“How does it feel to know that I’m never, ever, ever going to stop?”
November 15, 2017 2:39 PM   Subscribe

 
Christ…
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:00 PM on November 15, 2017


I'm wondering if his wife was in on it the whole time or if he just gaslit her so aggressively that she believes his creepy woe is me story now.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:07 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


FTA: A 2016 survey found that one in every 25 Americans online—roughly 10 million people—had either had explicit images of themselves shared online against their will or had been threatened with such sharing. For women younger than 30, it was one in 10. The same survey found that, photos or no, 47 percent of Americans who used the internet had been victims of online harassment of some kind.

“You can tell people, ‘Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want to have go public,’ ” McDonald says. “But what kind of life is that?”


From a/s/l to this hot mess of bro-businesses' "leave a message" and straight up extortion schemes operating in the shade of bro-businesses contending through EULAs that a submit button is material ownership of any and every expression, any and every image.

And this is a story of people with the means to hire many lawyers over years. Meanwhile, back on capitol hill...
posted by lazycomputerkids at 3:12 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


The pro bono services were estimated at a cost of 400,000$, which is what it would take for anyone not able to receive free services. And the fucker STILL hasn’t stopped.

Burn it all down.
posted by corb at 3:16 PM on November 15, 2017 [12 favorites]


What a fucking asshole.

And, unfortunately, none of the free email providers have a way without major legal firepower to shut down these accounts.
posted by mephron at 3:39 PM on November 15, 2017


There but for the grace of shitty exes go I so many of us.
posted by crush at 3:48 PM on November 15, 2017 [19 favorites]


No shit. Also, man it really helps to be in a position where the cops are going to show up and react positively to your tale when you get swatted.

But seriously, the level of anger/rage/hate/whatthefuckeveryouwanttocallit this takes... (ok, along with whatever mental illness this entails)

And yup, on the comments - still people saying things about her because she had an affair/nude photos - like that's any level of reason for this.
posted by drewbage1847 at 4:12 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


Holy shit. And the fucker still hasn't stopped. Seems to have convinced himself he's the wronged party.

I've met a ton of nice people on the internet, but this is why I generally lay low and never use my real name.
posted by suelac at 4:15 PM on November 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


like honestly at this point in internet harassment against women it would be nice and refreshing to meet someone who just wanted to harvest your organs.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:19 PM on November 15, 2017 [74 favorites]


And this is a story of people with the means to hire many lawyers over years.

Nope, it's a story of a couple that were lucky enough to have an extremely competent pro bono team to help them.
Natalie Dolci, then a victim advocate with the campus police, referred him, as she had many others, to a pro bono program called the Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project at the prominent K&L Gates law firm.
What a super-depressing story though. That was intense to even read, I cannot imagine what it would be like to live through.
posted by el io at 4:42 PM on November 15, 2017 [14 favorites]


What this guy did was stalking and harassment and hugely incongruent as a response to the "crime" of the husband's action of outing him as poly to his parents. But I maintain that outing someone as poly, bi, gay, whatever to someone's family because your wife is having an emotional affair with them is also shitty and toxic.
posted by xyzzy at 4:44 PM on November 15, 2017 [15 favorites]


But I maintain that outing someone as poly, bi, gay, whatever to someone's family because your wife is having an emotional affair with them is also shitty and toxic.

Being one half of an affair is also shitty and toxic, so that bit at least balances out.
posted by Dysk at 4:55 PM on November 15, 2017 [8 favorites]


the government needs to buy a nice little town out west somewhere and make sure there are no wires running to it - no phone, no internet, not even power

and when people like zonis are convicted of doing crap like this, they're sent there for life for a permanent 19th century lifestyle - did you threaten someone's life on twitter? - first offense, we might let you skate by in prison - 2nd offense, welcome to dev/nullsville

made sure that once in awhile a newspaper reporter is sent to interview them about how fucking miserable they are

maybe that's extreme, but this is happening too much - the government needs to start enforcing laws on this
posted by pyramid termite at 5:10 PM on November 15, 2017 [41 favorites]


The pro bono services were estimated at a cost of 400,000$

This is only the stated value of one lawyer's time, Breanna Van Engelen who gave the closing argument at the trial.

