Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Not to Make a Fool of Yourself on the Internet: A PSA

It seems that there are people out there who may, perhaps, lack a certain understanding of just how the internet works. They may write some ill-advised comment which draws well-deserved criticism. They might follow this up with additional statements which serve only to attract more criticism, with a big ol' side of humiliation. Maybe they do not realize that in the internet, nothing is truly erased.

And so it is that I find myself here, offering up some advice to the poor, self-centered, crass, ignorant folk on the internet. Even though doing so may rob myself and other bloggers the entertainment of invoking the Streisand Effect, I feel that there are those who may benefit from some instructive illustrations.

Rule 1 - Think Before You Type

The internet is really a very powerful tool. It allows us to call up information on a wide range of subjects with very little effort. The speed at which things occur online urges us to give immediate voice to our thoughts. Now, our emotional sides simply love this arrangement. They get to dictate our reactions more frequently when we can just type a few words and click a button before the rational sides of our brains have a chance to say, "Perhaps you should pause to reflect a moment."

When you decide to comment on something online, it's a good idea, therefore, to stop a minute to consider what you plan on saying. Start by asking yourself if you actually know enough about the topic upon which you're commenting to, at the very least, avoid saying something incredibly inane. Taking this time to think things through also gives you the opportunity to consider whether your words might be insulting or insensitive to others who are personally affected by the subject.

If you take the time to think before you type, you might avoid saying something rude, ignorant and completely off-base like, oh, this:

Click to enduncenate.

If you do find yourself leaving callous remarks like this individual in the comments section of an article in a widely read newspaper, you might end up finding yourself the target of some justified and well-reasoned criticism like this, this or this.

Rule 2 - Don't Go Orwell

Perhaps you make the decision to write further on your Facebook page, maybe even going so far as to laugh at someone who was very upset by your comment. You might say some things like this:

Click to enboorify.

The combination of your initial post violating rule 1 and your subsequent posts on Facebook might draw a comment such as this:

Click to enlightenate.
After reading something like this, you might feel a sense of shame, perhaps even embarrassment. After all, someone has just shown that you were out of your depth on not just one, but two subjects. And all of your friends have witnessed it. You may ponder deleting that comment; simply erase the loss of face and send things down the memory hole.

Don't do it!

You will only invite further criticism that you are afraid to have an honest discussion, that you censor reasonable questions. In short, you add to your image as a shameless, callous, insulting individual the added bit of being a coward.

Rule 3 - Don't Deny You Said What You Said

The problem with breaking rules 1 and 2 is that, in the age of the internet, nothing is ever truly deleted. You might try to get rid of your original comment, your subsequent comments and the criticism you've received. But, well, just look above to see that someone, somewhere has probably already saved evidence of your nonsense. In light of this, don't try to fend off criticism by saying that you never said what you said:

It wasn't meeeee!

When you say stuff like that, you just look even more foolish when evidence that those words you're denying actually did flow from your fingers. Chalk up "liar" to the list of epithets that describe you, should you pursue this course of action.

Rule 4 - Don't Libel Your Critics

You might be tempted to really go off the deep end and start making even more ill-advised comments, ones that actually run close to, if not actually going over, the line of what is and is not legal. For example, you might be tempted to say something that would be considered libelous under your local civil codes (e.g., CA Civil Code 44), like this:

Spammity spam!

You see, accusing someone of crimes (e.g., stalking and harassing) and sending that message in separate tweets to everyone (or at least a large number, I got tired of getting screen shots after the first 100 separate, distinct tweets that were sent - anarchic_teapot has a storify post with a more complete capture of her tweet stream) who follows your critic on Twitter is what defamation lawyers might consider a bad move. That is acting with the deliberate intent of spreading false statements of fact that damage the image of the target. This behavior is what is called libel. If your target so chooses, they would have a very reasonable case against you, should they decide to pursue a legal suit.

And tweeting that you have reported your critic to the police for stalking/harassment, when they have not done so, is also not a good idea.

Police! Police!

At best, you're probably just bluffing, in which case you look like a fool. At worst, if you aren't bluffing and really did file a police report, you may find that you are running afoul of certain laws about filing false police reports (see also 18 USC 1001 - h/t to Squillo).

To Recap

Hopefully you have a good idea of what not to do on the internet. Violating these four simple rules will almost certainly guarantee that you will become a laughing stock, having your shame spread all over, despite your efforts to bury the whole sordid mess. Remember:

#1 - Think before you post. (i.e., know at least a little about the subject)
#2 - Don't go Orwell. (i.e., don't try to make your own or others' comments disappear)
#3 - Don't deny you said what you said.
#4 - Don't libel your critics.

