The 6 Most Disastrous Attempts at Internet Damage Control
They call it the Streisand effect, and it happens any time people try to suppress Internet criticism, then see it blow up hilariously in their faces.
As these companies can tell you, sometimes it's better to just let it go.
Suing to Make Science Stop Being Right All the Time
Chiropractors belong to a medical discipline that may or may not actually do anything to heal people. Despite some evidence that there's value in what chiropractors do, many people think they're full of shit, and they aren't afraid to voice this opinion. One such man, Simon Singh, decided to tell the chiropractic community just exactly what he thought of it in an article blasting the entire profession.
He was probably just jealous.
More specifically, he targeted chiropractors' claims that their services could help children with asthma or colic, and of course they were making a fortune off these claims. Responding like the scientific professionals they are, the chiropractic community sued this man for libel and took him to court.
Most anywhere in the civilized world, you're within your rights to criticize a profession as long as you don't wave your penis at people while doing it. When the courts began to investigate Singh and found that his accusers didn't really have any sort of a case, they turned their attention back to the chiropractors.
"Oh yeah, this'll cure the shit out of your AIDS."
What began as the opinion of one man soon became the interest of the British government, as it began to discover that a lot of chiropractors were indeed not helping anyone but themselves. As a result, about 1 in 4 chiropractors in the UK are now under investigation by regulators for making bullshit claims.
As for the unfortunate Mr. Singh, he had to pay over 200,000 pounds ($311,000) in court fees, almost lost his job, and has been relentlessly badgered by the chiropractic community. But in the end, he did win his court case, and as a final dick-punch to the chiropractors, the judge ended the ordeal by stating that what was originally Singh's opinion should now be considered fact in light of the new evidence uncovered.
You're Fired, Facebook-Using Teenager!
Teenager Kimberley Swann started a job one day at Ivell Marketing & Logistics as an office administrator. Since she was only 16 and at the bottom of the ladder, where all people her age are kept so they don't break anything, her day was filled with such fun tasks as hole-punching and shredding documents. Like many teenagers, she was both an avid Facebook user and a huge fan of smileys, so after a few hours of the rip-roaring fun that was Ivell Marketing & Logistics, she updated her status to: "first day at work. omg (oh my God)!! So dull!!"
This obvious attempt at slander toward her employer didn't go unnoticed; the boss of Ivell Marketing & Logistics was monitoring the profile of this 16 year old girl very closely. Two days later, she struck again with the frankly disgusting "all i do is shred holepunch n scan paper!!! omg!" Did this girl know no boundaries? Again she was being very closely watched but apparently had just one more chance. Two weeks later she made the final mistake of posting the damning "I'm so totally bord!"
Finally the boss of Ivell Marketing & Logistics had had enough of these constant, personal, and publicly viewable attacks on his fine company and called Kimberly into his office. She was fired on the spot for her slanderous posts about the company and escorted swiftly from the premises.
After being Tased.
Kimberly didn't actually mention the company by name in any of these posts, so how then did we know it was Ivell Marketing & Logistics that fired her? Oh, right: Because she went to the papers the moment she was fired, and they kicked up a shit storm.
The sticky wicket gets the maramalade.
Let's review. In order for the company to look bad because of her Facebook posts, someone would have to go through the effort of adding this girl as a friend, scrolling down to look at her previous posts, cross-referencing them with her job history and then deciphering what the hell she actually meant. Now Ivell looks bad to anyone who tries to Google the company. You know, like everyone does before using any company, ever.
Hell, just take a look at what images Google associates with Ivell Marketing & Logistics:
Indeed it does.
And of course, the face of the young innocent girl put out of a job for having a social life is right at the top of the list, complete with a link to the story.
Can you see the pure hate in her eyes? Ivell Marketing can.
Still, they got off easier than Horizon Realty...
Horizon Realty Multiplies Bad Publicity by 100,000
One of the most valuable services the Internet provides is a place to vent our frustrations without doing something that might win us a one-way ticket to the county lockdown. So when a woman named Amanda Bonnen felt the need to vent on Twitter about the state of her apartment and the exact amount of ass that it sucked, she was doing exactly the kind of thing Twitter was designed for -- thinking out loud in public in order to make ourselves feel better. Her tweet:
"Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon Realty thinks it's okay."