Also, per the article, we shouldn't be speaking of "what this guy did" but rather "what this guy is doing" as the harassment appears to be ongoing, with Zonis setting up a blog about his supposed experience in which he posts the photos of Courtney Allen and encourages readers to take them and the other evidence relating to the trial and "use or distribute them as you see fit."
posted by XMLicious at 5:17 PM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


i can absolutely not see any point to giving any credence at all to this man's claims that his was an open marriage now or at any point. claiming that this creepy fucking predator has somehow been "outed" is both laughable and gross.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:38 PM on November 15, 2017 [37 favorites]


Being one half of an affair is also shitty and toxic, so that bit at least balances out.

ew.
posted by capnsue at 5:57 PM on November 15, 2017 [20 favorites]


Pure nightmare fuel.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:13 PM on November 15, 2017


So glad Steven's employers stood by him.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:14 PM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


I do think Steven was way out of line to contact this guy's wife and family. He was trying to revenge his wife's (at that point) consensual online relationship with the guy by ruining his life -- you just can't do things like that, no matter how understandable it might be that you want to. It was also a tactical error, because he was messing with someone he didn't know. Please note that I'm not saying that this out of line behaviour justifies anything that was done to him or his wife. Obviously this guy is pathologically vindictive and his attempt to destroy this couple's lives is incredibly disproportionate to what Steven did.
posted by orange swan at 6:33 PM on November 15, 2017 [10 favorites]


I'm uncomfortable with the amount of focus Steven contacting the family is getting in this thread. His doing so is (a) not a crime and (b) true, so not even defamatory. Was it impolite? Sure. Was it stupid, naive, and a good idea never to take advice from online "marriage counseling" sites? Sure.

Still, can we keep the focus on the terroristic threats, defamation, identity theft, fraud, and stalking behavior Zonis exhibited? Can we keep a sense of proportion here, and rather than count up the failings and missteps of the actual victims, keep the focus on the actual predatory criminals?
posted by Miko at 6:47 PM on November 15, 2017 [77 favorites]


Against my better judgement I went looking for Zonis' blog. The comments in there are all either about how Courtney is a slut or how Courtney is too ugly for anyone to want to bang her.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:16 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


Every fucking day I'm glad I've only dated and/or married computer illiterate people.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 7:17 PM on November 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


The comments in there are all either about how Courtney is a slut or how Courtney is too ugly for anyone to want to bang her

Don't forget the ones that overtly advocate homicide.
posted by Miko at 7:23 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


wait, they want murders to happen to someone OTHER THAN todd the psycho?
posted by poffin boffin at 10:36 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


Had a quick scan of his blog, oh boy, even scanning it in reverse order it becomes more and more. ALL CAPS !! BIGGER TYPEFONT SCREAMING PILES OF ........ I rrly don’t know this internet thingy enough to do what they claimed.....honest! You have to believe me because I lost my ancestral home....you TOO could lose that cushy piece of property you parents spent years building up if you don’t listen to me!


While the original article is terrifying, that guys blog is unreal. He portrays an idyllic marriage, expecting to adopt, expecting to inherit said ancestral home, all interrupted by these awful ppl, mainly the Svengali Stephen....and poor dumb Courtney who clearly is being arch manipulated to hate these friends.....


But ALL of it is about him, his wife who apparently supported him throughout is barely mentioned and then only for extra pity FOR HIM! ( jebus, this ALL CAPS thing is contagious) relating to no chance of adoption. It is the biggest, most screaming
MEMEMEMEMEME


truly horrific
posted by Wilder at 11:25 PM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


This story is such a depressing one, and such a testament to the tendency to corrupt the most amazing advances we make as a species. I hope we survive long enough to outgrow this kind of thing.

I remember watching a documentary in the early 90s... I think it was Cyberpunk... which first introduced me to the general precepts of the movement at the time: Information wants to be free; always yield to the hands-on imperative; subvert the dominant paradigm; surf the edges. I remember specifically how exciting, how groundbreaking, how liberating that sounded at the time, because the community-at-large really only looked at large power structures as the potential targets, not individual people.

