The Internet—it can be the greatest source of knowledge, within reach at a mere click of your fingertips. It can be the intangible web that binds all of us as one interconnected society. It can also be the bane of human reasoning, where the simplest of ideas ignites a firestorm of arguments and reactions—some with fatal consequences, others just too crazy to fathom.
10Xbox Live Argument Leads To Stabbing
The phrase “Well, that escalated quickly” seemed apt in this scenario. In August 2012, 20-year-old Kevin Kemp of Oakley, California was playing online with a 17-year-old neighbor via Xbox Live—the online gaming service of Microsoft’s Xbox video game console—when the two young men had an argument. The argument via headsets turned vicious, as the teenager’s anger began to boil. Meanwhile, Kemp said, “Bro, if you want to do this, come over to my house and we’ll do this right now.”
His friend took him up on the offer, dropping his controller to the floor and exchanging it for a knife and a gun. The assailant then barged into Kemp’s home and stormed past his surprised mother into Kemp’s room. The teenager then brandished his pistol and shot Kemp, the bullet narrowly missing his head by centimeters. Surprised at his terrible aim, he closed in at melee range and stabbed Kemp 22 times. The commotion alerted the neighbors, who called the cops and paramedics. Kemp was rushed to a nearby hospital. He survived—though their friendship most certainly did not.
9Facebook Crime Sprees
Facebook, having become part of the daily life of millions of people, has led to a number of crimes over the past few years. In Chicago, on April 29, 2014, a 14-year-old girl was charged with murder for shooting her friend of the same age, Endia Martin. Martin was shot from behind as she walked home from school. Authorities believed the killing was all because of a Facebook argument about a boy.
Just a few days prior, also in Chicago, Justin Hamilton, allegedly a member of a street gang, shot and killed two teenagers due to an argument about a cell phone cord. Hamilton and one of the victims had argued on Facebook, and the online name-calling turned out to be fatal in real life.
In March 2011, 18-year-old Kayla Henriques of New York was arrested for killing her brother’s girlfriend, Kamisha Richards. Richards had given Henriques $20 to buy milk and diapers for the latter’s 11-month-old child. Henriques, however, decided to purchase something else. This led Richards to voice her complaints on Facebook. Richards wrote that it would be “the last time u will con me into giving u money”; Henriques replied, “Dnt try to expose me mama but I’m not tha type to thug it ova facebook see u wen u get frm wrk.” The next day, the two met in an apartment, and the war of words only stopped after the young mother stabbed Richards in the chest.
8Myspace Hoax Leads To Suicide
Prior to Facebook invading our lives, there was Myspace. The smiling face of co-founder (and automatic friend) Tom Anderson showed us the brighter side of social media—despite a terrible crime lurking in its depths.
In 2008, Lori Drew, a Missouri mom, posed as a teenage boy to befriend one of her neighbors, 13-year-old Megan Meier. According to prosecutors and reporters, Drew had suspected Megan of spreading rumors about her daughter. To investigate the matter, she had to find out more about young Megan and her social media activities.
Registered as 16-year-old “Josh Evans,” Drew romanced Megan with sweet nothings and I-love-yous. Drew perpetrated these acts alongside her daughter Sarah and her business associate. Later on, the trio began harassing the young girl with threatening messages, breaking off their online relationship. This was, according to Megan’s parents, in spite of Mrs. Drew knowing that Megan had been suffering from depression for years. “Josh Evans” would drive home “his” statements by telling Megan that “the world would be a better place without” her. The heartbroken girl later hanged herself.
Instead of pressing charges directly, citing Drew’s complicity in the young girl’s suicide, authorities charged her and others under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Drew’s actions simply violated Myspace’s terms of service agreement, using false information to bully and abuse Megan. In her subsequent trial, Drew was found guilty of three misdemeanor charges but no felonies. In 2009, this verdict was overturned, much to the dismay of Megan Meier’s family.
7‘Serenity Now’ And The Funeral Raid
World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), and naturally it brings together millions of gamers of different backgrounds and cultures.
One tragic event occurred in the Illidan, US server which aimed to promote unity among players. A player named Fayejin passed away on February 28, 2006, after suffering from a stroke. Her guild hosted an event to commemorate her life in the virtual world and the real one. A funeral march was to be held in her honor, where players from both factions (Alliance and Horde—at war with one another) could attend. Her online friends were also recording a video of the event to show to Fayejin’s family. This event was to be held in a contested zone—where players could clash in player-vs-player combat (PVP).
What could go wrong?
Since Fayejin and her friends were members of the Horde, an Alliance guild known as “Serenity Now” decided to disrupt the memorial by journeying across the continent, sneaking up on the unwary players, and proceeding to attack them. One member of the guild walked by Fayejin’s “dead” in-game character to state, “she loved fishing, and snow, and PVP.” Their actions brought a tumult of vicious verbal attacks inside the game and in the Blizzard forums. Players of both factions, even from other servers, were calling for bans and other corrective measures. Some have wished certain death on the very players who orchestrated the attack or on their families. The debates even escalated to other related websites and forums.