If you follow these rules, you should be able to avoid a great deal of headache, ridicule and embarrassment later.

This has been a public service announcement from Harpocrates Speaks.


  1. You win at the internet today. GOOD STUFF!

  2. I am the father of twin autistic boys and had read Liz's blog yesterday and was so offended by Ms. Basko's comments that I immediately sent her a little piece of my mind. My wife just sent me this link and I am dying laughing. Thank you for calling her out on her hurtful, small minded BS. She has a blog about supporting the Occupy protests, but apparently she doesn't believe in helping with the economic and medical needs of the special needs children in the 99% (the few that actually receive benefits). Thank you again

  3. This woman, in addition to the tweets you show, sent me (and I'm sure others) an email about how she writes a blog for an autistic man who is in jail. I think she is, at best, grabbing for attention. At worst, she is delusional and frightening. Thank you for pulling this all together.

    The other rule of the internet: never piss off the parents of special needs kids.

  4. Here's a transcript of my bizarro conversation with Ms. Basko on Twitter. Notice how she never answers my question. I'm not sure if she simply does not understand my repeated question or is just dodging it. And for the record, I do have a son with autism and he receives SSI. I work three jobs so my wife can stay at home. That's why I found her comments so offensive and insisted that she answer my question (even though she didn't).

    SB (Sue Basko): I am being stalked/harassed by a nut named @LizDitz who actually wrote the words being tweeted. Have reported to FBI.

    ME: Since you have an account at LA Times blogs, FBI or LA Times should be able to determine if or who posted alleged comments.

    SB: In the meantime, Liz Ditz and her "gravy train" words roll on. I have not been interviewed by her, never even heard of her!

    ME: Not defending anybody but I only know about this because of you, not LD. Had to use Google to figure out what you were talking abt

    SB: LD wrote words and tweeted them as mine - I have not had any interaction with her ever. She is cyberbully.

    SB: It is on Google, but because she wrote it and put it there.

    ME: Are you referring to her blog post or the quotes she attributed to you from the LA Times comments section of the Autism article?

    SB: I do NOT have a blog at LA Times. I have a blog about protest marches! Not on LA Times!

    ME: I'm referring to the fact that you have a registered account to add comments.

    ME:… You're a "Top Commenter," though maybe you connected via Facebook...

    ME: I'm selective about who I follow, that's why I'm asking.

    ME: Liz has updated her blog and provides a screen shot of your comments to the LA Times blog article.

    ME: My question still stands, did you write those words or not? (I'm referring to the comments attribute to you in the screenshot)

    SB: Check sources before you repeat words of malicious stalker. Please.

    ME: I haven't repeated them. I'm just asking you if you made the comments she said you did. Yes or no?

    SB: I do not even know what you are talking about - I have never had any interaction whatsoever with this woman!

    ME: No one said you did. I'm doing what you asked, checking sources. DID YOU WRITE THOSE COMMENTS OR NOT? YES OR NO?


    ME: I'm not talking about YOUR blog. I'm talking about the comments you allegedly left on a LA Times piece on autism.

    ME: Did you write this or not?…


    ME: Did you make the comments or not? Yes or no? Why can't you answer the question?

    ME: I am checking sources, I'm asking you.

    SB: I publish a blog by autistic man: I do not write LD's blog!

    ME: OK, I give up. I've been asking specifically about comments you alledgely made on the LA TIMES blog. Is my question not clear?

    ME: So did you write the comments (now deleted) that were allegedly (notice I use this word) on the LA Times blog? Yes or no?

    ME: Look up definitions of cyber bullying, cyber stalking, as I don't think you know what they mean. Look up Streisand Effect too.

    ME: You may also want to read up on how social media works. Good luck...

  5. This is all very good advice. Some of which I have tried to employ, including not letting comments from strangers on the Internets bother me.

    I hope that Ms. Basko's family takes notice and tries to get her the help she needs. This is not normal behavior, and it may not have been her behavior even a few weeks ago.

  6. Did you read the story she was commenting on? This is just a misunderstanding. She was simply summarizing an ignorant offensive story, which Alan Zarembo, apparently wrote after mistaking the hate group known as Autism Speaks for a credible source. Recently I read that NT's find imitation to be an extremely important social skill. If you repeat back what you are told, in spite of the fact that it is completely ridiculous then maybe no one will notice your over-sized head.