Simply typing this message here isn't without a back-of-mind awareness that it's putting something out there that ties to the digital me, and therefore potentially the real me. While the internet is a big place full of voices, once a target is identified, it seems as though the victim's online presence becomes eminently discoverable and explorable, and depending on safeguards, exploitable.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in the back woods hewing logs with an axe and reading paperbacks. Phooey.
posted by Graygorey at 11:30 PM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


But I maintain that outing someone as poly, bi, gay, whatever to someone's family because your wife is having an emotional affair with them is also shitty and toxic.

Yeah, at first it read to me like the two men were having a creep-off.

(Zonis won, obvs.)
posted by Perodicticus potto at 11:30 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


Even granting for the possibility that Todd is writing some/most of the comments on his blog himself, I really believe that a sick bully like him falls right in with the alt-right, anti-est, conspiracy crowd. So now the Allens might be faced with a distributed attack by some of the more motivated morons out there.

There was a case not long ago about an abuser conspiracy wacko who claimed a family's son did NOT die in a school shooting and went to great lengths to harass them about it.
posted by Laotic at 11:31 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


“You can tell people, ‘Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want to have go public,’ ” McDonald says. “But what kind of life is that?”

Or you can tell people "Don't record anything on digital media that you wouldn't want to have go public". I tell people that all the time. And the answer to "what kind of life is that?" is "the kind that was perfectly satisfactory for all the centuries before phone cameras were even a thing."

This advice is not about victim blaming. The fact that I think of Courtney's decision to record herself masturbating as a choice that I would personally never make on basic operational security grounds is in no way any kind of justification for the indescribably shitty manner in which her indescribably shitty abuser subsequently misused that recording among other things.

But the thing is that shitty people exist; that you can never really tell whether anybody you've never had personal physical contact with is a shitty person or not (hell, it's hard enough face-to-face); and that the whole point of putting information in digital form is to make endless perfect copies possible. All it takes is one leak, and the stuff is potentially replicated everywhere very very quickly.

If you're into making sexy videos for you and your partners, and you'd rather they didn't end up on pornhub, then shoot them on VHS and keep the tapes locked in your own house. If that's too inconvenient, you didn't really need them badly enough to make them in the first place.
posted by flabdablet at 11:53 PM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


If you're into making sexy videos for you and your partners, and you'd rather they didn't end up on pornhub, then shoot them on VHS and keep the tapes locked in your own house. If that's too inconvenient, you didn't really need them badly enough to make them in the first place.

Or encrypt at rest.
posted by jaduncan at 1:20 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


(especially given that it is possible to encrypt such that multiple passwords - hopefully one known by each participant - must be entered correctly before opening the file).
posted by jaduncan at 1:22 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


then shoot them on VHS and keep the tapes locked in your own house

By all means shoot digital (it's not like you couldn't reasonably easily digitize VHS tapes if you got your hands on them and had the motivation), but shoot on devices that record on physical media like SD cards. And then keep those SD cards locked up. You can connect the camera with the card to a TV over HDMI and watch them that way.

If you MUST edit the videos, only ever keep them on your computer for the duration, and then transfer the final product to external media that you can lock up, deleting all traces from the computer. (Be mindful that your editing software may store transcoded footage in a temp or project folder somewhere.) If you MUST store edited copies on your computer, research hard drive encryption and encrypted disk images, and how to use them well. (This is solid advice even if you don't do sexy stuff.)

If you MUST have easier local access to the media, consider getting a cheap tablet on which you can put the videos and watch them, and lock THAT up.

If you MUST share with other people over the internet, do you really? If really, then do it with the knowledge that not only are you trusting them to not actively share the videos elsewhere at any point in their lives, but also trusting their competence in keeping them safe and private from evil people. Steel yourself for the eventuality that they WILL leak, perhaps catastrophically so. The chance is nontrivial.

If and only if you don't really care if a leak happens, should you ever ignore security protocols.

