Sunday, March 11, 2007

CINDYBIN THE "YAHOO TROLL" STORY

FOR THE RECORD: Regarding "The Cindybin Project: My Adventures on Yahoo and Beyond", I want to state publicly that Love-is-a-Verb a.k.a. Pixie apologized after reading my story, and we were friendly again. However, after posting that story in April 2006 and hesitatingly returning to the boards, many Yahoo bullies became even more vicious, taking things so far that I don't dare post it here, and I was eventually forced to leave the old headline forums for good in early May 2006. Yahoo discontinued those boards the end of 2006.

Yahoo Trolling Story

The following is an article about Yahoo’s former headline boards, written the end of 2006. I came across this piece one day and found it well-written and accurate, even the part about my role in those forums. I am not sure who wrote it; I believe it is the same person who ran the now defunct Cindybin fansite and forums (which I did NOT take part in). But I wanted to include it here because it does a good job of summing up the whole Yahoo experience I went through, described in more detail in my story “The Cindybin Project: My Adventures of Yahoo and Beyond”. It started out so fun, all the banter and debate on those boards, and ended so horribly, what with the abuse, death threats and threats of bodily harm, people threatening to call their lawyer or the cops on me (because I tried to get them to apologize for hurting me), and other acts of meanness I cannot even go into here. I feel I will never be the same. Not just from Yahoo, but from the lowcarb site as well, also mentioned in my story. I also find it hard to believe that it all happened, that people thought someone like me couldn’t be real, etc. I always felt my values and beliefs were much like anybody else’s. I never thought my posts would cause so much hoopla. I was just trying to be genuine and sincere. In any case, the following article is from 365articles.com, a “high quality article database.” I hope you enjoy it.

THE STORY OF THE BIGGEST TROLLING PHENOMENON THE INTERNET HAS EVER SEEN

Yahoo is the one most visited site in the world. It gets over 240 million visitors each month. And not too long ago, within two clicks from Yahoo’s homepage, you could get into Yahoo’s message boards. And on these message boards, lies some of the most vulgar and disgusting messages you will ever read. Trolling used to be a past time for people who frequent these message boards. What is trolling? Trolling is when a person posts something online that is meant to generate shock or anger readers. Basically, it’s a way to get attention in any way possible, and usually posting something obscene is the best way to do it. Yahoo message boards allowed a reader to “recommend” a message, but trolling became so popular on these boards that vulgar messages would get numerous recommendations from other trolls.

No moderators equals chaos

The difference between a Yahoo message board and other online forums was that there were no moderators on Yahoo. People could post whatever they felt and usually what they felt was something mean or nasty. When the Yahoo message boards came online in the late 90’s, almost all the messages back then were civilized and as related to the subject matter at hand. But users started to realize that there was no one watching over them. They could curse and get away with it. They could insult another person’s beliefs or even their family and there would be no consequences. No moderators and being anonymous meant anything goes. People began going on Yahoo message boards not to discuss a certain story, but to troll the message boards and get a high from pissing off or disgusting others. Some have suggested that Yahoo didn’t moderate their message boards because they wanted to get as much page views as possible to generate ad revenue, while others say that Yahoo had way too many message boards and moderating wouldn’t have done any good.

Trolls competing against each other

Only after a couple of years, nearly half of all messages on Yahoo’s message boards were junk and was troll material written by trolls. This caused a problem for some trolls. Being a troll meant receiving as much attention as possible, but it was hard when you have a whole lot of other trolls competing for the same spotlight. So trolls began getting nastier and wittier with their messages. A troll who had posted a gem would receive several or more recommendations from the trolling community and their message would most likely be copied and pasted by other trolls on other message boards and their post would live on, while a failed attempt to be funny or disgusting would result in zero recommendations and their message would fade to obscurity and never be read again.

The most famous troll of all time

The most famous Yahoo troll of all time was a middle-aged housewife that turned into an accidental troll. She had quite a few hobbies such as making cakes and collecting dolls on eBay. But what turned her into such a celebrity in the trolling community was that she was absolutely against smoking weed and pre-marital sex…and she wasn’t trolling. She actually meant it and those were her true beliefs. Around 2004-2005, Cindybin appeared on the Yahoo message boards and whenever the subject of marijuana or pre-marital sex came up, she was always around to preach what she felt was the right thing, that marijuana was bad and pre-marital sex was wrong. The regulars who frequent Yahoo message boards came to realize that she wasn’t trolling when they saw she put in a lot of effort when arguing against drugs and talked like a person who worked at a rehab center. Now a regular troll would have been for drugs, alcohol and pre-marital sex, but Cindybin was against those very things and this made her the focus of a lot of people on Yahoo’s message boards. Being such an anti-troll has turned Cindybin into one. Other trolls began harassing her or try to become friends with her. Whenever Cindybin posted a message, there would be many replies, turning the whole message board into a discussion about her. Cindybin posted pictures of herself on her profile and on her homepage, thus giving her a face to go along with her messages. Perverted trolls would ask her for sexual favors or comment on how she looked. Cindybin’s fame grew to the point where it spawned many imitators trying to copy her name. Cartoons were made about her and she got her own fansite created by a fan. Eventually around the summer of 2006, the group of trolls called the Dana Crew angered Cindybin so much that she left the boards and has never been seen on Yahoo again. But ask any Yahoo message board reader who the most memorable troll was, and most of them will tell you it’s a woman named Cindybin.

