Should Demonstrably Intentional Internet Disinformation be Criminalized?

November 19, 2007 | By | 5 Replies More

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit harsh. But I found some videos on YouTube purporting to show simple homemade tricks for getting power from essentially nothing. The culprit calls himself HouseholdHacker These are very slickly directed and composed, very amateur-looking videos, full of straight-faced monologue and how-to demonstrations, illustrating nothing real.

Sure, the videos seem to show how to power a 25″ TV from a single AAA battery, or an iPod from an onion. But I — as an individual who actually has a clue about how electricity works — am puzzled at the number of responders who actually try these things and wonder why they don’t work. I’m aghast at the apparent shills responding that they did try the techniques, and that they work!

Fume.

There is enough anti-science and anti-sense on the web from well-intentioned individuals. The rising tide of disinformation doesn’t need more heroes!

There is plenty of really bad advice for home chemistry procedures that only might injure someone (as opposed to certainly will). But these might be assumed to be attempts to recruit people for the Darwin Awards (perhaps a bit much for a practical joke). At least the works of HouseholdHacker will only produce annoyance and a few broken cables and small peripherals.

After all the Creation “Science” websites I view (bastions of misleading misquotes, side-stepping logic, and intentional anti-science), why pick on this source of disinformation? Because this guy appears to know what he’s doing, and appears to be showing his techniques working. Seeing is believing!

Point to discuss: Should we even discuss suppressing obviously intentional misinformation that is being widely broadcast? Is is bad that sources like Google might then (mis)inform curious innocent people?

First amendment freedom of expression? After all, if the bomb-designers and hate-provokers have the right to spread their joy, why not this relatively harmless disinformer?

What of the willful incitement to trivial destruction of property presented by HouseholdHacker on YouTube and at HouseholdHacker.com? Does inciting a few hundred gullible people to each ruinย  less than $100 worth of stuff add up to a $10,000 crime?
Was it a good idea to link to the posts from this miscreant? (My guess is, “no”.)

Speculation: What is this guy’s game? Is there some hacker contest to dupe the maximum number of technical ignorati?

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Category: Censorship, Civil Rights, Communication, Education, Law, Science

About the Author ()

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (5)

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  1. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I really think it shoud not be censored.

    Long before the World Wide Web became popular, there were thousands of computer BBS (Bulletin Board systems) that exchanged Various BBSes generated thousands of "How to" guides covering everything from how to get that cute girl in your 4th period math class in bed to how to build a nuclear bomb from household items…

    It was obvious that the vast majority of these textfiles were authored by people that had little, if any knowledge of the subjects, however a small number were well written and could be convincing to someone with little or no knowledge of the subject.

    Many of these files can be found at Jason Scott's website and are entertaining. A few in the Hacking/phreaking section are technically accurate. But , for the really weird, well written articles, check out the Keelynet stuff.

  2. If you let dumb people talk long enough, they will reveal themselves to you. They shouldn't be censored, but people should understand that they need to cross-check their sources. Here's some info about the Household Hacker hoax that I put together into a post:
    http://www.inoculatedmind.com/2007/11/19/monday-m

  3. Is nobody going to mention the x amendment that defines the right of people to free speech? ๐Ÿ˜€

    If you let dumb people talk long enough, they will reveal themselves to you.

    Which reminds me of this mini tv interview with an ultraright (in this case =Nazi) guy who got voted a couple of years ago in one of the Bundeslaender who formerly were part of the DDR. He was so dumb, so unbelievably dumb. He was not able to produce any coherent sentence and grammar was something alient to him. I was rolling my eyes all the time when listening to him. It turns out that many of these types got voted into the regional offices, but where so dumb that it eventually scared people away. They listened to the big eloquent demagogues and got sorely disappointed with the idiots they voted for.

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    Proj: The x=1 amendment was mentioned in the original post. As I earnestly disclaim, this subject is "for discussion". I don't really want another unenforceable, stultifying law on the web.

    President Lincoln is credited with, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

    Most of us in the blogosphere are busily working to remove that doubt. But some of us are more earnest than others.

    However, those of us who purport to teach (as with the how-to's on my MrTitanium.com and his HouseholdHacker.com) should be held to a higher level of veracity. HH is pulling someone's leg, but without the necessary "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" to let casual web wanderers know that it is a gag.

  5. Oh, I had overlooked this in your previous post, Dan. And my comment was meant to provoke a bit anyway, he. ๐Ÿ˜€ Most Americans will sooo defend the right for free speech, not matter what the issue at hand is; even the Ku Klux Clan and the Nazis should be granted freedom of speech. I find that somewhat more disturbing than these bits of misinformation on the web.

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