  7. Hi,
    I came to your blog and have been reading along your posts. I decided I will leave my first comment.

    Page facebook pro

  8. Hi Mary Tormey,

    I re-read Alan Zarembo's first piece,0,1218038.htmlstory

    very carefully, looking for anything having to do with parents being entitled to SSI once their child is diagnosed with autism, which is the claim the woman refernced abouve was making.

    Zarembo didn't make that claim. He doesn't mention SSI benefits at all.

    In fact, I couldn't find a reference to a quote from Autism Speaks.

  9. Astounding the lengths some people will go to, to refuse to be accountable for their own actions. Deletions, denial, and libel, oh my!

  10. Oh dear! This reminds me of the way *you all* react to any mention of cannabis science.

    Especially cannabis for autism science.

    Cannabis causes low birth weight? Not according to the other 3 (better designed) studies!!

    DELETE!!! (But oh-no, it's all saved somewhere!)

  11. @LokaSamasta

    I have told you before, you are welcome to post here as long as you stay on topic. If you spam my posts with off-topic comments about your cannabis fixation, those posts will be marked as spam.

  12. I thank you for this. I see alot of people going into blogs or news sites about music artists I enjoy. They are regulars of said sites and believe they have a right to criticize the artist. When a fan of that artist starts to contradict them then they criticize the fan. It's not right if your not a fan of a music artist keep your mouth shut and let the fans who are following that artist say their comments without being ridiculed.

  13. There was a comment over at LeftBrain/RightBrain Autism that explains my motivation for writing the comment to Sue on her Facebook, from Quokka:

    Man this makes my blood boil. I am a registered psychologist that works with families of children with disabilites and you know what Sue – they are regularly reduced to tears of frustration at the blatant discrimination and just plain narrow mindedness of people like you! The arrogance of people who think they know the lives, pain, struggles, achievements of other families not like theirs is intolerable.

    I have seen my friends reduced to tears over funding denials, over IEPs gone awry, over an unpleasant interlude with the social worker who visits to validate the need for the SSI....

  14. I read both, was contacted by sue and told I was wrong, like many of you. I appologized for any harm I may have done, but that I didn't fully believe her, but was going to stay out of it but told her WHOEVER wrote the comments was very hurtful and needed to be educated on the realities of having an autistic child and the costs that go along with it. She then blocked me.


    THIS SHOULD EXPLAIN MY WORK ON AUTISM. Several years ago, I started a blog for a man who has autism and is in prison and have worked tirelessly on his behalf:

    As the article above from the other known victim of Liz Ditz states, she does these thing to get attention and to draw readers to her blogs.

    I cannot comment much more due to ongoing investigation.

    Sorry to anyone who is legit and to whom I did not respond. I have been overwhelmed with an onslaught attack of cyberstalking against me.

    I have been TOLD by law enforcement to block after recording the names and URLS of each person contributing to the cyberbullying attack. You may not feel like what you are doing is wrong, but it is illegal. The crime is called Cyberstalking.


  16. This is a quote from the above linked article by Doug Copp, with which I concur:

    Let me be very clear: Liz Ditz is a liar, and a person who is so devoid of decency as to lie about matters which cause children’s lives to be put in danger. She did this to draw traffic to her website. She was successful in getting this money and audience, at the expenses of our volunteer rescue team’s ability to save lives. Her selfish obsession with money and attention, ‘at any cost’, is NOT acceptable to decent people. There should be Internet laws that would put someone like Liz Ditz, in prison.

    Her website is full of wild crazy rants and bouts of hatred. She is like the ‘little man hiding behind the curtain with a giant megaphone, in the Wizard of OZ. Her actions would be pathetic if they hadn’t caused the loss of so much life and undo suffering of so many innocent victims.
    It has taken 6 years of brutal abuse, via her vitriolic and hateful Internet rants for us to be able to ‘track her down’. She successfully hid behind her computer.

    She is not only one of these ‘creatures’ who use the Internet with impunity to destroy the lives of people with their hatred. She is a bold faced liar of the worst kind. Based upon her 6 years of harm to our rescue team; I believe that Liz Ditz would do anything for money and attention.Now that we have ‘tracked her down’ we consider it to be our duty, as decent people, to expose her nefarious activities to the ‘light of day’.

    We found her phone number and can you imagine that she is on the Board of Directors of a Private Girl’s School. Absolutely stunning!
    It is truly a disgrace that their institution is associated with such a person.

