It’s Official: Troll Impersonations of OB Rag Staff Are Efforts to Discredit and Cause Dissension

by on January 4, 2016 · 7 comments

in Culture, Media, Ocean Beach, Politics, San Diego

troll onlineRecent 3rd Deliberate Impersonation Causes Dissension Between Well-Known Staffer and Readers

It is official: OB Rag technical staff have determined that there is a well-knowledgeable troll who has recently intentionally impersonated the emails of OB Rag staff and used them in comments to articles in order to cause dissension among the staff and to discredit staff to the readers of the OB Rag.

The most recent impersonation was of well-known OB Rag restaurant reviewer, Judi Curry, with a comment made using Judi’s email address and avatar to a post regarding a petition calling for justice for Tamir Rice, the 12-year old African-American youth gunned down by a white police officer in Ohio.

The comment disparaged Tamir Rice and his parents in their efforts to find justice and read, in part:

Point anything, at any age, at anyone, and you get what you deserve. Let’s see a petition against Tamirs parents for “failure to demonstrate adequate supervision”. No tears for Tamir here.

And because the comment carried Judi Curry’s avatar – a small head shot of her – several readers reacted to the comment as if it had been written by her – and responded in not too kind words (which have since been removed). One comment stated that she should stick to food reviews.  Others faulted her for lack of morals, etc.

Yet, perhaps due to the holiday craze, this was not picked up by OB Rag staff until days later after the comment disparaging Tamir Rice had been made. Once notified of the comment, Patty – the OB Rag techie – determined that the comment was not from Judi, but from someone else entirely. A troll, a flame, she told other staff members, someone deliberating trying to cause dissension among the staff and discredit individual staff members, she told us.

This impersonation of Curry was the third polished effort to impersonate OB Rag staff.

The first was of editor Frank Gormlie – when a very sarcastic comment appearing to come from him – was made to an article posted by another staff member. However, the comment was caught before it was posted online.

The second impersonation was made of another well-known writer for the OB Rag – who shall remain nameless in order to protect their privacy – ; a comment appearing to come from them was made to an article by Frank Gormlie, disparaging Gormlie, his lifestyle and residence. It was posted because it carried the email address of the other writer. Gormlie at first considered the comment as a type of inside-joke, until it was determined that it was not a genuine comment, that it was another impersonation.

Two impersonation? Maybe a coincidence. But three? No, that’s a trend, and an intentional and deliberate trend at that. All three of the impersonations have occurred within the last 3 to 4 months.

It is now clear that a troll is impersonating OB Rag staff in comments to online posts in order to discredit staff members with readers and to cause dissension among the staff. Some of the impersonations reflect some knowledge of the staff members who are being impersonated, which indicates some research and poking around of staff backgrounds.

Judi – once told about the impersonation – was very upset and told us:

I received a call today about a comment I supposedly made re: Justice for 12 year old Tamara Rice. The comment was nasty; prejudicial; and 180 degrees away from my feelings re: this injustice. To make matters worse, my picture accompanied the comment. I am absolutely outraged. NEVER would I make the comments alleged to be mine. Someone hacked into my account and lifted my address and avatar. This is a complete feeling of violation.

To further reiterate what is happening, Patty stated:

These comments where someone is impersonating one of our staff are being done in order to discredit us and cause dissension not only between us and our readers but each other. Although these comments may be posted initially we will remove them once we discover them.

She also has a plea to our readers:

If any reader sees a comment that is totally out of character for one of our staff please let us know so we can investigate.

And that reader can contact us in confidence at our official email address:

obragblog@gmail.com

We have to ask, why would anyone do this? Perhaps it’s more than one troll. But their aim is the same. Cause dissension and discredit.

The OB Rag has made a number of enemies over the years, and we have certainly received our share of crazy, nut-case, right-wing, or racist comments that disparage others humanity that are left to our articles. Most by far are caught by staff and never make it to the internet. Some do, however.

In terms of enemies, however, that we have recently made, the OB Rag has certainly stirred up SeaWorld supporters – and allies of a local hotel empire – who have taken us on by name.

Plus, over the last several years we have been notably supportive of SeaWorld critics; we ran a series on each of the captive Orcas; we publicize protests, etc.

Just to be clear: we have no direct proof that these impersonations of OB Rag staff have been made by SeaWorld supporters or staff or any hotel staff or allies.

But someone is pissed off enough to deliberately disrupt the OB Rag and its staff with these impersonations.  Their comments reflect research into the backgrounds of the staff members and a certain level of tech capability.

We’ll stay vigilante – and we ask our readers to do so as well.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Andy Rathbone January 5, 2016 at 10:06 am

Trolls are difficult to stamp out. But make sure every staffer (and the site administrator) upgrades their password to something more secure. This site can generate secure passwords:

http://passwordsgenerator.net/

Also, make sure to upgrade to the latest WordPress installation. It’s currently at 4.4 and it looks like your site is running 4.3.1.

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avatar South OB Girl January 5, 2016 at 10:39 am

Wow!! Kind of scary. Hope nothing weird got posted with my name!

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avatar Richard Hayes January 5, 2016 at 10:42 am

I certainly rose to the bait and expressed my dismay at what I believed was a real opinion by a real person. Apologies to Judi for my mild vitriol! Equally OBRag step you your cyber security…….

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avatar judi January 6, 2016 at 1:42 pm

Thanks for your apologies. (This is Judi – the REAL one.) I did not see the comments that I was supposed to have made. My editordude removed them before I was aware of it. He did tell me of some of the comments attributed to me, and I was as horrified as your were reading them. I appreciate your comment now.

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avatar Katy January 5, 2016 at 1:46 pm

I’ve been impersonated by pro-SeaWorld “truth team” members, who are the strangest people. Ask Anonymous to get you their IP addresses and file charges against them for “defamation by impersonation”, those trolls are too stupid to know that what they are doing is actionable.

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avatar Marc Snelling January 6, 2016 at 6:56 am

Spoofing an email is simple. In the unlikely case the troll did not use a proxy server, and you were able to trace the IP address, a defamation case especially involving the Internet is likely a waste of time. Trolls to the Internet are like pigs to ____. These kinds of tactics are consistent with the way SeaWorld has acted over the years. Infiltrating meetings, trying to case dissention and misdirect actions, encouraging property damage and violence, etc…

They aren’t very good at it, or we wouldn’t know about it.

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avatar Rufus January 6, 2016 at 6:58 am

Meh. This sort of tomfoolery should be expected when it comes to contentious subjects. At the very least it will keep you on your toes.

And y’all should take comfort in the fact that you have pissed somebody off significantly enough to make them go to such lengths. Rather than go toe to toe in the cyber pages of The Rag, they sneak in through an open window, like a burglar.

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