Category Archives: e-mail

For the love of Chris

Possibly I shouldn’t laugh. But I got a hilarious spam e-mail today, and I can’t help reproducing it for you too:

Dear Beloved In Chris

i am mrshelen david brown the wife of fomer ministre of agricuture in sudan here in africa, i know that you may not believe my story becuse of what is happening in the word today,  but if you can believe that jesus christ came to the word and died for you and me you will belive my story in the name of our lord jesus amen

I and my husband was living with happiness praying for God to answer us our prayer by giving us even if one child to be call our own  becuse my husband and i were orhpans. We dont have any brother sister or any relative all our relative died doing the crisis that occure in our country here in africa. God is the only one we have as brother and sister before my husband was appointed as the minister of agricuture here in our country sudan. Things was so beutiful before the anemies come in, since my husband get into the sit of a minister his political oponet has been loking for away to  pull him down untill when they sent assasin to kill my husband on his way home from the office. Before then my husband deposited the sum usd $7.6 million in a bank in Cote  d’ivoire Abijan one the country here in africa which he use my name as the nest of kin and the beneficary of that money since we have no child.

Five months after my husband death i travelled to london for my medical treatment that was when the doctor comfimed that i have cancer and firbrod. I spent more than one year in the hospital in london before the doctor told me to go back to my conutry that my sicknes can not be cured. I came back home praying for God to save me without knowing that another sicknes is on the way to come. One morning i was coming out from the hospital were i was taking my treatment in one of the village here in my conutry i fell down on the ground two days later the doctor comfirmd that i have a stroke since then my dear one in the lord i have never use my two leg to walk or to stand any longer, few weeks ago the doctor told me that i will not last long any longer in the earth that is why i decided to donate my money to the Orphanage widows and les previleges one so that peoples life can be giving a meanig.

But my problem is, can i trust you as a true christian to help me do this work of God not for Man becuse i want to fufill the last wold of my husband before he died. He told me to donate his wealth to the orphanage or les previlege ones to any country of my choice. That is why i am contacting you and handing  this money into you care to use it  for the work of God not for man becuse i am going down every day by day. Please my dear one in the lord, if you are touch by my story please do not waist time to contact me  so that i will give you the contact of the bank and inform them about you so that you can contact them for the money to be transfar into your own account in your conutry, THANK AND GOD BLESS YOU AS YOU HELP ME AMEN

mrshelen david

Sorry, mrshelen david, I don’t believe a word you say, and I don’t believe in Chris either (unless you’re talking about a guy I went to uni with, which seems unlikely). But you did make me laugh. And I hope your firbrods get better soon.

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Filed under crazy stuff, e-mail, humour

Defamation and anonymous blogging

Has anyone else ever put comments up in online forums, or in response to newspaper stories or blog posts? If you’re reading this post, I suspect that you might have been tempted to do so. You know the drill then. You are required to enter your name in a box headed “Name”, and then you are required to enter an e-mail address. Usually, there is a disclaimer beside the box, stating “will not be published” or “for verification purposes only” or something of the sort. Perhaps you have used a psuedonym, feeling safe in the knowledge that no one will know who you are. Given a recent case in the UK, perhaps you need to mind what you say.

In Sheffield Wednesday Football Club Inc v Hargreaves [2007] EWHC 2375 (QB), a football club, Sheffield Wednesday, and members of its board of directors sued the owner and operator of a fan website, www.owlstalk.co.uk, for defamation. The plaintiffs sought to require the website to disclose the e-mail addresses of contributors to a fan chat forum whose contributions were said to be defamatory.

At the outset, taking off my lawyer’s wig and adopting a practical point of view, it seems to me that if one’s fans are already offside, then suing those who are critical of your management isn’t going to increase your popularity with the fan base… Just a thought.

In any case, the comments were made by some 11 anonymous contributors, all of whom were fans of Sheffield Wednesday. All of the comments were scathing about the way in which the plaintiff chairmen/directors and others had managed the club.

