The producer of AOL's Internet Connection, Catherine Buzzell, came under some
controversy in alt.aol-sucks. The URL for her Web page was forwarded to a reporter for HotWired's Net Surf, who
turned in this review.
No no, not your mouth!
All my years as a doctor, and I never seem to tire of that joke!
Aw, you just don't have a sense of humor.
Oh my God! What the HELL is that!?
Ha! Gotcha! Just kidding....
OK - ready now! Incoming!
Jeez - it can't hurt that much. You gals are so sensitive.
The notorious Web page raises questions about the
enforcement of AOL's policy on sex-related speech.
Meanwhile, a remote staffer named Adam has been terminated.
Adam posted only a few details on his situation to alt.aol-sucks, but
his mysterious explanation only fuels concerns that the
corporation is monitoring his newsgroup posts--or something more sinister.
Adam's attempts to downplay the incident drew
skepticism from the newsgroup's watchdogs.
Catherine Buzzell, producer of AOL's Internet Connection, has dedicated a Web page to "online harassment". This alarmist document is apparently drawn from her experiences in
alt.aol-sucks--she advises readers to pay attention to "last logout information", and "Monitor information about yourself on the Net with Alta Vista..."
Recently AOL employee Sermoner1 took to the newsgroups breaking a year-long silence to try to quell charges he was selectively pulling posts from AOL's Scientology boards.
"Even though I wouldn't post it myself, unless it's something that's libelous or that violates AOL TOS then we don't censor subscribers," an AOL staffer claimed after U.S. military secrets were posted to an AOL bulletin board last year. But for over a year alt.religion.scientology has been documenting Sermoner's censorship of informational posts about the Church of Scientology as part of his "organizing" of content--even though this skews all discussion in favor of the profit-making church. Sermoner's actions are so notorious, he was chosen as a target for forged mailing list subscriptions, along with other net-related targets like Philip Elmer-DeWitt.
Another notorious censor works AOL's "Capitol Connection". 23-year-old Brian Carlisle became the center of controversy when he strayed to defend his actions in alt.aol-sucks in 1994.
These are not the only staffers working the public newsgroups. BudELove and "JLTeacher" continue defending their employer in alt.aol-sucks. Last week AOL forum host "Jodi" joined the rush to the newsgroup, and AOL content developer Deacon Maccubbin joined AOL's staffers earlier this week challenging their employer's critics.
Recently, apparently in response to public scrutiny, AOL's Internet Connection producer Catherine Buzzell linked her Web page to an old TechWeb article describing an on-line stalking case. It was pointed out here that Buzzell appeared unaware that the stalker cited operated exclusively on AOL--the case is even cited in the Frequently-Asked Questions list for alt.aol-sucks, as an example of arbitrary enforcement of AOL's rules.
Days after accessing this page, Buzzell removed the link.
Buzzell was joined in her actions against the alt.aol-sucks newsgroup by
her friend Gabe Goldberg and Deborah Levinson--the only ones to indicate
they were AOL staffers. Michael Hutchinson, AOL's Webmaster, concealed
his affiliation for several months, as did a remote staffer named Adam.
Friday it was revealed that another AOL employee had been posting for two weeks, giving as his name only "Bud. E. Love"--the Jerry Lewis character in "The Nutty Professor". And it's been reported that AOL's Internet Connection Copy Editor Jenn Thompson is posting under a pseudonym and has yet to identify herself.
This action follows on the heels of the legendary trouncing of AOL Internet Support Planner Doug "Alan" Litten.
On April 24, high school student James Egelhof mirrored the hacker tell-all Web page.
AOL's Webmaster had threatened his own page with a lawsuit
for criticizing the AOL service. Egelhof faced down the suit--and now joins with a coalition of internet users to further the exchange of information against an AOL legal crackdown.
Freedom threatens AOL. On April 19, AOL's legal department contacted Mark Scheuern.
Scheurn believes he was contacted in response to Usenet remarks criticizing AOL's Catherine Buzzell. Scheurn pointed out that Buzzell, the producer of AOL's internet connection,
posted to alt.aol-sucks defending the service using a company account while hiding her affiliation.
Recent posts to the newsgroup revealed the posts were made on company time, and that this is not the first time AOL employees have concealed their affiliation.
In an earlier incident, Buzzell even phoned the police over her former co-worker's critical posts. In a bizarre form of retaliation, she exaggerated the incident in the January 18 section of a self-aggrandizing web page. Currently working on his second Masters degree, the co-worker agreed to respond to the exaggerated account, line-by-line, in an exchange of e-mail.
In an e-mail, Buzzell complains that she received "reams" of e-mail. Scheurern responds that he sent a total of five or six notes over several months. "Never did I remotely threaten her, not even something like 'you'd better knock it off or you're going to be in trouble.' The
contact has been absolutely minimal."
While refusing to provide details, Buzzell insists "the account I mentioned on my page is the actual truth of the story. It bothers me that anyone would believe this man."
AOL's legal department has been called against critics before. Last month hackers created a Web page sounding the alarm on other weaknesses in AOL's security. Intent on covering up their deficiencies, AOL legal immediately contacted the page, complaining that the images of internal AOL software constituted "copyright infringement". In the true internet spirit, the hackers refused to buckle, and to this day continue displaying "the truth about AOL" at multiple Web sites
In fact, AOL employees have a history of threatening their critics.
In another instances of AOL harrassing its critics,
AOL programmer Robert Hirsh threatened a critic of America Online.
And the following Web pages heard from AOL's legal department
Even Boardwatch magazine received a visit from AOL's legal staff.
In complaining to Time magazine about the supposed involvement of alt.aol-sucks in an aggressive mailbombing, AOL's Mac Forum staffer Gene Steinberg carries on an AOL tradition. Although none of his predecessors got the ear of Time magazine, Steinberg has found a way to unite two of the internet's least-favorite forces--AOL and Time magazine.
A reader comments on Gene Steinberg
Conspiracy theorist history
"You're wrong! You're lying!"
The Great Phone Debacle
alt.aol-sucks on Time's article
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