This has been an OPSEC derail, not intended as a commentary on TFA, which I haven't even read yet. If even one person reading this can keep their sexy stuff safer as a result, it's a win.
posted by jklaiho at 1:34 AM on November 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


If you're into making sexy videos for you and your partners, and you'd rather they didn't end up on pornhub, then shoot them on VHS and keep the tapes locked in your own house

This sounds a little to close to “if she didn’t want to be raped, she wouldn’t have worn such tight clothes” for me to be comfortable with it.

Humans (generally) love sex, and they love exploiting technology to further that interest in sex. And people, but especially guys, cajole women into various behavior with the promise of protecting their virtue. It’s nothing new, just that it is much easier to massively betray someone’s trust in a spectacular way. But then again, sharing lurid details of someone’s sexual habits has always been a weapon and widely believed before the advent of readily available video evidence.

What I’m saying is that this kind of “slut shaming” would occur if said videos did not exist. Let’s not put the burden on the women being harmed by revenge porn. On some level it’s true if she did not record the videos, they wouldn’t be shareable. Also true, had she locked herself in a room, stayed chaiste and never masturbated ever, then this “would have never happened.”
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:40 AM on November 16, 2017 [27 favorites]


One of the things that really horrified me about this story was that, ultimately, this awful man didn't use any special computer powers at all, really. This isn't some "black hat" l33t hacker - a moron could do those things. My seventy year old, IT-naive mother could do those things with half an hour's googling.

The thought that power to unleash so much terror on a person is basically accessible to anyone is perturbing.
posted by smoke at 2:01 AM on November 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


We live on the net now. We shouldn't have to share it with guys like that. His punishment should include never being allowed to use a computer or the internet again. If he needs to do something that can only be done on the net, he should have to ask an approved intermediary to handle it. Otherwise, let him use a dumb phone with an approved list of numbers he can call.
posted by pracowity at 2:15 AM on November 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


This sounds a little to close to “if she didn’t want to be raped, she wouldn’t have worn such tight clothes” for me to be comfortable with it.

None of this shit is anywhere even close to comfortable.

The idea that somebody makes a sex video because on some level they want to have it used to damage their reputation makes no sense at all. Neither does the idea that somebody wears tight clothes because they want to be raped. I think every reasonable person should and would agree that assigning any degree of blame to the targets of either rape or online harassment is completely uncalled for.

There is another parallel in that wearing tight clothes makes a negligible difference to the chance of suffering rape, and allowing a digital sex video to escape from one's own strict control makes a negligible difference to the chance of suffering online harassment.

Unlike the former, though, the latter does make a very large difference to the amount of psychological damage one is potentially handing one's harassers the tools to inflict.

I don't think anybody who is careless about what they film is careless because they want to have it used against them. I think people are careless about what we film as an extension of our overall carelessness about digital security in general. Sex videos on phones, to my way of thinking, belong in the same mental category as using hunter2 for your banking password: things it really makes no sense to do, despite the fact that people do them anyway Because Convenience.

Let’s not put the burden on the women being harmed by revenge porn.

Again, this is less about who is visible in any given video than the social consensus about whether or not making this kind of thing is a good idea at all. I'm pretty firmly in the "no" camp on that, as well as on driving without seatbelts, crossing roads without looking, having guns in the house and any number of other widely accepted practices whose risks strike me as utterly disproportionate to their rewards.

So, not trying to put any kind of burden on anybody; just trying to raise general awareness that information - digital information in particular - really truly does want to be free, and will eventually end up so unless some genuinely serious precautions are taken to keep it contained.

The thought that power to unleash so much terror on a person is basically accessible to anyone is perturbing.

It is indeed, and I have been strongly perturbed by it ever since I started seeing cameras considered an essential feature on mobile phones maybe fifteen years ago.

Facebook horrifies me. The idea that it is now in some way expected that we must all behave like our own PR departments, minutely recording and collating only the most acceptable parts of our lives for a worldwide audience, is grotesque; the speed with which that idea has become generally accepted is appalling.

We live on the net now.

And we've been doing so in significant numbers for less than twenty years.

