Getting Even, With Help From the Internet
Feb. 9, 2007 — -- There's a new brand of law and order in the age of the Internet. For example, a woman scorned can catch, try, convict and punish the accused, and do it with the whole world watching -- all from her home computer.
Even a minor offense like stealing your neighbor's newspaper might land you in the court of public humiliation, also known as YouTube.
Did you ever leave a small tip in a restaurant? Or no tip at all? Bitterwaitress.com allows servers to rat out low-tipping customers, and celebrities like Nick Lachey and Cameron Diaz have been burned on this Web site.
The Internet can help catch and bring to justice a criminal the police view as too insignificant to pursue. The Web site EvanWasHere.com/StolenSidekick includes the story of a stolen cell phone: a $300 e-mail and text-messaging device called a Sidekick.
Evan Guttman started the site after his friend Ivanna (who didn't want her last name used) left her Sidekick in a New York City taxi last spring, and quickly discovered that a teenage girl had gotten hold of the gadget and was using her account.
"She was sending all my pictures to all her friends," said Ivanna. "I didn't want her to have my e-mails, everything."
They asked for the device back, even offered a reward, but the girl and her family turned them down. "I talked to them online, they e-mailed me, said, 'Listen, you know, finders keepers, losers weepers,' basically," said Guttman. "And, you know … who does that?"
Guttman and his friend had Internet access to everything the girl did on the device and all her personal information, so they threatened to use it against her.
Guttman said he told the girl, "I'm gonna put your information on the Internet."
"She said, 'Go ahead,'" he said. "She gave me permission, so I put the pictures on the Internet. I made a whole Web site."
That Web site, telling the story of the girl's refusal to return the Sidekick and the police's reluctance to get involved, helped form an electronic posse. Those who read the Web site figured out where the girl lived, and some even drove by her building and shouted insults. And a band named Blind Routine even recorded a theme song.
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