Richard Parkes QC said at the outset at [9]:

…in a case where the proposed order will result in the identification of website users who expected their identities to be kept hidden, the court must be careful not to make an order which unjustifiably invades the right of an individual to respect for his private life, especially when that individual is in the nature of things not before the court.

Ultimately, his Honour decided that the defendant should be required to divulge the details of only those contributors whose comments were of the most serious nature (at [17] – [18]):

It seems to me that some of the postings…border on the trivial, and I do not think that it would be right to make an order for the disclosure of the identities of users who have posted messages which are barely defamatory or little more than abusive or likely to be understood as jokes. That, it seems to me, would be disproportionate and unjustifiably intrusive. …

The postings which I regard as more serious are those which may reasonably be understood to allege greed, selfishness, untrustworthiness and dishonest behaviour on the part of the Claimants. In the case of those postings, the Claimants’ entitlement to take action to protect their right to reputation outweighs, in my judgment, the right of the authors to maintain their anonymity and their right to express themselves freely, and I take into account in this context the restrictions on the use of defamatory language which the rules of the Defendant’s bulletin board impose, restrictions which in the case of these postings appear to have been breached. I take into account also that the Defendant does not appear to have had any policy of confidentiality for the benefit of his users.

Having read the exerpts of the comments in the judgment itself, the comments in fact seemed pretty tame compared to some things I’ve read in the blogosphere. I could imagine the comments being made by disgruntled fans in the pub after the match, and indeed, I think this is very much the way in which the fans themselves saw it; except that they had put the comments in writing on a public forum, which gives the comments a very different status.

People often treat e-mail and online forum comments as if they are “verbal” rather than “written”. But what could just be a disgruntled whinge may come across as something altogether more serious when put in writing. I fell into this trap once myself with e-mail, and vowed never again to communicate problems via e-mail, as they lack “tone”, and may come over so much more harshly as a result. 

Furthermore, it’s easy to be nasty if you are just typing a comment and don’t have to look someone in the eye when you make it. I once dealt with a client who was pleasant if you saw him in person, but typed vicious and unreasonable e-mails asking you to crush the other side and give no mercy, even if the dispute was partly of his own making. My tactic was always to ring him back about the e-mail and get him to soften the instructions thereby. I’ve never found a “take-no-prisoners” approach to be effective. Softly, softly, catchee monkey…and go in for the killer punch if necessary at the end.

It’s even easier to be vicious if you are anonymous, because if you want to make up a sufficiently obscure psuedonym, even your own mother might not realise you made the comment, so you don’t have to take responsibility for it. Although I write under a psuedonym on this very blog, I always write as though I was writing under my own name. I’m sure it’s easy enough to work out my real identity if anyone really wanted to do so.

The lesson for us all is to be very careful with what we say. Would we be embarrassed to own up to it? Is what we are saying truthful? It seems that it was important in this case that (a) there was no confidentiality policy in place to protect the details of contributors and (b) there was a policy that abusive/defamatory comments should not be made. At the very least, those who run internet forums and the like will have to revise their confidentiality policies if they wish to protect the details of contributors.

Any comments, of course, will be treated STRICTLY CONFIDENTIALLY (just for the record, in case any judges out there are reading this blog).

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Filed under blogging, blogs, courts, defamation, e-mail, England, freedom of information, freedom of speech, Internet, law, media, privacy, soccer, technology, tort law

Dolly and Ferris

“Dolly clasped Ferris to her ample bosom. ‘Promise you’ll never leave me,’ she said, tears welling in her eyes.”

If I ever write a novel, I have decided that I will steal names from the wonderful people who send me spam. Dolly Burroughs and Ferris Kasper are two of those people. I’ve decided that they are characters from a Mills & Boon style novel. Hence the sentence above.

I have also received spam from:

  • Reed Wu
  • Allan Grimm
  • Zion Powell
  • Octavio Duncan
  • Mable (sic) Dodge
  • Frieda Lacey
  • Elbert Griffin
  • Lincoln Cline
  • Tammara (sic) Garnet
  • Giacopo Jeana
  • Cameron Perez
  • Maribel Roy

How can you go past names like those?