It's going to take at least another generation before general release of an explicit video ceases to have meaningful negative consequences on employment prospects and reputation generally. Until then, it seems to me that reminding people to stop and think before deciding to make one - of themselves, or of anybody they care about - would have to do more good than harm.
posted by flabdablet at 2:50 AM on November 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


Everybody involved in this story seems terrible.
posted by dmh at 3:04 AM on November 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


I would rather be subjected to physical torture for a week than go through the torment this couple went through online. I'm drained just from reading about it.

And for the poster above who's against outing people that are poly... Can't you do that without involving a married woman whose husband thinks he's in a monogamous relationship?
posted by xammerboy at 3:47 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


One other thing... His punishment should be prison for life not taking away his video games. He targeted her four year old son. He tried to get them falsely imprisoned. He told their work colleagues, community, friends, and family they were sex offenders. He sent them death threats. He psychologically tortured them for years.
posted by xammerboy at 3:55 AM on November 16, 2017 [13 favorites]


too bad he didn't sell them pot
posted by thelonius at 3:57 AM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Zonis pretty much sounds like the online equivalent of a Dexter villain. He's obviously horrible and should, in my opinion, probably be in prison just for the swatting alone. His entire deal is somewhere way, way out there far beyond anything normal people ever do.

That said: Steven's behavior is something that I can imagine many people I know doing, and it is fucking awful. There's no minimizing that he set out to alienate his own wife and Zonis from their families. Doing that as part of some radical policy of truth philosophy doesn't make it better, it just means he had some fancy-pants, cruel-to-be-kind, doing-it-for-your-own-good-baby routine running to try and shield himself from the inevitable backlash to what he was doing. Which was trying to get revenge, clearly. I emphasize this because while Zonis seems like an alien to me, Steven sounds like someone I might know, right now -- more than one person, even. Most of us could not be like Zonis, but many of us could be like Steven, easily.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:09 AM on November 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


general release of an explicit video ceases to have meaningful negative consequences on employment prospects and reputation generally

The videos/photos in fact didn't have negative consequences on "employment prospects and reputation generally" - the release of it to inappropriate people, along with false information, threats, and character attacks, did. The reputation damage and employment issues came from the harassment - not from the content of the video.
posted by Miko at 5:02 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


But if we take away the virtual aspects of it, what Steven did was extremely common breakup behaviour: lots of people, perhaps the majority, go round badmouthing their ex and still more whoever "lured them away" and would want to have the families on their side. To say nothing of the division of friends.

I don't think it was a morally good thing, and it was obviously designed to hurt and punish, but this is a situation where people want to hurt and feel that punishment is deserved. It's not that surprising that someone should act on these impulses.
posted by alloneword at 5:13 AM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


All Steven did was not keep someone's secret for them. The marriage was public, the vows were public, and the kind of long-term deception involved in that kind of affair is in my mind, tantamount to abuse - from both parties to the affair. The level of gaslighting it necessarily involves, and the utter destruction of your ability to trust that results is not something to be handwaved away.

Was Steven a good guy? No. But was his crime even remotely comparable to anything else in this story? No.
(And the idea that being outed as poly is in any way equivalent to being outed as gay or bi? Wow. No. And nor was there any indication that the Zonises were in fact poly).
posted by Dysk at 5:36 AM on November 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


I feel the issue of creating sexy photos/videos is moot as faking them is relatively trivial nowadays. So even if you are pure as the driven snow it is possible to have a pornographic photos/videos that appear to be you distributed to your family and co-workers (who probably don't know you well enough to judge if that is your body sans clothes).
posted by saucysault at 5:40 AM on November 16, 2017 [12 favorites]


All Steven did was not keep someone's secret for them.