  17. Ms. Basco, I urge you to seek some help immediately. This course you are on is rather self-destructive. The people that you are stalking (yes, YOU are the one doing the stalking) have either personally known or have been acquainted with Ms. Ditz for years. Her reputation as an autism advocate is well-known in wide circles. Your reputation as an internet psycho is also becoming well-known.

  18. The lawyer woman is referring to a series of posts I wrote, starting in 2004. The person she quotes has been covered by Snopes, covering the same material I referenced in my posts.

  19. And THEY just found you Liz, hiding out in plain sight all this time. I guess lawyer lady doesn't have much of a career if she has the time to stalk your acquaintances and consort with other paranoid fraudsters.

  20. Ms. Basko, please locate your nearest mental health clinic as soon as possible. You seem to be having a break down, one that can seriously impact your career.

  21. Her posts are filled with vitriol and all caps typing. Who looks more like a person who would stalk another person? Either this person is dealing with delusions or she is doing damage control for her reputation as a Hollywood lawyer.

  22. That's an odd sort of damage control.

    I feel sorry for her clients.

    I've been too busy to follow Twitter for the past few weeks (successful new Etsy business Xmas crunch) but I may have received some of that stalker spam too.

    Good luck dealing with this. Reminds me of the whole Markuze/PZ Myers thing.

  23. Ms. Basko, if you are taking the time to read this comment, I have a few questions for you.

    Are you claiming that Ms. Ditz somehow hacked your Facebook/Twitter accounts and made those comments she took screenshots of and added to her blog? All this in an attempt to call more attention to her site? That's quite an extraordinary claim, and I would be interested in seeing your evidence of this.

    Secondly, if you did actually make those comments that Ms. Ditz has recorded, I'm wondering if you could assist me. You see, my son is currently diagnosed with autism. I know that, in your opinion, I likely just got him diagnosed so I can get the SSI benefits, but in reality, he's diagnosed with autism because he is 10 years old, knows less than 20 words, is still in diapers, and will require specialized care for the rest of his life. It seemed logical for me to request SSI benefits considering his extreme handicap.

    So, my question is this: Since I just wanted in on the "gravy train," can you point me to where I can actually benefit from this alleged scheme? Because, at the moment, I'm working two jobs to cover my son's medications, therapy, and personal needs, and I'm doing it all out of pocket because my insurance company won't pay over a certain amount, and I allegedly make too much money to receive benefits. Even though my son will require specialized care for the rest of his life.

    If you have this information, I would appreciate your prompt response.

  24. For Todd and Liz, I want to thank both of you for bringing attention to this. I may not agree with everything you guys say, but you have both earned a great deal of respect from me (if that means anything to you) for standing up to this outright ignorant and hateful "theory."

  25. Thanks for your support, MySocratesNote. Moments like this serve as a good reminder that we're all working toward the same goal: the health, support and quality of life of autistic individuals, whether children or adults.

  26. Thank you, MySocrates Note, and YES, your respect means a lot to me, just because we disagree on some things.

    As Todd says, we're working toward the same goals: "the health, support and quality of life of autistic individuals, whether children or adults."

  27. Ms. Basko,

    I am not an attorney--not even a Lawyer for Music and Film--but I as a writer, I am quite interested in and reasonably informed about both First Amendment issues and libel laws.

    May I suggest you review the sections on defamation in your law school textbooks?

  28. My skeptical blogging friend Calladus added to the conversation today: Internet Insanity.

    Short version: Ms. B- doesn't understand copyright law, either.

  29. @Liz

    No kiddin'. But it gave me (and my significant-attorney-other) a little chuckle.

    You would think that as a Lawyer for Music and Film (sorry--the moniker keeps cracking me up), advising clients on copyright issues would be a big part of what she does.

    But on the bright side, who knew that one could just decide that an entire legal doctrine does not apply because one said so? Guess we can just give SCOTUS their walking papers. Hang up your robes--nothing more for you to do, ladies and gents.

  30. Ms. Basko also deleted all the tweets she made to Calladus.

  31. Even when deleted from timelines, tweets are still there. When you take screenshots, try to take the web address showing for that tweet. It contains the tweet ID number that can be accessed through Google cache for quite a while.

    (I learned that trick from an anti-vaxer who recently [post-#EpiGate] emailed all my bosses to complain that they felt "stalked" by my tweets about them.)

  32. This is cool - troll yr favourite facebook pages more easily;

    Just reduce that number on the end, it's unix time if you want to go to a specific date. Perhaps if you wanted to see what someone was saying on their page at the time of a comment elsewhere...


Spam comments will be deleted.

Due to spammers and my lack of time, comments will be closed until further notice.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.