Yet another unintended side effect of the web has been the birth of the Internet lynch mob. Now, everything from child abuse to bad customer service can get the online masses whipped into a frenzy of Old Testament-style vengeance.
Whether this is good, bad, or downright terrifying, we'll let you be the judge.
8Sasha Gomez and the Stolen Sidekick
A 16-year-old New Yorker, Sasha Gomez, made the unfortunate choice to steal the phone she found in the back of a cab. The victim had to buy a new phone and when she logged into her account, she found pictures of Gomez along with her AOL screen name, as Gomez hadn't been a criminal long enough to know that you don't put your name and photo on shit you steal.
A friend of the victim, Evan Guttman, tracked down the thief and sent her an IM asking her to return the phone, to which he was politely told to jam his head in his ass and see if he could look out his own mouth again. All Guttman did in response was to make a simple webpage that included the pics of Gomez and a description of what happened. These things always start small...
Next the page was linked on Digg, and Gizmodo, and from there to hundreds of other sites. Hundreds of thousands of people read the story, remembered the last time they fell victim to some asshat with sticky fingers, and started a massive virtual campaign of harassment against Gomez. People from all across the planet were sending e-mails, some of them likely with the most strongly worded LOLcats you can imagine.
Of course this wasn't nearly enough for the more industrious types who tracked Gomez down on MySpace and started to harass her and her friends. Then it was time for the real hardcore avatars of justice (or the insane) to bring it into the real world, actually finding her address in Queens and driving past her home shouting accusations and 4chan memes.
Eventually the thief's brother--a military police officer--got involved and told Guttman to back off, which at this stage would be like telling to butterfly to stop the hurricane it triggered. This incited a new shitstorm and earned the brother a reprimand from his military bosses. Before the situation could get out of hand and martial law declared, the thief gave up and turned in the phone. She was arrested and the story was added to the annals of cyber-mob justice.
7Patrick Pogan, Cyclist Abuser
We can probably all agree that things like murder, theft and cycling are wrong. It's hard not to be sympathetic then when you hear about the New York City cop who, during a demonstration by cyclists protesting... something or other, felt the need to pick one at random, on camera, to absolutely blow right off his bike for no discernible reason at all. He just hurled him like a ragdoll into a crowd.
The officer claimed the cyclist had veered into him, and so the biker was charged with assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. And it would have ended there, if there was no such thing as the Internet.
Unfortunately for Pogan, the entire incident was filmed by someone who, seeing a whole bunch of annoying cyclists in the same place, knew something like this was bound to happen. The video was posted on YouTube where the whole world could see the officer move closer to the cyclist, the cyclist trying to veer out of the way and then Pogan sending him flying for no reason other than his own terrifyingly poor impulse control.
A few million views later, charges against the cyclist were dropped since it was now clear that Pogan's recollection of events may have been slightly skewed by all the meat in his head. Pogan's badge and gun were taken away and he was given a desk job for seven months until finally he was fired for his actions and now faces criminal charges.
His lawyer says he quit so that he could focus on defending himself, which can't be easy considering there's that whole video thing out there. We're guessing he's either going to go for "it was all done with CGI" or "the NYPD's official policy is to toss around bicycle protesters because they find it amusing."