Incoming: A whale of a fail.
Now obviously, as soon as the tweet was posted every Internet user received an e-mail, and a brick was thrown through their windows alerting them to the fact this young woman had tweeted.
CHECK THE INTERNET NOW!
Oh, wait, that's not how the Internet works. Actually, it was going to be seen only by Bonnen's 20 followers, which is half of what most grandmas have. And maybe three of them would take time to think, "Awww, she's having a bad day," before completely forgetting about it. No one with any grasp of how the Internet works could possibly be stupid enough to assume this was a damaging attack on the company.
Horizon Realty, which was in a legal dispute with Bonnen over her living situation, disagreed. The company saw the tweet and called in the lawyers. That'll do it!
Lawyers make everything better!
Well, actually, in the resulting furor the tweet ended up being re-tweeted by hundreds of Twitter users. Then the news picked up the story. After everything was taken into account, it's estimated that the original tweet -- and criticism of Horizon's property maintenance -- was seen by over 2 million people.
Roughly the population of New Mexico.
The legal case against Bonnen was thrown out of court for being too vague, or in other words, the judge told Horizon to stop wasting his time so he could prosecute real criminals. The company was also made to look like complete dicks (the worst kind) and had pretty much eliminated anyone with access to Google from ever using the company. As a final kick in the neck, they never saw a penny of the $50,000 in damages they claimed, and since lawyers don't come cheap, you can be sure they lost money from this court case.
As for Bonnen, it would be nice to assume that her mold problem got fixed but unfortunately her whereabouts are unknown and her Twitter page doesn't exist anymore. Maybe she got tired of the publicity, or more likely, she did what most people do and forgot that Twitter was even a thing.
Or maybe Horizon dropped a shark on her.
A Magazine Steals From, Then Blames, the Internet
Once upon a time, journalism student Monica Gaudio wrote a pretty kick ass recipe for an apple pie. She posted it on the iInternet, and later it appeared in a magazine called Cooks Source. That sounds like a freelance writer success story, until you realize that nobody at the magazine asked her if they could publish it, and they didn't pay her a dime.
Above: Plagiarism. Or bondage. We're really not sure what the difference is.
Gaudio sent a polite e-mail to the editor of Cooks Source asking that she remove the article from the online version of the magazine and make a small goodwill donation of $130 to the Columbia School of Journalism in lieu of, you know, paying her.
The editor of Cooks Source had a lot of options for making this go away -- for instance, by offering to pay some token amount for the use of the article. The editor, Judith Griggs, instead replied with one of the worst emails ever.
Seriously, people, it is never ever worth responding to the Internet.
Griggs' response, in part:
"... the Web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it."
Above: Public Domain.
Holy shit! The "public domain" part is awesome on its own (we're going to start streaming Netflix movies onto Cracked and charge people for that shit). But Griggs wasn't done being an unthinkable bitch:
"You as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally ... We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me!"
Artist's representation: Judith Griggs.
Wow. At this point we can't tell if Griggs is insane, or thought she was auditioning for the part of an 80s movie villain. It was like she stole someone's car and then sent them a bill for the gas she put in it on her way to Mexico.
As you can imagine, Gaudio was pretty pissed. But she wasn't alone.
The Internet went into meltdown. The Cooks Source Facebook and Twitter page were flooded with thousands of angry comments, with eagle-eyed viewers quickly finding dozens of other cases of plagiarism, all of which were posted immediately on the Facebook page for all to see. When the viewers got bored of finding real cases of theft, they simply began making shit up.
Finally, Griggs was forced to respond to try to put out the fire:
"Well, here I am with egg on my face! I did apologise to Gaudio via email, but apparently it wasn't enough for her."
"Look, I've apologized for putting arsenic in the catnip, but it's really your fault for getting Mr. Jiggles addicted to drugs."
Yes. That's so amazing that we'd actually read a magazine based entirely around Griggs trying to apologize to people. She'll have time -- Cooks Source magazine was forced to shut down under the torrent of complaints and fleeing advertisers.
Golden Beach Hotel Gets Orwellian with User Reviews
Adrian Healey simply wanted a quiet weekend at the seaside with his girlfriend, Sherrie, after being diagnosed with cancer 18 months prior. Two days into Healey's stay, the furious hotel manager burst into his room and threw both him and his girlfriend out onto the street before calling the police.
