistakes. See, what most people don’t realize is that if they’ve been on social media for any amount of time they’ve built up a trail that someone with motivation can follow and find out a lot about that person. Who would have more motivation than a guy who had his job threatened by a lunatic? For that matter who would have more motivation because they’d been called out on a lunatic’s blog?
You guessed it; they found out who he was. They got his name, where he went to school, pictures of what he really looked like, his age, pictures of his children (yup, this guy has kids, adult kids, but the folks had some morals and didn’t post pictures of his kids online). And after people talked with each other to confirm that they all had the same information…
They posted it all on Google Plus. Then they put the link out on Facebook and Twitter so anyone who was connected to some of these folks (or in the Facebook group for EA, which I’m a member of) could see it.
Of course I went to read it all. Fascinating stuff, especially the part about being 43 years old and living in the basement of his mother’s house because he has no real job right now. Seems that’s why he has so much time to troll all these EA members.
You know what happened next… part of it anyway. He went off, saying he was going to file a lawsuit against EA for giving out his personal information, and then lawsuits against all these people for violating his privacy. But he also smartened up… slightly. He went back to all those images he’d posted and started blacking out names that weren’t blacked out previously. He also started going back to remove some names from posts he’d written; y’all know it’s too late for that because everyone he named has copies of it all.
At this point he hasn’t backed off, and in an amazing move is actually showing EA shutting him down for his bad behavior, which he can’t see, while still complaining about everyone else violating his privacy, and admitting openly that not only is his name fake (folks can use fake names) but that his “business” information is also fake (folks aren’t allowed to do that part, but since he owned up to it he violated the terms of service), and is thus banned for good.
What’s this story about? Consequences. Many times I’ve written on this blog about consequences for actions and how people need to protect themselves online.
There was a recent news story about a guy who visited some Instagram pages of people who lived in his area that he’d never met, and then he went out and found these people in places they said they congregated, talked to them as if he knew them and told them all kinds of stuff that they thought was private, and only after shocking them with what he knew finally telling them how he’d found it all out (it was all recorded on video). They were all both amazed and shocked because it never occurred to them just how much of themselves they were giving out; lesson learned.
I’ve talked about the topic of controversy and, if you decide to go this route, how it can backfire on you if you’re not prepared for it, and how you want to choose your language carefully if you do decide to take on a subject you know some folks aren’t going to react well to.
I’ve also talked often about privacy, the lack thereof, and how if you’re not going to protect your own privacy all that well that you owe something greater, a major responsibility to your family and friends because most of them probably didn’t ask to be brought into the sphere of social media. That these folks found out about this guy’s kids, with pictures and everything, and his mother, his mother’s house, et al… for a guy talking so much about protecting his privacy he didn’t do a good job of it.
Social media isn’t something anyone should be scared of. But everyone needs to know the inherent dangers of what can happen. On my business blog I’ve talked about the dangers of thinking everyone you work with is your friend and how those folks more often than not will throw you under the bus to save their own skin. It’s like that.
Just two weeks ago two high school girls did two videos on YouTube that were racist against people in their school and community. Now they’ve had to leave school and will be home schooled, even after apologizing, because their safely can’t be guaranteed and the school was suspending them anyway.
Let me spell these lessons out:
* Don’t be stupid online
* Don’t think you can have total privacy online
* Don’t call anyone out unless you’re ready to deal with it
* Don’t think your freedom of speech trumps anyone else’s freedom of speech
* Don’t start none, won’t be none
Anyone disagree with anything I’ve said here? By the way, notice I didn’t mention any names, didn’t link to anything, so only a few people on EA, none of whom read this blog, could ever even figure out who I was talking about. So, if this person finds out about this post & has anything to say… it wasn’t me who violated anyone’s privacy… right? 😉