The end of an era

On December 19, 2006, the Yahoo Headline message boards where most Yahoo trolls called home closed down and no one knows when or if they would be up again. The original Yahoo message boards were some of the oldest forums on the Internet, being around for more than eight years. Some former Yahoo trolls migrated over to the Cindybin forums while others went over to Google Groups. The golden age of trolling has most likely come to an end, and there’s a chance we might never see anything like it again.

ODE TO CINDYBIN2001: THE FOOD ABUSER

ODE TO CINDYBIN2001: THE FOOD ABUSER

It was Wednesday morning, March 7, 2007 that I checked my Yahoo email. “Ah, I got paid for an auction,” I said, and went off to the post office to mail the item. When I got home I later signed on again. But I couldn’t open my mailbox! “Oh no, don’t tell me I need to change my password again,” I thought. This had happened about a year earlier, where I mysteriously couldn’t get into my account, but after checking the help section and going through a procedure where I changed my password, everything worked again.

But this time was different. My attempt at changing passwords only got me to a screen which said something about how this account had been flagged by Yahoo and was not recoverable. What did they mean by that? How was I going to check my email? There were important things in there! I relied on that ID for eBay notifications, letters from friends and groups and all sorts of things. I started to panic. I thought about all those emails in my mailbox that were just sitting there, many unopened but which I had saved to read later. Many were from the past which I saved just to have, all neatly sorted into folders. There were entries in my notepad, lists of addresses and phone numbers and birthdays. Memories of the past five years or so, all tied up in that little mailbox. And I couldn’t get to it! What’s more, my little weight loss homepage and Yahoo profile were gone. And I was no longer a member of any of the Yahoo groups I had been in, and one group of which I was the sole owner disappeared completely. It was as if cindybin2001 did not exist!

“This can’t be true,” I thought. “It must be some kind of glitch.” I looked through some of the help sections at Yahoo, and saw something about how they will freeze your account for safety precautions if their system senses multiple attempts to enter your password. Maybe that was it, I thought. This was only temporary, and I would get back all my information in a matter of hours. I just had to be patient, I told myself. But it didn’t happen. I could not retrieve my mailbox or anything associated with that ID. The powers that be at Yahoo did take it away. The infamous cindybin2001 at Yahoo is no more.

After a runaround with Yahoo Customer Care (“Why did you delete me?? What did I DO???”), all I have received are form letters from their “food abuse” department saying that I violated their TOS (terms of service). I thought back to the last few days, how I had posted on a few boards at their new food section on the main page. Yahoo now had quite a selection of food and health related stories, and asked for comments which one could enter in a little box that were then posted in a list for others to read. All I could remember participating in were three topics: alcohol, tea, and diet tips. On some of the wine stories, in their “cheers” section, I stated facts from studies which say alcohol is unhealthy, and said that I disagreed with Yahoo running stories which promote and glorify it. I have strong opinions about this subject and felt compelled to speak up. On another story, a piece running on the front page which raved about the benefits of tea, I stated that there are studies which say that tea is unhealthy, and that it is also against some people’s religion to drink it, including mine. On a diet board, I tried to dispel some misconceptions about fat and calories, explaining that rather than fat and calories, it is sugar and refined carbs which cause weight gain, because they can raise your insulin level causing fat to be stored. These were subjects I knew about, which I had experience with, and I had merely been taking an opportunity to present a different point of view, to help others realize that there are many who do not agree with what was said in those articles and that there may be a better way of thinking about things. I did not use bad language or “harass” anyone or put anyone down. I didn’t even respond to others’ posts! I was basically just talking to myself, expressing my own opinion. I did see a couple of posts on one of the wine articles directed at me, where one person called me “sad” and another said to “get a life.” I didn’t read the rest of their messages because I did not want to get upset or start an argument. So I just ignored their nasty comments and stated my own thoughts and feelings. But they were allowed to hurt and insult me. Did they get banned? On one of the diet tips boards, I saw a post by a woman who actually agreed with me and who said something like, “Leave it to the Yahoo idiots to post a story like this.” I did not call Yahoo “idiots” or any other names, and certainly didn’t call any other posters names or say anything rude to anyone. I just couldn’t understand what I said or did that could cause them to yank my ID without warning.

