Sunday, July 20, 2008

Go Home, the party's over

Probably a bunch of 13 year old geeks with nothing better to do.

Please leave the woman alone, you are starting to cross the line into criminal activity.

Web-initiated harassment of grandma continues
Doug Toney: The Herald-Zeitung

Web postings urging online and telephone harassment of Herald-Zeitung employees appeared Saturday morning on the Internet hours after an article was published describing similar attacks toward a New Braunfels woman.

Throughout the past week, published news stories and video news clips from San Antonio and Austin television stations posted on YouTube reported that New Braunfels grandmother Mary Alice Altorfer believed a printed flyer stuck on the gate to her River Tree neighborhood’s pool was a racist insult toward her two biracial grandchildren. Soon anonymous Internet postings critical of Altorfer urged Internet viewers to harass her. Altorfer said she received crank phone calls. She was the subject of abusive and derisive comments posted on Web sites.

The homemade flyer depicting a black man with a large Afro bears the words “Pool’s Closed,” and appeared after Altorfer’s visiting grandchildren, ages 6 and 8, went for a swim in the pool. The image on the flyer is an avatar, and according to numerous Web postings, an icon that was used by members of an Internet users “collective” calling itself “Anonymous” during an attack in 2006 on the Habba game Web site. The attack reportedly was initiated because the Web site would not allow game players to use African-American avatars.

On Internet postings this past week, Altorfer’s assertion that the flyer was a racist gesture to her grandchildren was cited as the reason by “anonymous” Internet users for harassing Altorfer.Altorfer said Saturday that she continued to receive harassing phone calls. She said some calls threatened her and she planned to report these recent calls to New Braunfels Police.

She first contacted the police soon after the calls started.“It’s just continuous,” she said Saturday. “I was just hoping it would blow over.”Altorfer said she contacted the media Monday about the flyer because she was furious.“I never thought it would have a life of its own,” she said. Asked whether she regrets contacting the media about the flyer at the pool, she said, “I wouldn’t have done any different.” The Internet-initiated harassment expanded to the Herald-Zeitung in the early morning hours Saturday when a posting on the 4chan Web site urged viewers to harass Herald-Zeitung employees.

The Internet forum user tried to match home addresses and phone numbers to the newspaper’s employees, apparently after obtaining employees’ names from the newspaper’s Web site.

However, many of the addresses and phone numbers belonged to persons with the same or similar names of Herald-Zeitung employees. Two of these erroneously identified persons live in San Antonio and both reported receiving harassing phone calls.

One of the San Antonio residents with the same name as a Herald-Zeitung reporter received multiple calls starting at 4 a.m. Saturday.The woman said the first call came from man claiming to be a newspaper employee. She said, “He said ‘I’m calling you about that article ... It’s in the Herald,’” She said she received more than a dozen phone calls from “unlisted numbers” Saturday morning, but didn’t answer any after the first call.

“When my phone rings, it’s usually a person I know,” she said. “I would really appreciate them stopping this.”The woman said she knew nothing about the situation until she went online to learn why she got the call.

She called the Herald-Zeitung Saturday morning to report the phone calls.“It concerned me he had my name and my number,” she said. The woman said she knew her name and telephone number could be found on the Internet.“You pull up that phone number. My address is posted there,” she said. “That scares the absolute hell out of me.”

Another San Antonio resident with a similar name as another Herald-Zeitung employee received a phone call threatening the newspaper. The man’s son, who answered the call, said he told them his father didn’t have a newspaper.