(Yes, this really did happen!)
On the first page of my old website, back when I used to be the postmaster for an Internet provider, I had the following statement:
These pages are MINE and MINE ONLY. They DO NOT officially represent [my old employer] in content or opinions presented. Unofficially, I'll tell you that not only do I run the place single-handedly but I'm actually a multi-billionaire because of this and other business dealings, the details of which I am not at liberty to discuss due to my standing within the government as an undercover agent for the CIA. I am now working with other agents across the country in order to to infiltrate the Internet and eliminate all those whose opinions I disagree with. Being a tech support person is just a front to support all this.
I put that up after the following incident happened. Not that it would change things, but it served as a reminder of one of the strangest things that ever happened to me in my professional life.
We had a user, a certain David S. of Indialantic, FL, whose account had been terminated because he was repeatedly spamming and harassing people (after a generous amount of warning, no less.) So of course, he calls me up at work and asks me why. I told him the reasons (as nicely as possible, of course) and spent much time calmly trying to emphasize that we (that is, I) had gone out of our way to tell him how to contact people first and ask them if they were interested before deluging them with a bunch of 500 K rambling emails on various political subjects. He had been mailing anonymously via an external email address but using our mail server and dial-in to do it, which told us he knew what he was doing wasn't kosher... but due to the great effort involved in tracking down just whose dial-up account it was, I had given this mysterious misguided soul the benefit of the doubt and decided to educate him without finding out for sure which one of the 15 possible people it actually was. That later turned out to be a big mistake.
When asked, Dave said that he got their addresses from webpages he found on the Internet. Unfortunately it appeared that his tenuous grip on reality led to a lot of angry recipients of his hateful, conspiracy-theory spewings. For example, his rantings on "gender confusion" went to a University of Maryland computer science professor because - get this - UMD had published a paper on women's studies way back in the 70's and he felt it was his moral duty to straighten the prof out. He expected the professor to pass this "truth" on to his students in class and save them from the "horrors" of homosexuality, free thought, and the pornography and perverts that fill the Internet (that's just how he explained it... I know that I see that all the time without looking for it. It just forces its way onto my screen whether I want to see it or not... but I digress.)
Needless to say, the professor wasn't very pleased to be on this nut's mailing list. Every one of these bizarre mails was sent en mass to all the congresscritters, to the President and Vice President, and for all I know the Pope, the Ayatollah and the Wizard of Oz. I honestly didn't mind the mails to the public officials at all - if you go out and get yourself elected, then you've just asked for that kind of stuff. But dozens of private citizens were complaining, and had gotten my employer blocked out of more than one other Internet provider. So of course, we had to do something.
Anyway, as I talked to this character and tried to explain why we can't let users just run around continually harassing people just because they had found an email address on some web page, the situation went downhill rapidly. The exchange that ensued will forever live in my memory as one of the strangest and most disturbing conversations I've ever had in my life. It went something very much like this:
ME: Well, Mr. S., I really have no place telling you what you can and can't believe, and I don't care if you send mail to publicly-elected officials, but when we get repeated complaints from the same people about your mail that they have no interest in, then you are breaking the terms of your agreement when you signed up for Internet service and we are pretty much forced to do something about it.
I didn't hear the rest because at that point I hung up. Two days later he sent a fax to the office asking if we would reconsider re-instating his account!! My boss looked at the record of his spamming and of course ended up sending him a short message:
We have received your request and do not feel that at this time it is in the best interest of our company to reinstate your account with us.
Somehow, I get the distinct impression that this has happened to David several times before.
On top of all that, this guy lives nearby and he knows my name. I'm pretty sure I'm now on some sort of list of known underground subversives that he's keeping track of. One day he'll probably get around to hunting down and killing us all. Actually I kind of feel honored to be on his s-list, but I do hope that if I get killed in the middle of the night, somebody will find this website and check into it.
As much as I love to give credit where credit is due, after some deliberation I have decided not to post Dave S.'s full name here (I'd really like to, I think he could use a few hundred of you fellow non-programming, abortion-supporting, undercover lesbian Nazi/Communist leeches after him to start pulling his chain). I had a friend of mine (with access to a every interesting state record system there is, don't ask me for details cuz I won't tell but no, they're not a hacker) look him up, and we do know that he's worth a lot of money. But since he always hides behind a cowardly shield of anonymity, I will just post his web address so you can go check it out yourself. His email is email@example.com and he has his list of "undesirables" posted on his site, The Roundtable Web Page. After the strange experience I had talking to him, I believe that everyone mentioned on there is probably entirely normal, or at least no more abnormal than I am. I bet that they are all his "friends" who wouldn't tolerate his bizarre rantings and then didn't buy his "poor me I'm being harassed for free speech and the whole world is full of conspiring Commie lesbians who are all out to get me" routine. His web site is pretty funny, even though I doubt he's capable of writing as extensively as he would have you believe... topics of hilarious interest are NAFTA, the Council on Foreign Relations and how they are conducting psychological warfare operations on all US citizens, and why RU-486 is illegal (and it's almost entirely all Bill Clinton's fault, of course!) If we're really lucky, and with some prompting by you, his loyal "fans", maybe we can get him to post a whole series of vitriolic rants on that evil, good for nothing ISP that kicked him off for spreading some "truth"!!! ;-)