So again, because what Steven did is something I think is well within the scope of normal human affairs -- unlike what Zonis did, which we can all be shocked by, but which I think we all agree is super wrong and not something we would ever do -- I want to stress that what Steven did was not just fail to keep a secret, but go out of his way to let his wife's family, and her lover's family, know about an extramarital affair. This wasn't a situation where somebody asked. Why would Steven pursue this breathless policy of sharing the unsolicited truth with the people who would be most upset to learn it? Because his feelings were hurt. Because he wanted his wife's family to tell her what a bitch she was for hurting poor, long-suffering Steven. Because he wanted Zonis' wife to dump his ass, probably. Steven sounds like a creep.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:01 AM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Sure, Steven was a creep. But so was Courtney (and Zonis) for the affair. Yet it's only Steven who gets shat on here. Literally nobody comes out of this clean. But Steven is to my mind cleanest, alongside Courtney.
posted by Dysk at 6:05 AM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


I don't really think that Steven has been shat upon sufficiently. Everybody knows cheating is wrong, and obviously every single one of Zonis' life choices is wrong, but there is an ambiguity about Steven's wrongness that must not stand. Hell, Steven only even knew about the affair because he was looking at personal info that should have been off limits. Steven really sucks and I feel we must all endeavor not to be like him.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:12 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


That's a kind of "you're supposed to trust me!" bollocks right there, the kind that is part of the sort of gaslighting in question. You can't pull the "you're supposed to trust me/her" card in response to being proven untrustworthy. Trust is a two way street.
posted by Dysk at 6:14 AM on November 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


I'm with dmh. Upon reading how this whole shitstorm began to transpire my thought was "what a truly awful collection of people that I'm glad I don't know." Todd took it to level 1000 cartoonish villainy, of course. But suffice it to say that there are no chess champions among these characters.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:17 AM on November 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


Ok but can we acknowledge that this started out as a very run-of-the-mill long-distance emotional affair and aftermath? Like, this shit is dime a dozen. People meet on line, get intimate, hide it from their partners, their partners start suspecting and do some minor snooping (not even involving, like, hacking or serious cloak-and-dagger, just reading a device that is sitting there unlocked) and blammo, it all blows up and the aggrieved partner makes some poor decisions when it comes to how to confront the other half of the affair. I mean, I've never cheated, I get extremely irritated at people who take the "lol everyone cheats" line because lol everyone does not, but enough people do that I have heard the beginning of this story a jillion times. Up til the "next level sociopathic stalking and bullying", no one covers themselves in glory and they all tend to do dumb shit when wrapped up in their own feels. But doing dumb shit when you're wrapped up in your own feels is a very common human experience.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:28 AM on November 16, 2017 [18 favorites]


Are we really talking about "Steven's wrongness"? Really? Holy shit. He snooped and was an asshole. The end.

Meanwhile, that other fucker should be in jail. How is this not criminal behavior? Hey, world, THE INTERNET IS REAL. Threatening someone online is functionally equivalent to threatening someone in the flesh. We really need a complete overhaul of both the justice system and law enforcement response to online harassment, it's terrifying that this void still exists in 2017.
posted by lydhre at 6:47 AM on November 16, 2017 [28 favorites]


Threatening someone online is functionally equivalent to threatening someone in the flesh.

It should at least be the equivalent of sending a threatening letter to someone in the post, and that gets you in deep shit.
posted by pracowity at 7:19 AM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


I couldn't even finish this article but it gave me a bad dream last night.
posted by potrzebie at 7:32 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Even if you dump all the currently known "guys like this" in the middle of the ocean, new ones will crop up every day, and this will keep happening. Even if you lock down your own information, never make a sex tape or take a picture of yourself, even if you go totally offline, someone will put everything right back up again, and this will keep happening.

And people won't care, or they'll care for a minute and then go right back to doing what they were doing before. They'll just keep making excuses and redirecting blame, asking if it's really necessary and implying that there's something wrong with you for not just going along with it, and they'll go right on actively, enthusiastically enabling and participating in the system right up until it happens to them.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:09 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Several paragraphs into the article, I thought, "All of these people have serious boundary issues." By the time I was half-way through the article, I realized that the guy going after the couple was one of these obsessive psycho types who, once motivated to attack someone, will not stop until they 'win' - and that usally means totally destroying their opponent. These are very dangerous people, and aren't necessarily easy to spot at first glance. It was this woman's misfortune that she became acquainted with one.

As for my initial thought about boundaries, it has to do with oversharing. We really have to get back to valuing privacy and discretion, because yes, you never know if someone might decide to use what you shared against you.