Isn’t it nice to know that you are loved by someone? Even if it’s just “Reed Wu” trying to sell you Adobe Suite 3 Design.

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Filed under books, crazy stuff, e-mail

The biter bit?

A Chinese dissident and his wife are suing Yahoo! Inc (“Yahoo”) in a United States District Court (with the help of the World Organisation for Human Rights USA). The Complaint states that Yahoo “willingly provided Chinese officials with access to private e-mail records, copies of email messages, e-mail addresses, user ID numbers, and other identifying information about the Plaintiffs and the nature and content of their use of electronic communications.”

Wang Xiaoning was accused of “incitement to subvert state power” because of certain essays he wrote for online journals called Democratic Reform Free Forum and Current Political Commentary. Wang and his wife allege that Yahoo was pressured by the Chinese government to block Wang’s Yahoo “Group account”. Wang then set up a new individual e-mail account via Yahoo and continued sending material. It is then alleged that Yahoo allowed the Chinese government to access information which allowed it to identify and arrest Wang. He was arrested in September 2002, and a year later, he was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison and two years’ subsequent deprivation of political rights. Wang is imprisoned in a high security prison where many political prisoners are held. He alleges that he has suffered severe physical and psychological abuse as a result of his imprisonment.

According to Human Rights in China, the offending sentiments expressed by Wang included the following:

  • “Without a multi-party system, free elections and separation of powers, any political reform is fraudulent.”
  • “Never forget that China is still an authoritarian dictatorship.”
  • “The Four Cardinal Principles [upholding the socialist path, the people’s democratic dictatorship, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong thought] are the greatest impediment to establishing a democratic system in China.”
  • “Look at China today – workers and peasants have been suppressed into the lowest level of society. Tens of millions of workers are unemployed and many workers are cruelly exploited and oppressed; they have no right to strike or establish labor unions, and no protection for their most basic rights.”
  • “The main reason that the Chinese Communist Party has been able to retain power in spite of being so corrupt is that China does not yet have a party that can replace the Communist Party.”

The claims are brought pursuant to the Alien Tort Statute 28 U.S.C. § 1350 and the Torture Victim Protection Act 28 U.S.C. § 1350. It is claimed that these statutes give jurisdiction over actions which American based companies commit in other countries. The Complaint alleges that Yahoo provided information about Wang and other dissidents, despite its knowledge that the provision of such information would enable the Chinese government to torture and commit torts against Wang and other dissidents. It is alleged that Yahoo provided the information because it had to do so to continue its profitable business in China.

Usually, the extraterritorial operation of US law has been used enforce the interests of American corporations abroad, sometimes to the detriment of locals and local companies (as Australia may learn to its sorrow as a result of its entry into the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement). It is heartening to see that the argument that certain principles should apply in other countries can be turned against American corporations who aid and abet violations of human rights in other countries.

(Via Jurist and the Washington Post)

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Filed under china, e-mail, freedom of speech, human rights, Internet, Yahoo

Would I lie to you, honey?

It seems that the doubts expressed my earlier post about the accuracy of information acquired via e-mail were well founded. A recent study has found that office workers are most likely to lie to their bosses via e-mail or telephone. Employees are least likely to lie with face-to-face communication, particularly where they feel close to their boss.

In another topic relating back to “wanting to believe”, it seems that Terry Lane might have been duped again. This time, he said in his column that the Bush government had pressured Rangers not to mention the geological age of the Canyon to try and appease creationists. To be fair, he relied on what I would suggest was a deliberately ambiguous and misleading press release from an organisation called PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) which opened by stating that “Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees.”

Also, Lane was certainly not alone in being misled by the press release: the Daily Kos, Time Magazine, Dvorak Uncensored, Digg, Centreblue.org, History News Network, and US Gov Info all have information on their websites about the supposed “gag” on Rangers.