Ultimately, cooler heads prevailed. As tasteless as those actions were, they still took place in a video game—in a PVP server, in a contested zone. Such things were to be expected. Thus, future serious events in the game have been held in faction capitals or neutral zones (where PVP was disabled).
6Paul Christoforo And Ocean Marketing
On December 16, 2011, a customer named Dave began his email correspondence with Ocean Marketing representative Paul Christoforo. The correspondence concerned Dave’s order for an Avenger PS3 controller, which had been delayed. Several emails later, Christoforo’s patronizing and insulting attitude began to show. He told Dave, “put on your big boy hat and wait it out like everyone else.” He dared Dave to cancel his order, stating that those units would “be gone fast,” and Christoforo could even sell the controllers on eBay. Dave understandably became upset at this type of response, calling out Christoforo’s demeaning attitude. Christoforo replied by saying that he was 38 years old, and that he had been working online while Dave was still sperm in his “daddy’s balls.” Christoforo then began name-dropping his connections in the gaming world—such as Kotaku, IGN, and Engadget—as well as the political scene by claiming he knew the mayor of Boston.
When Dave sent copies of their email correspondence to various gaming sites, Christoforo’s actions imploded in his face. First was Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade, who immediately banned Christoforo and Ocean Marketing from attending future events. Christoforo’s email would be bombed by thousands of hate mails and threats; his supposed contacts distanced themselves from him. N-Control, whom Christoforo and Ocean Marketing worked with for PR purposes, received numerous complaints. The company immediately sought to control the damage, claiming that Christoforo was a “rogue marketing guy” who operated without any rules.
Christoforo has since apologized for the incident—although it seems he has remained in N-Control’s employ under a fake name: “Tom.” He also allegedly sued them later on for defamation of character. In a recent interview, Christoforo still claimed he was the victim of Krahulik, Penny Arcade, and the bad press that surrounded him.
5A Less-Than-Stellar Book Review Leads To A Meltdown
TidBITS, a website dedicated to Macintosh news and reports, published a review of a novel created using iBooks Author. The novel, Venice Under Glass, was about teddy bears—yes, bears—who became crime-fighters and super-sleuths in the beautiful Italian city. Michael Cohen, who reviewed the article, mentioned that some jokes were “mildly amusing” and the writing was, at best, “workmanlike.” Cohen also said that the book may not appeal to adult readers but would be a good read for preteens intrigued by Venice or teddy bears.
The author, Stephan J. Harper, might have expected glowing reviews of his work instead of the tepid reception. He began to flood the comments page, deriding every single critique made by the reviewer. Harper defended his work, arguing that his writing was hardly juvenile—it alluded to classical prose and obscure historical events. Harper was insulted that his literary jewel was compared to young adult novels such as Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. Harper enumerated multiple passages and quotations in his book to signify how beautifully he had encapsulated the scenery and how masterful his character descriptions were.
As commenters began to voice their dissenting opinions (including haikus), Harper claimed he would take the high road . . . only to take another shot at Cohen by claiming his review went against “400 years of scholarship.” Harper then took jabs at Cohen’s personal life and loved ones. He also responded to other commenters, calling them “gnats,” “poseurs,” “idiots,” and “trolls.” Things took a bizarre turn when Harper created a “list” of people worth talking to. Whenever anyone opined a different point of view, Harper would say they were “off the list,” adding, “I banish thee!” Harper argued with commenters from May 28, 2014 to September 3, 2014, when the comments section was finally locked. If you do have an hour of free time, have fun reading the full review and the comments section.
4Amy’s Baking Company Hates Gordon Ramsay And The Internet
Gordon Ramsay’s popular show Kitchen Nightmares has had its fair share of terrible restaurants, but Amy’s Baking Company—a restaurant in Arizona owned by Samy and Amy Bouzaglo—takes the cake. The experience was so horrid that it made Ramsay quit and refuse to help them.
A few years before they were slated to appear on the show, the owners responded to a one-star customer review with: “Do US a favor and keep your ugly face and you [sic] ugly opinions to yourself and go back to the restaurant that you really work at!” While they were being featured on Ramsay’s show, the ugliness ramped up. The owners were seen taking the tips of their waiters, arguing with the customers and mocking their food choices, and refusing every bit of criticism from Ramsay himself.
When the episode aired, “netizens” flooded the restaurant’s Facebook page with negative comments, which only led the owners to respond with: “I AM NOT STUPID ALL OF YOU ARE. YOU JUST DO NOT KNOW GOOD FOOD. IT IS NOT UNCOMMON TO RESELL THINGS WALMART DOES NOT MAKE THEIR ELECTRONICS OR TOYS SO LAY OFF!!!!” When the story reached Reddit later on, they responded: “TO REDDIT. I FORBID YOU FROM SPREADING YOUR HATE ON THAT SITE. THIS IS MY FACEBOOK, AND I AM NOT ALLOWING YOU TO USE MY COMPANY ON YOUR HATE FILLED PAGE.”
