August 1, 2013
Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.
New York County
Mr. Raymond W. Kelly
New York Police Department
From: "HuffWatcher" (an anonymous advocate of civil dissent and the rule of law)
Re: Evidence of HuffingtonPost.com, a Manhattan-based "news" website, enabling certain users to post comments containing what appear to be terroristic threats --- and suppressing other users who attempt to speak out against themDear Mr. Vance and Commissioner Kelly:
The purpose of this letter is to provide you with evidence that I contend may constitute violations of New York and U.S. federal law concerning:
- Individuals who submit comments to a major public website containing terroristic threats and solicitations of violence against (a) attendees of the August 7-9 American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) convention in Chicago, (b) Charles and David Koch, and others.
- The fact that this website previews and and decides to publish these threats and solicitations of violence, yet blocks and bans users who attempt to denounce such comments, but allows these offenders to continue posting, in some cases, clandestinely.
- The fact that this website --- HuffingtonPost.com --- is located in lower Manhattan, NY.
If you require any additional information or assistance, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Precedent: The NYPD's recent arrest of a Queens, NY man for posting terroristic threats on Facebook
On July 17, 2013 the NYPD arrested a resident of Queens, NY, for allegedly posting what the District Attorney contends were terroristic threats on Facebook, felonies punishable by New York and United States laws. Specifically, it is alleged that Remel Newson posted comments that urged people to murder police officers and white Americans, in retaliation for what he believed was an unjust verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman. According to New York law (Sec. 490.20), which is paralleled in federal law, a terroristic threat is defined as making (or publishing) a threat:
"with intent to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a unit of government by intimidation or coercion, or affect the conduct of a unit of government by murder, assassination or kidnapping, he or she threatened to commit or cause to be committed a specified offense and thereby caused a reasonable expectation or fear of the imminent commission of such offense."Further, according to Sections 490.10 and 490.15 of the New York code, it appears to also be a felony to enable, aid or otherwise provide material support to anyone who is intent on publishing terroristic threats.
Facebook, however, is a passive commenting environment, in which comments are posted without any kind of pre-moderation. Comments (and pages) containing threats and solicitations of violence are removed by Facebook only after-the-fact.
In contrast, the evidence in this letter shows that HuffingtonPost.com has been knowingly and willfully enabling certain users to publish comments that, by the above definition, constitute terroristic threats --- while at the same time, and on a minute-to-minute basis, blocking comments from other users that denounce these threats, then banning them. In some cases, it even enables these violators to advise dissenting users that they are about to be banned --- and almost without exception, that is exactly what happens.
About the Huffington Post, and evidence of its behavior
Below is a profile and background of HuffingtonPost.com, and the evidence of its history of such behavior:
- ABOUT HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: HuffingtonPost.com ("HuffPost") is a "news" website owned by AOL that is located at 770 Broadway, in Lower Manhattan, NY. Its phone number is (212) 206-4400.
- ABOUT USER COMMENTING ACCOUNTS: HuffPost enables users to read "news" stories and opinion articles ("blogs") for free, and submit comments concerning both by first registering with the site to obtain a commenting account. The comment histories of users with active accounts are publicly-accessible, and look like this. The comment histories of users who have been banned, or canceled their accounts, are erased or archived; the only thing the public can see is a page like this.
- ALL COMMENTS ARE PRE-MODERATED: The president and President and Editor in Chief of HuffPost, Arianna Huffington, has repeatedly and publicly stated that not a single user comment is published without first being moderated. She is also on public record as claiming that all user comments are reviewed by a human moderator prior to being published, to ensure that none contain material that violates the site's Comment Policy, or the law. She and HuffPost have also repeatedly, publicly stated that the site will not publish any comments containing threats, incitements of violence, or hate speech of any kind.
- HUFFPOST'S ENABLING OF CERTAIN USERS AND MODERATORS TO PUBLISH THREATS & INCITEMENT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST POLITICAL OPPONENTS -- AND CENSORING/BANNING USERS WHO ATTEMPT TO SPEAK OUT/COMPLAIN: In 2009, the watchdog website that I edit, HUFF-WATCH, published a detailed report that documents the fact that contrary to Ms. Huffington's and HuffPost's asserted policies and procedures, it in fact makes it a practice of enabling and protecting the worst-of-the-worst violators of its policies, and bans users who dare to complain or speak out against them. The report cites numerous examples, rich with evidence in the form of screen captures and comment logs, of the fact that HuffPost enables and protects certain users to stalking and threaten other users who harbor different political opinions, incite violence against them, and even threaten protectees of the U.S. Secret Service --- and bans users who dare to speak out against or complain about them.
HUFF-WATCH has published numerous, detailed reports since then of similar incidents, including incidents in which even HuffPost moderators were enabled and protected to post threats against users who harbor different political views --- then bans the victimized users:
JULY 2013: Evidence of how HuffPost has enabled and protected certain users to post comments that contain what appear to be terroristic threats and solicitations of violence
Perpetrator #1 is a user who, until 2010, HuffPost allowed to post threats under the user name "FoxInRetreat" (detailed background here). Her particular obsession is posting threats and soliciting violence against Charles & David Koch, and other conservative individuals and members of conservative organizations. She has repeatedly posted comments indicating that she resides in northern Illinois, near the Wisconsin border (I confirmed this via track-backs to her IP address when she visited my website).