However, the press release was misleading in the inference that Rangers were “gagged”. Its real gripe is about the fact that the Grand Canyon Bookstore is selling a book giving a creationist account of the way in which the Canyon came into being (…God was feeling adventurous and decided to make some pretty rock formations? The mind boggles. I don’t even want to know…)

In fact, the Canyon website specifically mentions the fact that the gneiss and schist found at the bottom of the Canyon dates back 1,800 million years. The website also notes that the oldest human artefacts found at the Canyon are 12,000 years old.

Subsequently, the following emerged, as related in this post on Seattlest (a website about Seattle):

“Jeff Rook, who wrote the release, said that others have indeed contacted the PEER office and complained of being misled. “If they felt misled by it, we’re sorry.” There is no intentional obfuscation required when answering questions about the chasm’s age in response to Creationist queries or pressure. “At least not this week” quips Rook. Rangers and interpretive staff are free to discuss its scientific history with impunity.The PR rep for the park service, Dave Barna (arguably, not someone PEER trusts all that much, obviously), adamantly told us that the Grand Canyon is as old as scientists say it is, and no-one who works for the park would be asked to say otherwise. He also said he’d send us their official statement on the matter, which we have yet to receive. (PEER asserts that at one point, an administrator in the Canyon’s office would reply to media requests about the age of the Grand Canyon with “No comment.” But one fool does not a conspiracy make.)”

The Daily Kos has also corrected the story here.

The problem is that I’m sure this one will keep going around like it’s fact – again, it’s one of those things which people just want to believe is true!!!

(Via Gary Hughes, Tim Blair, Seattlest)

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Filed under e-mail, Internet, society

Wanting to believe…

Anyone seen that e-mail about the space pen? It goes like this:

During the space race back in the 1960’s, NASA was faced with a major problem. The astronauts needed a pen that would write in the vacuum of space. NASA went to work. At a cost of $1.5 million they developed the “Astronaut Pen”. Some of you may remember. It enjoyed minor success on the commercial market.

The Russians were faced with the same dilemma. They used a pencil.

My husband and I were chatting about that the other day. We both swallowed the “space pen story” hook, line and sinker. However, it’s false (see the Snopes and Wikipedia entries on the topic for example).

Why did we fall for it? Well, it’s a nice story. It sounds like exactly the kind of mistake that over-confident, arrogant Americans might make, and we wanted to believe it.

I’ve had to learn to be more critical over the years. After all, I fell for that old trick twice in my teenage years:

Teasing friend: Did you know that the word “gullible” has been taken out of the dictionary?

LE: No-o-o!!! Really?

The worst thing was that it was the same friend who managed to trick me on both occasions. Legal practice probably made me a lot more cynical and nasty… I wonder if she’d still be able to trick me now? But I’m wise to her evil teasing streak now.

I occasionally get e-mails from friends about terrible stuff. You know the ones: the Brazilian government is about to pass legislation which will allow 50% of the rainforest to be cut down, parking lot car jackers in [insert relevant local area here] will rob you and rape you, there are a proliferation of terrible lawsuits showing how much tort law needs reform… Nowadays, I always check such stories at Snopes.com. [NB: all the links in this paragraph are courtesy of Snopes].

Even journalists can be taken in by such stories. On 30 July 2006, Terry Lane, a columnist in The Sunday Age, demanded to know why the US government had not investigated claims by a US Army Ranger called Jessie Macbeth, where Macbeth purportedly details massacres perpetrated by the US Army in Iraq on video. The Jessie Macbeth video is a hoax. As reported in Media Watch, Lane later told Crikey on 1 August 2006, “I was completely taken in … I fell for it because I wanted to believe it. That is inexcusable.” At least he was honest.

What is my point? I guess I’m trying to say in a gentle way that all people have biases (including myself) and all people have a tendency to want to believe certain information. They might have assumptions about which they are not aware. The space pen story just provides an interesting example of this. It’s just some food for thought.

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Filed under crazy stuff, e-mail, society, space pen

When will people learn?

You shouldn’t be abusive to a former customer on principle, but it is even worse to abuse the customer in an e-mail, which can readily be forwarded around the world.

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Filed under e-mail, society