According to Healey, all he did wrong was ask for an extra towel. According to the hotel manager, he was thrown out for "abusing staff and breaking a rule not to eat hot food in the rooms."
Oh, and incidentally, he had written a negative review of the hotel online.
"Mua ha ha!"
There are two sides of the story here and while it seems weird that the management would react so badly to a negative Internet review, if you look at TripAdvisor.com you see that the manager apparently sifts through the bad reviews and posts rebuttals insisting the reviewer is lying ("what a load of nonesense... all guests enjoyed the wkend entertainment and the hotel facilities."). When one woman complained that she found hair in her food, management replied, " This lady went back for seconds at breakfast i remeber her clearly... the fact that she cleaned her plate and had seconds speaks for itself." Then you have the flat-out "screw you" rebuttals ("If it was os bad you should have checked out , all other guests where more then happy . If this guest truly felt so bad no one was forceing them to stay!!!").
But the most common management response? Talking about how the guest was forcefully removed for bad behavior, or in one case telling a negative reviewer she wasn't allowed to ever stay there again.
So, yeah, he doesn't take criticism well.
It's a little something called business acument, assholes.
If you clicked the link at the beginning, you'll see that came from a local paper describing just how much of a dick the manager was. And now here's one all the way from America. Really compelling stories featuring an easily hateable villain have a way of spreading, and tales of the Golden Beach Hotel's shittiness spread 5,000 miles.
But keep rebutting those reviews, guys! You'll win eventually!
Next up: Octopus wrestling.
Digg Rebels Against the MPAA
The conventional wisdom is if you can't get absolute control over a new electronic medium, then you'll never profit from it. Thus companies pour money into making products and media hack proof, which due to human nature, just makes people want to hack them more (See: the guy who hacked the iPad 24 hours after it was released).
So once upon a time HD-DVD was competing with Blu-ray to be the new HD movie format. But a hacker known as Muslix64 was disappointed to find that his extremely expensive HD-DVD equipment wouldn't work with his expensive TV unless he bought the even more expensive cable the HD-DVD company demanded.
Taking matters into his own hands, he managed to find and pinpoint the encryption key on the discs that enabled him to strip the protection and use the format with any device.
The trouble came when he leaked the encryption key online so that anyone with the same problem could easily fix it. The MPAA went absolutely apeshit over this and started threatening anyone who posted the key with legal action. For a while several sites removed the information, and several others were shut down, but then the MPAA sent a cease-and-desist letter to Digg.
This oughta do it.
Digg is not a guy with a website. Digg is millions of random strangers submitting stories on a website. So, the whole "cease and desist" thing doesn't work so much. Sure, Digg removed the first post, only to see it replaced by several more. Efforts to remove those caused hundreds more to pour in, each containing the HD-DVD encryption key in their headline. Soon, HD-DVD encryption keys totally flooded the front page of the site, until basically no other content was visible.
Posting the key became the popular cause of the day for the Internet. Users got creative, posting the key in songs, in pictures and even in binary code.
Subtlety isn't exactly the Internet's strong suit, is what we're trying to say.
Upon seeing this, Digg founder Kevin Rose posted on the main page, "You'd rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company, (so) from now on we won't delete any posts containing the AACS encryption key."
With Digg no longer removing any posts relating to the key, the floodgates opened and literally thousands of posts flooded the site all showing off the code. You could buy T-shirts and mugs, and one guy even got a tattoo of it.
My T-shirt breaks the law -- what the hell does yours do?
After Digg struck a resounding blow against Internet censorship, other sites began to follow its example, and started hosting the code too. Google search results showed that around 700,000 websites in total had the code, to which the MPAA responded by sending a cease-and-desist letter to Google telling it to stop returning results including the code. Google obviously did no such thing, because you know Google bows to no one. Except the Chinese.
Karl is a part time comedy writer. If you feel the need to contact him do so here.
To read about stories that were more successfully covered up, check out 5 Stories The Mainstream Media Doesn't Want You to Know About in the new Cracked book!
And for more cases of people fighting the Internet, and fairing approximately as well as Brian Adams in an authority showdown, check out 8 Awesome Cases of Internet Vigilantism.