During July 2013 (and in fact for more than a year), however, HuffPost has been enabling her to post threats and solicitations of violence against political opponents under the screen name "isupportclasswarfare." If you click that link, however, you will see that HuffPost claims that that user's profile has been removed, meaning, it has banned her.
In fact, HuffPost has been enabling her to continue posting her threats and solicitations of violence against the Kochs and others, for years, and through late July 2013. Here are some examples of such post calling for the murder of the Kochs, from April 2013:
These threats against the Kochs and others continued up through July 19, 2013:
Yet according to this screencap, from July 19, 2013 (note the date-stamp in the lower-right), HuffPost had "banned" the user (note the URL line):
At the same time, HuffPost repeatedly sent non-violating comments submitted by another user, "Drones_Rock", to "Pending," meaning they were being reviewed by its moderators:
At one point on July 19, "Drones_Rock" asked "isupportclasswarfare" whether or not she had been banned (as HuffPost had removed/hidden her profile from public view) ---- to which she posted a comment indicating she was laughing about it:
Within 24 hours, HuffPost banned "Drones_Rock":
I have much more evidence of these types of threats and solicitations of violence that HuffPost reviews, approves and decides to publish --- and of it censoring and banning non-violating users who dare to attempt to speak out or complain --- which is available to you upon request.
JULY 22, 2013: HuffPost enabled and protected certain users to post what appear to be terroristic threats against the upcoming ALEC conference in Chicago --- and blocked, then banned a user who attempted to denounce these threats
On July 22, 2013 --- even though it appeared her user account had been banned --- HuffPost continued review and publish "isupportclasswarfare's" threats and solicitations of violence against political opponents, in this case, attendees of the upcoming American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference in Chicago, from August 7-9.
It began with HuffPost reviewing and publishing a comment containing her revealing the location of this event, and a statement that "plans are in the works to make them feel unwelcome and intimidated":
Note that in response to that implied threat, another user, "Libs_Wreck_Everything" asked what she meant by "intimidated." In response, HuffPost reviewed and approved a comment submitted by another user, "waukone," containing what is clearly a terroristic threat: "Don't wound or scare -- kill."
In response, the user "Libs_Wreck_Everything" submitted a comment that accuses "waukone" of being a coward:
However, as shown in the notice above the submitted comment, HuffPost held that comment in its "pending," meaning it was reviewing the comment and determining whether it would publish it or not. It should be noted that at the top of the "news" page on which these users were commenting, HuffPost explicitly states that comments submitted in reply to other comments will only be published "after they have been approved":
Soon thereafter, rather than banning the users whom it had been enabling to post terroristic threats and solicitations of violence, HuffPost decided instead to ban "Libs_Wreck_Everything":
HuffPost left "isupportclasswarfare" and "waukone" free to continue posting, as shown in this screencap from July 31, 2013:
APRIL-JULY 31: More evidence of HuffPost enabling certain users to post what appear to be terroristic threats:
Another user that HuffPost has been enabling and protecting to post terroristic threats and solicitations of violence is the "Bhokara," the apparent reincarnation of another user documented at HUFF-WATCH, "Kokand,"
In that particular case, HuffPost enabled "Kokand" to (a) advocate the murder of energy industry executives, then (b) threaten to have another user who objected to his comments banned --- in almost instantly, that is exactly what happened. See this detailed report:
Dec. 2010: "Hey, let's go murder energy industry executives!!!" (HuffPost: "Approved, protected!!!")
Here is more evidence of HuffPost allowing "Bhokara" to threaten other users that he's going to have them banned -- which, if you look up their screen names, you will find out is exactly what happened:
Yet as you can see in the screencap below, from July 31, 2013, HuffPost has chosen to allow "Bhokara" to continue posting his threats and solicitations of violence against political opponents at will, and that he is now up to nearly 16,000 comments:
Conclusion: This will all continue until and unless law enforcement intervenes
I urge you to take this matter extremely seriously, as HuffPost is now the world's #1 most-read online "newspaper." This makes the behavior that HuffPost and its users are engaging in all the more potentially dangerous that the act that got Mr. Newson arrested by the NYPD, because far more readers will see these threats posted, on HuffPost's top "news" stories, where they are posted, than what will see an obscure post on a Facebook page. Further, this is a very different situation, both technologically and legally, than an environment such as Facebook, which is totally post-moderated, allowing users to post whatever they want, anywhere they want, as opposed to HuffPost's self-admitted pre-moderation environment.
Given the preponderance of the physical evidence that shows HuffPost's long history of enabling and protecting certain users to post what appear to be terroristic threats, while blocking and banning other users who dare to attempt to speak out against them, it is reasonable to assume that such behavior is going to continue until and unless a prevailing legal authority begins prosecuting these users, and possibly HuffPost itself.
I think there is serious, justifiable concern that if HuffPost and the threatening users it enables are not held to legal account, one of the victims of their behavior may end up getting injured or worse, as a direct or indirect result of what it is allowing to occur on its "comment" pages.
If I can be of any further assistance in clarifying these matters, or aiding in your prosecution of them, please don't hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.