Wednesday, October 20, 2010

GRIPE SITES





"THE INVESTIGATOR," SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS, FEBRUARY 7th, 2009

Local KEYT TV news reporter John Palminteri has fallen victim to the latest trend in the art of revenge.

Adversarial Web sites, a.k.a. gripe sites, are usually created in the name of the intended victim, or some derivation (such as anynamesucks.com), to ensnare Web surfers in search of information about that person or entity and provide negative or embarrassing data.

The goal of gripe site operators is to be among the top hits in search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

Someone--in this case, anonymous--has created a Web site with the domain name www.johnpalminteri.com for the sole purpose of trying to publicly embarrass Mr. Palminteri with various allegations.

If one searches the newsman's name, this Web site is currently No. 5 on Google's hit list, hurdling the first measure of success for any gripe site creator: high visibility.

Another local gripe site--www.thedarksideofucsb.com--takes aim at UCSB. (It is ninth on Google if one searchers "UCSB.")

Alfred and John Donovan, a father and son in Colchester, England, several years ago established the world's most effective adversarial Web site.

Feeling aggrieved by treatment from the oil giant Shell, they created their site under the company's name, www.royaldutchshellplc.com. It strives, on a daily basis, to expose Shell's underside through research, investigation and leaks from inside Shell, which earned $35 billion in 2008.

"It is a way of taking on Goliath," John Donovan told The Investigator. "The Internet provides a low cost public platform for anyone to reach a global audience, giving ordinary individuals the opportunity to take on the powerful. Our David has already given Goliath--with its 100,000 employees and business in 140 countries--the PR equivalent of two black eyes."

Continued Mr. Donovan: "Our anti-Shell Web site receives several million hits every month and has become an interactive hub of dissent attracting whistleblowers who, through our Web site, have leaked many Shell secrets to the news media, resulting in huge embarrassment to Shell senior management--and also to the resignation of a Shell senior executive."

The Donovans do not earn money from their Web site (they do not sell advertising or solicit donations), but strive purely to sway public opinion against Shell and damage its business prospects.

There are a number of reasons why those with a gripe may turn to the World Wide Web over more traditional routes for finding remedy to a perceived injustice.

-- You can do it yourself, with little training necessary;

-- You can do it for the minuscule cost of a domain name and whatever time you're prepared to expend filling it with material;

-- It is an alternative to the judicial system for lodging a complaint. These days, no matter how merited your complaint, you are looking at paying a $10,000 retainer just to engage the services of a lawyer. This can quickly escalate to six figures without resolution;

-- It may lead to a pay-off of your complaint from the target of your site in exchange for terminating the gripe site;

-- It is good therapy; it relieves stress suffered from an oppressor;

-- It is more stimulating than solving crossword puzzles.