On the old headline forums on Yahoo’s main page, one could say virtually anything. And I do mean ANYTHING. People said the crudest and most disgusting things imaginable. I had first discovered those boards in 2004, chatting with other posters there in order to dispel misconceptions people had about lowcarb eating, as well as chastise those who made rude comments directed at overweight people. I was appalled at the offensive posts there, and took advantage of the essentially unmoderated format to exercise my freedom of speech and stand up to some of the bullies. I spoke up against things like marijuana and casual use of profanity. People got into heated debates and arguments on all kinds of subjects, complete with name-calling, threats and every naughty word known to man. Within a short time, I became a very popular and well-known poster there, which surprised me because I always felt I was only being myself, not saying anything outrageous. I had fun and made friends, and tried to not take anything too seriously. But eventually things turned ugly when the bullies, those who mistook my comments as being self-righteous, began making fun of and cutting me down for everything they could think of. I was cussed out, threatened with death and bodily harm, abused and insulted more times than I can count. They really did go too far, saying and doing things that I don’t dare mention here. I eventually left in tears, unable to take the abuse anymore. Yahoo did have a TOS on those boards, but rarely did anyone abide by it, and even if you reported offensive posters, Yahoo usually sent a form letter suggesting you use the “ignore” option on them which prevented you from seeing their posts. If it was really bad, they might send the offenders an email warning. But very few people were banished altogether. I myself lost my temper after months of abuse, and said things out of hurt and rage that I would never normally say in real life. But I never lost my cindybin2001 account. I never even received a warning.

That’s why I was so shocked when Yahoo obliterated my account without so much as a “Please don’t say something like that again or we may have to take action” note. And I still don’t even know what I said that made them so mad—if it was the wine, the tea, or the diet tips! If it was alcohol-related, do they realize that if I told my non-drinking friends about these wine articles, that they might very well want to post their feelings against alcohol as well? All I would have to do is mention these boards to my church congregation, and they could come along and post the same opinions that I do, about both alcohol and tea. Would Yahoo ban them? And my lowcarb friends agree with what I said about fat and calories. If they all came along and posted what I did, would Yahoo revoke their ID, too?

I had had my Cindybin2001 account for years—since, well, since 2001! In 2002, after having had great success on a controlled-carb plan, I made a nice little weight loss website at geocities through that ID. I joined Yahoo groups, set up my eBay and PayPal accounts with it, used it on almost every other message board or site I had ever registered on. Most everyone knew me by that name. When I made that ID all those years ago, I never dreamed I would ever lose it. Why would I? I never did bad things! All I talked about was lowcarb and dolls! What could possibly happen where I would lose my ID and everything connected to it? All those unopened emails in my mailbox, letters and things that I had not wanted to read at the time but was saving for “someday”, they are gone forever. It may be a pain, but I can replace my website, hunt down and rejoin the groups, change email addresses, etc. But everything in my mailbox and all the information in any groups where I was the sole owner are gone forever. You think this stuff is yours, but it really is at the hands of Yahoo officials to take away as they please.

When I joined the old headline forums, I may have been run off in tears, but at least it was of my own accord and not by some faceless person in the Yahoo Empire. As horrible as those old forums could be, I think the new ones are worse, if my experience is indicative of what may happen to someone expressing a different point of view. I had barely posted anywhere for months after the headline forums fiasco, and then I finally decide to participate a bit on some innocent food articles where I thought I was safe, and my precious ID is taken away! How ironic that in 2004 Cindybin first went to the headline boards to speak up about food and health related issues, and three years later she is killed off for “food abuse.” This is crazy! If I knew that others were being banned willy-nilly, I wouldn’t feel so bad. But I can’t believe that these new boards have a policy where if you don’t rave about wine or tea or agree with their articles, the Food Police will come along and send your ID to that big Internet in the sky. How will I ever even be able to LOOK at those food boards again, knowing that if I speak my mind or disagree, it may be the last time I use that ID? It will be so frustrating I won’t be able to stand it. I suppose if I ever do go back, I will make an ID just for posting on those boards, a “throwaway” one where if it gets axed it won’t be the end of the world.

Moral of the story: Remember that you are just a number to Yahoo. They don’t care about you or how long you have had your ID, how much important stuff is in your mailbox or groups, or how hard you have worked to maintain your reputation. Your good name and all that goes with it can disappear in a heartbeat. Have backup accounts and mailboxes. Print out your address list, print up a list of all your groups if you are in many, join your groups under at least two names, if you are sole owner of a group, join under another name and make yourself owner, otherwise the group disappears. Or at least make sure you have a co-owner who will let you back in again and crown you. Don’t save emails thinking they are safe forever. If it is important to you, forward it to another backup email box or print it up or save it to CD or hard drive. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Oh, and don’t speak up against alcohol or tea!