Internet Scandals, Numbers 7-5
7. 'I Sue Dead People'
This is one of those scandals that never seem to end. Beginning in September 2003, the RIAA and MPAA took a new tack in their anti-swapping crusade by suing consumers for illegally downloading music and movie files. They hired firms to infiltrate peer-to-peer networks, capture IP addresses, and force ISPs to reveal the names of the customers who had been assigned them (though some, like Verizon, refused).
Twelve-year-old honor students, dead grandmothers, computerless families, and thousands of John Does are among the 18,000 U.S. consumers sued so far. The upshot: File sharing is continuing, CD sales are dwindling, and legal downloads are climbing. And the RIAA and MPAA are tied for second place as the Dilbert Awards' Weaseliest Organizations of 2006.
6. The Not-So-Secret Service
In October 2004, Paris Hilton's T-Mobile Sidekick account was hacked by 21-year old Nicholas Jacobsen, who shared her private photos and address book across the Net. No big deal; by that time thousands of Netizens had already seen as much of Paris as is possible to see without the aid of medical equipment (see scandal number 8).
The real scandal was who else got hacked in the same exploit: U.S. Secret Service agent Peter Cavicchia, who happened to be investigating Jacobsen at the time. Jacobsen produced memos that Cavicchia had e-mailed regarding ongoing investigations of Russian cybercrooks. In February 2006, Jacobsen pleaded guilty to one count of hacking, was fined $10,000, and was sentenced to a year of home detention. By then, Cavicchia had already turned in his badge. Though the Secret Service says he should not have been using his personal device for work, Cavicchia said he resigned on his own and was not asked to leave the agency.
5. Scandalous Feats
In 1986, Paul "Freck" Morgan lost the use of his legs following a boating accident. Sometime in the summer of 2001, the paraplegic hit upon a brilliant idea: to cut off his useless feet with a homemade guillotine and broadcast the deed live on the Internet. Those interested in the gruesome spectacle could watch Freck's Webcam for $20 (or $2 a toe); the money would go toward an operation for Morgan to be fitted for prosthetic limbs. Freck's site even featured a charming cartoon depiction of what the event, scheduled for January 2002, might look like.
For a time Freck spurred debate among Netizens: Should someone be allowed to mutilate themselves solely for money and a sick kind of fame? But the cut-off date came and went, and Freck's feet were still attached. Like OurFirstTime.com, where Webpreneur Ken Tipton boasted he would show two virgins deflowering each other on the Web, or Manbeef.com, which claimed to sell human flesh for consumption, CutOffMyFeet.com proved to be just another well-played hoax. In the end, Freck didn't have a leg to stand on. Or maybe he just got cold feet.