Could ‘Loose Canons’ Jeopardize P2P in Canada?
|You were called an idiot because it is accurate,|
which was neither unprovoked NOR random.
|— isoHunt operator nicknamed "SecretSquirrel",|
justifies service-wide ban
It’s happened before. The cause of civil liberties were once socially tarnished in a way because it always fell to pornography vendors and authors of hate literature to defend civil liberties. An incident a couple days ago has me thinking the cause of P2P rights in Canada might fall victim to a similar barrier: how to get past the ‘loose cannon’.
Well it’s really quite silly – it’s almost embarrassing to admit any role in it whatsoever. But even the most reasonable people can find themselves embroiled in conflict. And, that’s how I’m choosing to see my role in the events described below:
I left myself logged into #isohunt and my laggy ISP (Rogers.com), whose service occasionally cycles the cable modem disconnecting me form the Internet (long story), started acting up. Consequently, my IRC client started re-logging back into the channel repeatedly. This can get annoying, so one of the channel operators banned me, and left instructions that I should ask another op to lift the ban when my connection troubles were sorted out.
So…I did just that. I contacted first one, then two, and finally a 3rd op to have the ban lifted. (Thanks zcat.) And then, all of a sudden, I kick/banned again and the following message appears from none other than "SecretSquirrel" [an isoHunt staffer]:
[01:00:28] ‹ SecretSquirrel › tbh, you can *beep* off and die
[01:00:39] ‹ ross613 › ?
[01:00:42] ‹ ross613 › um …what?
[01:00:50] ‹ ross613 › I’m not tbh
[01:00:51] ‹ SecretSquirrel › if you’d had some patience, your ban probably would have been removed in due
[01:00:57] ‹ SecretSquirrel › i usually clear it every couple of days
[01:01:00] ‹ SecretSquirrel › and you’re a *beep* idiot
[01:01:21] ‹ SecretSquirrel › you’re not welcome back in my channel, have a nice day
[01:01:26] ‹ ross613 › i’ve never even seen u before dude
— extracted from isoHunt forums, January 27, 2007
The quoted article was posted to isoHunt forums only after an attempt to contact the isoHunt operator in question yielded another expletive-filled diatribe containing a threat that should I attempt to ever contact him again, I’d have my account terminated and IP (network address and/or address block, the latter affecting all Rogers.com users) banned from the isoHunt website permanently. However, I didn’t think it right I’d been insulted so rudely and, not really caring whether the act would get me booted from the system in any event, I decided to continue discussion of my experience in the forums.
The responses from other users were generally not on my side, but then this is, after all, a largely volunteer-operated system. And many of the respondents were, themselves, chat channel operators or users in long-standing who have well-established social ties to each other. And, most aren’t even in their 20’s yet. Even so, there were some who agreed that the fellow nicknamed "SecretSquirrel" was probably going a little overboard in his reaction. Some of his responses (highlighted in green) got to be very acerbic indeed:
** I kickbanned you because you annoyed me while I was trying to work. I gzlined you because you wouldn’t go away and leave me in peace, and finally, I banned you from this site because you don’t know how to let sleeping dogs lie. ** (ss)
I’m posting this publicly, in part, because my efforts to learn what the problem was (as cited above) were rebuffed, rather rudely I would think. And a public appeal might at least generate some kind of clue as to why this happened to me. I’ve violated no IH policies, to my knowledge. And I can’t imagine that my "impatience" – which really was me just following directions – could possibly yield this kind of reaction.
— isoHunt forums, January 27, 2007
|"P2P is fundamentally legitimate – and|
there are just no good advocates for it
out there, unfortunately."
Willing neither to respond to my original complaint about insulting me or kicking me off an otherwise public chat service, he subsequently took to distorting accounts of the incident to anyone else who’d listen. Not only did remarks such as ‘[I] wouldn’t leave [him] alone’ appear in his own response, but in those fellow users and volunteers would respond with; suggesting there were some very tall tales circulating about it. The simple fact is, of course, I messaged him a grand total of 3 times throughout the entire incident; once in forums messaging and two private messages were sent on IRC (aside from the original request to get the original ban lifted). It’s unclear what elimination of harassment this falls under, but certainly none I’ve heard of.
