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The Top Ten Internet Villains 2006

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People only really like villains when they’re imaginary characters. How many of us secretly rooted for Jack Nicholson’s version of the Joker, or thought Johnny Ringo was really, really cool? But that only makes for great tension in fiction. In reality, we want to see the villains crushed.

So it’s with the ugliest disdainful face we can make that we present the Top Ten Internet Villains of 2006.

1. Senator Ted Stevens

Whenever you see him you make a face worse than Walter Matthau’s. The Republican senator from Alaska, the grumpiest of old men in Congress, tried every questionable political trick in the book to squash Net Neutrality and get a telco-favorable grip on the giant series of tubes that is, according to him, the Internet.

He must still be angry over that internet he ordered that took five days to get there. From biased push-polls to sneaking votes just before Congressional recesses, from pork-barreling his way on the Bridge to Nowhere to putting secret holds on bills meant to highlight Congressional spending, Ted Stevens is one senator we’ll be glad to see retire.

2. AT&T, Verizon, et alia

The telecommunications industry has fought tooth and nail and wallet to block any sort of meaningful Net Neutrality protection. They say it’s to promote innovation and investment. They say Net Neutrality will destroy the Internet, cause commerce to stall, and, ultimately, kill people. But what they don’t say is that no protection of Net Neutrality means they make a lot – A LOT – of money at the public’s unfettered and unguided enjoyment of the Internet.

A cable network style Internet will destroy what made it great in the first place. But that doesn’t matter to the shareholders.

3. Michael Crook

It’s kind of sad a jerk like this gets so much attention, much less placed on a villain’s list as prestigious as this. He is, after all, looking for the attention. But this guy’s so ridiculous, and so dangerous for free speech, he made it to the top of the Internet’s most hated.

Some hate him because he says the Holocaust never happened. Others hate him because he says the US troops deserve to die. Still others haven’t forgiven him for tricking amorous Craigslist users into thinking he was a slutty girl, and then posting their correspondences (and personal information) on a website dedicated to Craigslist perverts.

But then, when people started talking about him and using a still shot from his appearance on Fox News, Crook sent out phony DMCA notices, which, bogus or not have to be answered in some way, to any blogger or publisher with the audacity to use his image without his permission, though he doesn’t own the image.

The EFF has filed suit against Crook for his abuse of the DMCA to limit free expression and Fair Use.

4. The Government

Ted Stevens and the telcos weren’t alone in their assault on the Internet. Uncle Sam and his Department of Justice (aka Secret Police) had their own, very chilling roles to play.

The rule of law, due process, liberty, the balance of powers, and privacy were put on the sidelines in the name of extreme justice. Pedophiles, gamblers, and pedophiles are out there somewhere and the government’s going to have to make deals with AT&T, subpoena ISPs and search companies’ sensitive private information, and rifle through US citizens’ reasonable expectations of privacy to find them.

Oh, and soon the Uncle Sam is coming after your taxable imaginary assets at Second Life, too.

5. Coca-Cola

Coke makes the list because of the company’s lame attempt at using search engine marketing as a PR tool to soften the blows to the company’s image after Columbian bottling labor unions accused the soft drink giant of assassinating and kidnapping its leaders.

The case against Coke was dismissed in US court due to a technicality, so there’s no legal admission of anything. But buying keywords “killer coke” to link to the dismissal seems awfully callous.

6. Robots

The robots are coming and they’re going to either enslave us or eat us, according to a group of technological futurist experts interviewed by Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Here’s a memorable quote:

“Fear of enslavement by our creations is an old fear, and a literary tritism,” said Paul Saffo, forecaster and director of The Institute for the Future. “But I fear something worse and much more likely – that sometime after 2020 our machines will become intelligent, evolve rapidly, and end up treating us as pets. We can at least take comfort that there is one worse fate – becoming food – that mercifully is highly unlikely.”

7. Edelman PR

One of the largest PR firms in the world, Edelman realized the power of the blog for image and brand management. When word came out that Wal-Marting Across America, where an RV-driving couple living in Wal-Mart parking lots blogged about their experience, was a fake set up by Edelman and authored by a Washington Post photographer, the whole blogging world turned up their noses.

Fake blogging by major corporations is instant placement on the Internet Villains list.

8. Scrooge McDaddy and His Box of Christmas Rocks

Shortly after our article was published about an eBayer selling an empty Wii box to torture spoiled kids with at Christmas, his auction was pulled. That’s most likely because he was promoting emotional child abuse, which I was sure to point out.

As recap, our Number 8 villain thought giving his spoiled kids a GameCube box full of rocks on Christmas Day was so much fun, and so effective at keeping them well-behaved the next year, that he decided to spread his genius parenting methods by selling a Wii box and a bag of rocks. $1.29 plus $20 to ship the rocks.

9. The MySpace Assassin

When planning a hit, it’s best not only to be sure the girl on your boyfriend’s MySpace profile is actually a threat, but to also offer more than $500 to the hitman to have her whacked. Also, it’s best to be sure the hitman’s not an undercover cop.

10. The French

Just because we love making fun of them. But they have been really snotty to Google. The French tried to rally the whole EU to make their own online library and their own search engine (both of which ain’t doing so hot) to prevent the so-called “omnigooglization” and the Anglicanization of Europe.

We bite our thumbs at thee.

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