I'm a union steward, and there's a cautionary saying we use when talking to coworkers about reducing their risk of harassment, discipline, or firing:
"Management always has a gun to your head. Your job is to not hand them any bullets."
posted by Lunaloon at 10:55 AM on November 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


It's not just what you share that gets used against you, though. She warned her friends, shared internet privacy tips, and her friends ignored and even insulted her, asking if that was all really necessary and if she wasn't proud enough of her son to put him on Facebook.

Those people are not just being cavalier with their own privacy. I can guarantee they're being cavalier with hers too, and that's very likely how he keeps getting her new contact information. The people she's trusting are ignoring and dismissing her concerns, and are very likely putting pictures of her family on Facebook and uploading her contact details to the apps and sites he's using to track her down.

No matter how careful you are yourself, you're at the mercy of anyone who knows who you are.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:40 AM on November 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


You can't live your life locked down and function. You just can't. And if you can, and they can't threaten you they threaten your family and friends. What we need are severe laws about this type of harassment and enforcement of those laws. This man should not be fined, he should be in jail. That's the thing about jail; it's much harder to go online and hurt people.

Citizens should not lose the right to have friends, go to work, use the internet, or have cell phones because some asshole targets them. The asshole should lose rights, not his victims.
posted by emjaybee at 11:59 AM on November 16, 2017 [17 favorites]


I've never taken nude pictures of myself nor posed for any. It's just not my thing. Yet, anyone with advanced-beginner-level Photoshop skills could download my headshot from FB and create a convincing enough naughtypic in about an hour. In this particular case, she did take and send the material herself, but you can't make generalizations about this sort of thing.

Also, if Todd's relationship with his parents is so tenuous that they permanently disowned him with no hope of reconciliation when Steven sent them the messages between Todd and Courtney, then I don't believe that lavish inheritance was as securely in the bag as Todd makes it out to be, to begin with. I can't believe let it was Steven’s intention to alienate Todd’s family from him, because he was counting on their influence on Todd.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:20 PM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


What pro bono organization is there, for if it's not porn? Despite its name, the K&L one is about sex photos/audio/video etc.
posted by Baeria at 12:40 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


That was a civil suit, so they couldn't sentence him to jail.

There's still a possibility that they'll charge him criminally, though. A case like this could be pretty tricky, so it's possible they're still working on getting everything in order before they file charges.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:06 PM on November 16, 2017


What a fucking asshole pathete. It's a small mercy he's too afraid to physically do what he's obviously acting out across the internet. I really like the idea of corn fielding people like this, even though it's not really practical, I'm just going to enjoy the idea of them being in a read-only isolation chamber for a bit.
posted by lucidium at 2:27 PM on November 17, 2017


"You internet security is a must" people are forgetting the key action one can take: don't be a woman on the internet.


Even if you dump all the currently known "guys like this" in the middle of the ocean, new ones will crop up every day, and this will keep happening.

Yes, but THAT ONE GUY won't be doing it any more. And after the first ten thousand or so that get the equivalent of an internet execution, the organizations and groups that exist to enable and encourage this will be decimated. The half-dozen or so people left on 4Chan and the MRA groups will talk big, but they won't have the support and encouragement. It will be like going from the USA to Japan in terms of gun violence.
posted by happyroach at 8:31 PM on November 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


The organizations and groups that enable them include some really common apps and services that people use all the time for their own convenience.

So go get your phone and look up which apps you've given access to your contacts list. What apps have you given that information to, and why? And what are they doing with it?

I was just looking for a telemarketing call blocker, so these ones are fresh in my head these days:

TrueCaller is a pretty popular app for identifying and blocking telemarketers. I've seen that recommended here before. But look at the permissions and the privacy policy. You have to give that app permission to pretty much everything on your phone, and they download, store, and then publicly display information from your contacts list to anyone who installs the app.

Similarly, Hiya, which I've seen recommended here too. That app is operated by the site whitepages.com, which is an incredibly invasive site using not just public information, but user contributed information as well. Go look up some snippets of information about yourself and your friends on that site. They're got ridiculous amounts of surreptitiously collected data about people on that site, and if they don't have much on you, just count yourself lucky for now, and wait.