They also asked for religious and moral support: “We ask our supporters to keep us in their prayers . . . Thank all of you, and thank God. We will not bend to the will of these haters and sinners.” Due to the flood of negative comments and criticism, the husband offered a direct challenge: “To all of the Yelpers and Reddits: Bring it on. You are just pussies. Come to Arizona . . . Say it to my face. Man to man. My wife is a jewel in the desert. You are just trash.”
Later on, the couple claimed that their Facebook accounts had been hacked. By then it was too late—the story had gone so viral that Forbes even published an article about lessons learned from Amy’s Baking Company and what business owners should avoid doing on social media.
3Linux Is Obsolete
Just how far back do Internet arguments go?
One such early event occurred in 1992 on the Usenet discussion group comp.os.minix. Andrew Tanenbaum, creator of MINIX, and Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux, got into a heated back-and-forth debate about which operating system (OS) design was better. Tanenbaum considered microkernels, used by MINIX, superior to the monolithic kernels used by Linux. Tanenbaum would go as far as saying that Linux, despite being virtually new, was already “obsolete.”
Torvalds obviously did not like that, and he also began pointing out the flaws in Tanenbaum’s creation. Torvalds would point out that Tanenbaum could not consider MINIX a “hobby,” since he profited from it, while Torvalds gave Linux away for free. Torvalds would also claim that Tanenbaum’s job as a professor and researcher was the reason for the flaws in his system. The argument went on, and other experts in the field chimed in with their opinions. Both men thought that they were envisioning the future and argued about which OS would become superior later on.
Although the debate was mostly in good spirit (indeed, both men felt they had no ill will toward one another), there still existed a bit of rivalry even until recent years. In 2006, a magazine article written by Tanenbaum revived the old debate, and Torvald once again responded in kind.
2‘How Long Do You Freeze The Numbers?’
What is the one topic that’s so inoffensive that it’s hard to imagine comments devolving into unnecessary and petty flame wars? Cake. More specifically, rainbow cake.
In an article posted by Fox 101.9, a radio station in Australia, a recipe for how to bake a delicious and dazzling tie-dye rainbow cake became a viral hit. And it was not because of the tasteful treat but rather the tasteless and half-baked comments. While most of the rude comments have since been deleted, another website offered a blow-by-blow account of the zany incident. See, the rainbow cake was designed with numbers in the very center, signifying the age of a birthday celebrant.
One commenter asked: “How long do you freeze the numbers?” The rather snarky reply was: “Until they are frozen.” A fight broke out from that single comment alone. One person—”A baker”—found it rude, stating that if the other guy was “a real baker,” he would not have answered in such a rude manner. Later on, name-calling, insults, and cussing were traded by various readers. Politics came into play, with a commenter calling someone out for being “a Liberal.” That, of course, led to the discussion about the definition of “a Liberal,” about Republicans provoking arguments in cake recipe articles, and about how being a Conservative meant being a Communist. Some talked about how they raised their children to be good people; others went on to criticize the American education system. At least one person managed to sum up his opinion on the matter with a simple: “Hitler!”
The argument finally died out after everyone realized that they were talking about what was wrong with the US . . . on an Australian website about cakes.
1Innocence Of Muslims
In July 2012, a trailer for the film Innocence of Muslims was uploaded to YouTube. It remained in relative obscurity until September, when it was dubbed in Arabic. On September 11, 2012, coinciding with the date of the terror attacks on the United States over a decade prior, a wave of protests and riots began in several countries across the globe.
From the Middle East, Africa, London, Paris, and Copenhagen, to Bangkok, Jakarta, Sulu, and Tokyo, Muslim protesters advanced toward American embassies and cried out in anger at the video that was “designed to enrage.” In Pakistan, amid the violence, a national holiday was declared in honor of the prophet Muhammad.
The nearly 14-minute-long video portrayed Muhammad as a womanizer, a homosexual, and a child abuser. One portion of the trailer even depicted a certain homoerotic scene with a donkey. Unsurprisingly, this caused great distress and frustration among the Muslim populace of various countries, as it was an attack on their faith.
Dozens of people were killed; hundreds were injured. Among the casualties was US ambassador Chris Stevens, killed alongside three of his staff in a rocket attack in Libya. Fatwas were also issued by extremist organizations, targeting the film’s creator, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, as well as the actors and crew of the film. The crew maintained their innocence, claiming that Nakoula had lied to them about the project, overdubbing their lines in post-production as well as making them think the film was about a classic adventure in the desert. Nakoula did go to jail, although not for sparking violence but for violating his probation by using aliases and computers without approval from his probation officer.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are those who maintain that the protesters simply overreacted. The contrasting opinion is that Nakoula’s film was well within the bounds of freedom of speech, which in turn meant that Muhammad could be insulted. That is not for us to decide. We can simply consider the power of social media, the Internet, and how a short video posted online can cause brutal and vicious incidents across the globe.