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Echoes of the Past: When Anonymity Was Abused and Readers Were Conned

August 17, 2007

When Crotonblog began, today’s sorehead critics did not hesitate to embrace anonymity. In fact, they welcomed it and wallowed in it as eager users. Robert Wintermeier adopted the name “Croton Taxpayer” as his cover, and was all over Crotonblog like a bad smell. But anonymity and its protective qualities can be abused. Early in its existence, Crotonblog was subjected to a tidal wave of identity falsification intended to deceive readers.

Maria Cudequest became so enamored of anonymity, she adopted a host of simulated names, each with its own personality and political attitude to match, and then literally flooded Crotonblog with comments. To allay suspicion, when referring to herself she even had one of her cast of characters misspell her name, Cudequest, as Cudaquest in making reference to her. Needless to say, her stable of nonexistent commenters all echoed the party line—hers.

How does Crotonblog know this? The enterprising Ms. Cudequest was obviously unaware that every computer linked to the Internet has an identifying address known as an “I.P. (Internet Protocol) address” whose location can be traced. Within a comparatively short time, Crotonblog was deluged with a total of 109 comments signed with various names. These included culliganman, identified as someone named David Culligan, and another with the attention-getting name of puppuluv, purportedly an individual named Danny Corso Puppuluv. Crotonblog’s diligent research revealed that the family name of Puppuluv (pronounced “pup-you-love,” which alone should have been a giveaway) was nowhere to be found in genealogical records or in the massive Social Security records.

Among other screen names posting comments were Maria (presenting the views of Maria Cudequest), Deepsix50, Hopeful, and William Rooney, making 84 Grand Street seem more like an old-fashioned theatrical boarding house than a modest Croton one-family residence on the wrong side of Grand Street. When other readers raised the suspicion that these commenters, who had sprung up almost overnight like mushrooms, were actually Ms. Cudequest, she denied and ridiculed the suggestion, claiming that the reason no one could find persons named David Culligan or Danny Corso Puppuluv in the phone book was obviously that they had unlisted telephones.

The editors of Crotonblog finally rang down the curtain on this absurd Punch-and-Judy farce on December 6, 2005, after investigation revealed that the questionable messages bearing different screen names had all originated from the same I.P address, which is to say from the same computer. They lowered the boom by invoking a rarely used process of banishment of the offending lone I.P. address from which the false multiple impersonations originated. Some readers would later suggest that the deception closely resembled a recognized pathological condition known as acute multiple personality syndrome.

On August 18, 2007 6:41 PM, weewill said:

This is a trial and testing to see if anonymity really works. If it does, I’ll be blogging regularly. Thank you


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