When you install these apps, you personally are providing personal information about everyone in your contact list to these services. These are some of the services that stalkers and doxxers use.

And it's not just those apps. There are tons of them. I was looking for some little puzzle games a while back, and found one company that had a lot of little one-off games that were really popular and had tons of downloads, but when I looked at the permissions and privacy policy, they were ridiculous. They required access to everything on your phone, and reserved the right to do anything they felt like with it. And there was absolutely no good, user centered reason for that. It was obscene and completely out of the question. But like I said, their games had tons and tons of downloads, probably because people didn't even bother to check or think twice about how their choices affect other people.

There are tons of little apps and sites like that that run contact scrapers for no reason, and people sign up for them for the tiniest little personal benefits. It does not take expert technical skills to literally just check what permissions you're granting to those services. They're not, like, hacking you or anything. They're accessing your devices with your explicit permission.

There are tons of those sites, too, publishing and selling people's personal information. Too many to keep up with, even if they all had the option to delist yourself, which many don't. Many of those sites position themselves as personal safety type measures, where you can check to see if some guy you're dating is married, or if your kid's coach is a sex offender or whatever, but those sites are mostly used by creeps.

So say you have a friend named Peggy Johnson. Well, her legal name is Margaret James Johnson and she has a stalker. She also has an old landline phone that was listed under M. James with no street address, which obfuscated it enough that her stalker couldn't find it and didn't know where she lived or worked. But you know that number, plus her work number and her email addresses, and you have them stored in your phone as "Peggy Johnson," and when you downloaded that app and gave it access to your contacts, you just linked that "M. James" identity with "Peggy Johnson" and made all that information that she had carefully guarded all those years fully public, maybe with "premium" information for $1. And combined with information gleaned from other personal, professional, and transactional data, you just did all that legwork work for her stalker. Or for a future stalker, or for that creepy guy she met on Tinder. Or the professional contact who now knows the alternate version of her name she uses to write political commentary or porny fanfic or something else she doesn't want associated with her job. For anyone who had just one little piece of her information, as little as an email address.

Facebook is probably one of the safer sites as far as that thing goes, not because they're better or more ethical or anything, but because their troves of personal data about users and non-users is more valuable to them if they don't share it randomly. There is nothing legally preventing them from doing that, or from someday deciding to create nonconsensual profiles of people whose information they've gleaned from people who've given it to them. If they figured out a business case for doing that, though, I'm sure they would.

Think about how much information you have about other people on your phone right now. If you've got well organized contacts, you probably have multiple points of contact for specific people, including personal and work phones, email addresses, maybe physical address, and you may have that listed under alternate names that they don't use for official communications and that help identify them. Maybe you have pictures of them and other information that can help identify and build personal profiles of them as well. And just the fact that you have them on your phone helps build network profiles of people they know.

The services and organizations that support stalkers and doxxers and other creeps are not all marketed as such, and they're not all weird underground things only available on the dark web (although I'm sure there are plenty of those as well).
posted by ernielundquist at 8:24 AM on November 18, 2017 [6 favorites]


...their troves of personal data about users and non-users is more valuable to them if they don't share it randomly. There is nothing legally preventing them from doing that, or from someday deciding to create nonconsensual profiles of people whose information they've gleaned from people who've given it to them. If they figured out a business case for doing that, though, I'm sure they would.

The Power Of Selling Out
posted by flabdablet at 11:08 AM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


Here's a case that was resolved quickly:

Kyle Swenson, WaPo: ‘Die at your next fire’: Ariz. professor accused of stalking firefighters and student
The professor was arrested on Oct. 30 at the NAU campus on federal charges of stalking and making false statements. Federal prosecutors said Santana unleashed a merciless campaign of harassment and intimidation against at least six individuals, including three firefighters, their family members, and even a NAU student. She allegedly wielded as many as 19 fake social media accounts. The harassment reached such a fever pitch her alleged victims were not just deactivating their social media accounts but buying guns for protection and hiring extra security for a wedding.

posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:03 AM on November 25, 2017


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