blogging, law

The power of citizen journalism

Screaming to the world
The internet gives everyone with a connection a powerful distribution channel. A potential to reach millions of people. 90% of the stuff out there reach a very small audience, but some of it reach out bigtime.

Two quick stories.

1. The customer representative from hell
Vincent Ferrari knew that AOL was known for trying to talk people out of their desicion to cancel their account. When he wanted to cancel an old account he recorded the conversation and posted an article on his blog. The story reach hundreds of thousands of people.

Now the customer representative from AOL just got fired.

You can see an interview with Vincent Ferrari on NBC here.

2. The horrible online photo retailer
Thomas Hawk was bullied by the online retailer PriceRitePhoto:

“I will make sure you will never be able to place an order on the internet again.” “I’m an attorney, I will sue you.” “I will call the CEO of your company and play him the tape of this phone call.” “I’m going to call your local police and have two officers come over and arrest you.” “You’d better get this through your thick skull.” “You have no idea who you are dealing with.”

He posted the story on his blog. Got digged, slashdotted, boingboing’ed etc. Evetually he ended up in New York Times. Now this is the Alexa chart for priceritephoto:


Steady traffic, then huge amounts of traffic at the time of the article from Thomas Hawk. Then death. The last times I’ve tried to reach their web site there is a 404 not found.

Now this is all good. The phone conversation with AOL is solid evidence. Following the story from Thomas Hawk with all comments and links you get enough information to believe that Thomas did not make this story up.

But will the flow of information on the internet, with comments and links and all its open nature prevent this power from being abused? I don’t think so. Do you have any examples of people abusing their power as an unorganized and free guerillia “journalist”? Someone trying to harm without a good reason? An example where someone actually got fired or a company was ruined?

Related story here: Legal threats and the internet.