Other allegations included me messaging him over 60 times and "spamming" channel ops collectively, and even using an IRC feature called ‘highlighting’ to get operators’ attention – all equally false. Although these rumours can’t necessarily be pinned on isoHunt staff themselves, one would naturally have to hold these parties suspect.
** Maybe what you lack isn’t intelligence, but common sense, but alas, we will never know, since you’re incapable of holding your tongue long enough to figure out what any particular given situation is. ** (ss)
Even if I’m the "idiot" SS describes….wouldn’t, at minimum, common courtesy call for some kind of explanation?
** Nope, irc is a privilege, not a right, just like the use of this site’s forums. ** (ss)
Unless, of course, it’s now IH policy to randomly call users names and ban them from services on a whim. To this point, from what little I know of IH – I’d find that very surprising indeed.
** see above about use of this site being a privilege and not a right. btw, randomly implies unprovoked, you were called an idiot because it is accurate, which was neither unprovoked NOR random ** (ss)
— isoHunt forums, January 27, 2007
It’s puzzling to follow the logic here, admittedly – first I’m not lacking intelligence, but then I’m still an idiot at the end? Further, if a user’s got a complaint about rude or inappropriate treatment, they can keep their mouth shut or be banned because using the system ‘isn’t a right’? Maybe he’s just flustered at my taking those 4 or 5 lines from my chat log to a public form (that’s, technically, a breach of etiquette I admit).
At any rate, what coherent response there was in anything he said could be condensed to this "it’s our system – if you don’t like it screw you" mantra. Yet, neither the capacity of the operator in question nor the fundamental right to do so was ever an issue, so far as I concerned. Why he thought it relevant to respond with this over and over again also remains a mystery.
[01:00:28] ‹ SecretSquirrel › tbh, you can *beep* off and die
— isoHunt operator, nicknamed "SecretSquirrel" responding to
So why should anyone else worry about my personal issues with some adolescent system operator drunk on his power to ban people from his system? Well – because isoHunt has also turned into a bit of a story of its own in Canada (as earlier reported here) and may well be serving as a point of advocacy for P2P rights in Canada.
And that’s really worrisome!
Suppose that, instead of being a software developer, I was a reporter for the Ottawa Citizen or another major media outlet? While the particulars of the above incident might not exactly make headlines, a reporter who experienced what I did might, at best, be led to think P2P advocates are a constituency made up of 12 to 18-year-old script-kiddies (complete with the stereotypical teenage God complex) bent on eroding copyright law just because they can get away with it. In short, a bunch of Internet hoodlums with no greater moral standing than their peers working the auto-vandalism and theft trade.
The obvious message resulting from this perception would, of course, be: ‘throw the lot of ’em in jail’ (or maybe ‘get mommy and daddy to take the computer away’).
On the other hand, maybe worrying about such things isn’t justified. Only, if you think how many other times you saw some major P.R. blunder and said to yourself – ‘Well, duh! That wasn’t very smart to do in the first place.’ The odds don’t have to be all that great for that to happen, because all it takes is once.
Trouble is, as with free speech advocacy, P2P is fundamentally legitimate – and there are just no good advocates for it out there, unfortunately. At least nobody ‘hi-profile’ enough that can tell the difference between arrogant, asinine behaviour and an opportunity to just say ‘I’m sorry’. And when you look at the opposition: a slick, well-lawyered alliance of multi-milliion dollar record industry moguls and movie executives……well, our young, defiant champion of IRC channel #isohunt will find himself a tad outmatched when he learns he can’t just kick/ban this problem to make it go away.
And as for isoHunt, I find myself offended, yes. After all, regardless of the original threat I’d need to message him directly to win banishment, my public comments were enough to get me completely kicked off every system Mr. Squirrel has control of. But there are lots and lots of other P2P websites out there to choose from. isoHunt had my attention only because of its place in the news and because it’s Canadian. Having had this experience, I admit, there is part of me that would like to see isoHunt crash and burn now. Am I being petty? Well, offended or not, my desire to not have to fight stereotypes or such superficial phenomena as mere perception in convincing others about the legitimacy and advantages of P2P still remains. And so long as the policy of isoHunt is to insult and bans users on a total whim (there really is no other rational characterization of these events) – there’s serious risk of that. After all, the obvious shortcomings of such people as "SecretSquirrel" are not somehow transferable to the technology.
It’s a good thing too else I’d have to live with moody, arrogant torrent files flying off the handle and calling me names every time I asked them to download something for me.