Add this to the list of things we should be wary of in this Internet-riddled world. You make someone mad, perhaps someone you’ve never even met, as you attempt to do your job, and they retaliate by posting your cell phone number and picture to Craigslist Casual Encounters saying you’re in the market for a good time. Then, if you’re lucky, a bunch of people call you in hopes of said good time but back down when you say it’s a mistake and tell you you’re pretty, leaving you upset but mollified because, well, everyone likes to be told they’re attractive.
This very thing happened to journalist Kashmir Hill over the weekend. Hill, who writes for True/Slant and Above the Law, was minding her own business enjoying steamed buns on the Lower East Side when the first call came in alluding to her ad on Craigslist, which said, succinctly, “Looking to get together today,” and included a headshot and cell number.
“I asked the guy to describe the ad to me,” she says. “It could have been worse — I found some really nasty ads on the site. At first I was disturbed, but eventually my friend and I started laughing. I ended up in a 10-minute long conversation with a guy who said I was pretty lucky — ex-boyfriends often seek revenge this way.”
“When I got back to my apartment, I filed a complaint and suggested Craigslist think about banning the guy’s IP address. I got a few more calls late last night, after the ad was taken down, but they seem to have stopped.”
Hill traces the post to a law student she wrote about recently on Above the Law who was involved in a rather egregious email interchange with a potential employer. Key tidbits: “What next? Do you want me to kiss your feet her Royal Highness?” and “It’s amazing that the Ma Bar lets women practice law. Shouldn’t you be home cleaning and raising children?”
“I didn’t name him,” she says, “but he was named in a post we linked to, and he then sent me a litigious email telling me to take the post down, to which I responded that I was reporting something in the public record and that we don’t take posts down. Another blogger had written something about him and this guy put his name and number on a nude modeling site. So I’m pretty sure it was him.”
Is this something single ladies — or any ladies, or men, or writers — should really worry about? “My cell phone has been in my email for more than 2 years and this hasn’t happened,” says Hill (who has now taken her number off her signature). But in an increasingly anonymous Internet culture where people can write about and comment on each other viciously and usually with little repercussion, we should probably all take note.
As Jezebel’s Anna N. — who also uses the example of M.I.A. tweeting her interviewer Lynn Hirschberg’s phone number — points out,
While social media may provide a way for ordinary people to challenge the hegemony of journalists (insofar as journalists still have any hegemony left), Twitter, Craigslist, and the like also offer opportunities for straight-up bullying and even bodily harm. If “crowdsourced revenge” grows, writers may simply stop criticizing those whose retaliation they fear, creating a new informational ruling class run by those with the fewest scruples. Journalism and blogging alike have plenty of problems (misquoting being one), but wholesale Internet intimidation is not the way to fix them.
When writers stop writing, the Internet bullies have won. Meanwhile, Hill has a bit of sweet (accidental) revenge of her own: “He’s such a polarizing figure, someone has created a joke video imagining his office, so he’s being shamed online.” [The video has now been taken down.]
Meanwhile, CNN posted Al Gore’s email address on their site for 2 hours today, which they then blacked out, which Business Insider then reposted. Somebody over there have an ax to grind? We don’t see any sexy newly single salt ‘n’ pepper environmental politicos on Craigslist, yet…