The world is full of evil deeds, friends. Criminals think they can get away with anything. But these days, more and more Internet users are turning into vigilantes, using their investigative powers to crack all kinds of cases, from serious crimes to general jerkish behavior. In this article, we’ll share 10 stories about cyberspace denizens just like you who managed to bring guilty parties to justice.
Burger King Lettuce Feet, 2012
Anonymity is a tricky thing on the Internet. Even if you don’t show your face or sign your name, you can still be found. When an anonymous 4Chan user uploaded a picture of somebody standing in two bins of lettuce with the caption, “This is the lettuce you eat at Burger King,” fast-food fans all over made it their mission to discover the owner of those shoes. Examining the EXIF data of the photo led sleuths to Mayfield Heights, Ohio, and after contacting the Burger King in that town, the employee was summarily fired. We hope it was worth it, buddy.
Spam King, 2002
Sending spam emails isn’t technically illegal if you follow the rules, but that didn’t endear junk-email overlord Alan Ralsky to the tech-savvy readers of Slashdot. After Ralsky was profiled in a Detroit Free Press article where he exhibited no remorse for his actions, Slashdot readers found the address of his newly-built mansion and signed him up for every piece of physical junk mail they could find. Catalogs, clubs, magazine subscriptions, charities: they all got Ralsky’s address and deluged him with paper. He threatened to sue, but tables turned on him and in 2009 he was sentenced according to the CAN-SPAM Act to four years in jail.
Jihad Jane, 2009
There’s plenty of extreme political opinions on the Internet, but when opinions turn into actions, we can sometimes have a problem. Born Colleen Renee LaRose, the woman who would become known as Jihad Jane was taken into custody in 2009 for soliciting funds to murder a Danish artist who had produced a satirical drawing of the prophet Mohammed. But that bust didn’t come from nowhere. A group of bloggers and researchers working against the spread of violent Islamicist activity had been monitoring her for three years, and provided information to authorities to stop her before she could carry out her mission.
Bus-Monitor Abuse, 2012
The Internet can be a great tool for drawing attention to situations that shouldn’t be happening. This happened earlier in 2012 when a video of Karen Klein, a bus monitor in Greece, New York was uploaded to YouTube. The video featured a group of students mercilessly mocking the elderly woman for her weight, calling her a child molester and threatening to physically harm her as she cried. Needless to say, the Internet swung into action quickly, identifying both the victim and the abusers. The kids were suspended for the rest of the year and sentenced to 50 hours of community service with the elderly. Kelin, on the other hand, earned over $700,000 when an online fundraiser was set up on her behalf. She plans on retiring.
Dog-Poop Girl, 2005
As lawless as it can seem sometimes, the Internet is actually a pretty great way to make sure that we obey basic rules of etiquette. Here’s a story from South Korea that really drives that point home. In 2005, an attractive young woman took her small dog on a Seoul subway, where it promptly crapped on the floor. The girl refused to clean it up despite the protests of other passengers. Luckily, just about everybody in South Korea has a camera phone, and photos of the woman soon were all over the Internet, labeled with the description “Dog Sh-- Girl.” It wasn’t long before she was a social pariah and was forced to drop out of college in shame.
Cat Abuser, 2009
Here’s another example of 4Chan being a force for good in the universe. (Who would have thought it?) In 2009, a young man posted two videos to YouTube of himself and his brother abusing a cat named Dusty. The boys were wearing masks, but a simple bit of fabric isn’t enough to stop the crushing justice of the Internet. 4Chan users quickly traced the videos to a 14-year-old named Kenny Glenn in Lawton, Ohio, and passed his information on to the police, who busted both Kenny and his brother. If there’s one thing you can’t get away with on the Internet, it’s being mean to cats.
Trashcan Cat, 2010
Here’s another example of the big, bad meanies at 4Chan using their abilities to protect innocent little kitties. When a British man found his family’s cat in a garbage can across the street from his house, he was perplexed as to how the poor animal made its way there. CCTV footage revealed a grey-haired woman depositing the pet in the bin, and that video was quickly uploaded to YouTube. The powers that be at 4chan swiftly identified the woman as one Mary Bale, and started harassing her and her employer. Bale’s response -- “I don’t know what the fuss is about. It’s just a cat” -- didn’t really help her case, and she eventually was forced into hiding.
Canadian Pedophile, 2007
Sex on the Internet can be a dangerous thing. We’ve all heard tales of perverts trolling chatrooms to hook up with prey. But what can be done about these sickos? One such man, Canadian, bald chubbo Chris Forcand took things so far over the line that Anonymous decided to shut him down for good. Forcand, who reached out to young girls with pictures of his penis and requested to be sent dirty panties, was thoroughly documented by the group, which assembled enough information to get the Canadian authorities involved and send Forcand to jail for a nice, long time.
Baby P, 2008
Oftentimes, the legal system takes measures that don’t satisfy the world at large. Such was the case with “Baby P,” a 17-month-old who was murdered by his mother’s abusive boyfriend, a man who had been reported to British child-welfare authorities multiple times. After they were tried, a court order for some reason forbade the names of the murderer and his accomplices to be released, but hackers got ahold of internal documents and released all of their names so that the public could be aware of just what sort of person could perpetrate such a tremendously horrible crime.
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Jerkface Judge, 2011
Parenting is a hotly debated subject on the Internet, but one thing is clear: you probably shouldn’t post video of yourself whipping your mentally disabled daughter with a belt. Texas Judge William Adams gave his daughter Hilary a nasty beating with a belt and a board in 2004 while ranting about her downloading music illegally. Seven years later, when a now-adult Hilary released the clip on YouTube, Adams faced a firestorm of criticism from all over the Internet, and after a public outcry, he was suspended from his position.