Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mystery Website Update

Alright, well, my first post on the mysterious anti-Leggett site seems to have caused quite a stir. I'll rundown some of the reaction and then present a few more thoughts of my own.

First, the increasingly active local blogosphere (Hello, MoCo; MoCoPolitics; New MoCo Progressive; Sprawling Towards Montgomery) picked up the story and those threads started a buzz that attracted the attention of some of the campaigns (note to bloggers: the local campaigns actually read what we write). The emails and phone calls from reporters followed (the Examiner ran a piece this morning, I don't know if the other papers that contacted me will or not).

Second, I have no idea who created the actual website (I had to answer that question all day yesterday). I did not prove that the Silverman campaign was behind it. What I did do was prove that someone using the Silverman campaign's network was promoting the site, and seemed (to me) to be trying to hide their connection to Silverman. That ticked me off, which is why I posted my thoughts in the first place.

Another question I kept being asked yesterday was how I tracked down the "promoter" (for lack of a better word). I am not some investigative, super-sleuth. The person in question left a comment on my site. The commenting system I use logs users' IP addresses (very useful if you need to ban trolls and that sort of thing). He also sent me several email messages. All email messages contain the originating IP address in the (normally hidden) header. Curious about who had sent these tips, I looked up the IP addresses. They all matched. So, I took that IP address and used a free, publicly available online tool to track its location using the internet numbers registry. That turned up the connection to the Silverman campaign.

I did try to lookup the ownership of the anti-Leggett site. Unfortunately, every search I tried turned up only the hosting company (DreamHost Hosting in Brea, CA) and the fact that the site had been registered on August 20, for a period of one year. Whoever created the website intentionally used a private registry service to hide their identity.

After speaking with several sources, I believe the person who was promoting the site was probably a young volunteer for Silverman's campaign, though I do not know his identity. Officials with the campaign have denied any connection with the site itself. However, they do admit, as a reporter also mentioned to me, that much of the content of the anti-Leggett site (at least the facts, figures and sources - not the extraneous commentary) appears to have been lifted verbatim from research on Leggett that Silverman's campaign released to a relative handful of reporters and volunteers.

Apparently, according to the Examiner article and my own sources, Silverman's campaign has now asked volunteers to stay away from the local blogs while in their office. I think that's too bad, and frankly, unnecessary. The problem isn't people getting on blogs, it's when they post stuff while trying to hide their affiliation.

IMHO - free, open and vigorous debate of the issues during a campaign is a very positive thing. However, if you try to hide behind the anonymous veil of the internet, it leads people to question your motives, self-interest and the truthfulness of your assertions. That goes for anonymous commenters, email senders and bloggers themselves.

So, your thoughts?

Tags: ; ; ;

Bookmark and Share AddThis Feed Button