[These are comment by Bennett Haselton
the lack of consequences for Michael Sims' hijacking of censorware.org,
and how it's not a case of truth-is-in-the-middle. Used with permission.]
[This was written to someone who made a plea to resolve the conflict,
but also refers to trivializing and dismissive comments made in a
public interview by Michael Sims' supervisor at
Date: Sat, 20 Apr 2002 10:03:02 -0700
From: Bennett Haselton <bennett[at-sign]peacefire.org>
Subject: Re: Please resolve the censorware conflict.
Any discussion of the Censorware.org controversy has to start from the fact
that Michael and the rest of the former CWP are not "equal sides" in this,
are not "both right and both wrong", etc.
Michael did not own the Censorware Project and did not do a majority of the
work involved, he just hi-jacked the domain name and stole it from the rest
of us. The fact that people look at what he did, and look at the response
from the rest of the group, and call it "infighting" or "airing dirty
laundry" is frankly an insult to the Censorware Project and its work. If
the EFF webmaster put the eff.org domain in his own name and then hi-jacked
it from the organization, he'd be branded a traitor and a pariah in the
Internet community for the rest of his life, and nobody would ever forget
what he did. Same if it was the CPSR.org webmaster, the EPIC.org
webmaster, or whoever. But if the Censorware Project webmaster does it,
we're expected to "work out our differences" with him?
There is an absolute difference between Michael and the rest of us. None
of us, despite some personal animosities (not between me and anybody, but
between people that I know), would ever, ever do anything like what Michael
did. But Michael did it.
It doesn't matter whether or not Michael promotes anti-censorship work in
his position as a Slashdot writer; he's hardly making much a difference by
saying things that were going to get said anyway, and nothing he does there
will ever come close to canceling out the harm he did by shutting down the
one-time Censorware Project website.
The only legitimacy that Michael has is through his position as a Slashdot
writer; he has just enough writing skills to make his writings sound
seductively intelligent to anybody who doesn't know the real story. The
fact that Slashdot hired Michael should be deeply embarrassing to them, and
is in fact eroding Slashdot's credibility according to comments made by
some people who found out about the Censorware.org site. But Slashdot is
apparently too deeply wedded that decision to reconsider, and comments from
[Michael Sims' direct supervisor] have been more of the same along the
lines of "They should work out their differences" instead of
acknowledging Michael Sims's utterly disgraceful behavior as compared
to the average person. You think Slashdot really believes Michael is
trustworthy, after what he did? Do you think they're going to let him
put the Slashdot.org domain in his name? :)
I just sent twenty-eight of what I think of as the Michael Sims
"goatse" letter. That is, a letter to a webmaster telling them that
Michael Sims has hijacked the censorware.org domain for his rants, and
that he's maliciously redirecting them from the information they thought
was at the domain. I'll probably be smeared as a spammer for all
those letters, though every one was hand-sent with personal feeling in it.
My eyes hurt. My wrists hurt. How the hell does he get away with it
all? The Power Of Journalism probably means that my
effort at cleaning up his vomitus will get me more
"stalker/harasser" points. It's amazing.
What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org)
Somewhat repetitious, this weekend, I sent out around another twenty
such Michael Sims "goatse" letters (a letter to a webmaster
telling them that Michael Sims has hijacked the censorware.org domain
for his rants, and that he's maliciously redirecting them from the
information they thought was at the domain). My wrists hurt more.
Probably more "stalker/harasser" points for me
for shoveling the elephant-dung.
I've gotten some webmaster responses, all positive, all fixing their web pages.
I'm still bothered by how the hell he gets away with it all.
It seems to be that a few dozen webmasters
having a very negative opinion of him is a joke compared to the
The Power Of Journalism.
Update: So, to whom do I write, to
fix references to the goatse'd censorware.org domain,
in pages such as
My folder of Michael Sims "goatse" correspondence has now passed 100 messages.
This is including replies to me, my acknowledgements, etc, to what I've sent.
Somebody on Slashdot objected to my refering to what Michael Sims is doing
as "goatse", apparently thinking it's too extreme a term. I believe
it's absolutely appropriate and a wonderful description. A person is looking
for an anti-censorware report, or a censorware case legal archive, or
a censorware-related essay. Suddenly, they find themselves redirected
to an utterly obnoxious page. And it's done willfully, maliciously,
with the hijacked link intending to have that effect. That's what
the trolls do with goatse'ing links. And that's exactly what Michael Sims
has done, an uberTroll. Except there's no-one to mark him as (-1, Troll).
Bow down to The Power Of Journalism.
I heard that a little while ago,
someone submitted an
Ask Slashdot question about the
goatse'ing of censorware.org. I must confess
to being amused.
I'm a cyber-expatriate, maybe never again to receive
coverage in my native land ...
The problem is that in order to have an informed opinion, you have to
understand a fairly extensive set of material.
For example, you have to understand that I've been very worried about
being sued ever since I started doing any
anticensorware work, in 1995.
You have to understand that programmers
HAVE BEEN SUED
for anticensorware work. And that lawsuit took place downtown from me!
No fancy ha-ha-I'm-in-another-country Internet issues for me.
You have to understand then how vicious it was for Michael Sims, a few days
before the start of
a major Federal government censorware trial, to
to every interested censorware company, every decryption and
reverse-engineering he knew I had done, every detail,
in the words an attorney with Censorware Project
Then it's relevant to understand how this led to my idea of making a
Slashdot code proposal, to have the legal risk for releasing code in
the face of this behavior by Michael Sims, be in part
Slashdot's problem as opposed to purely my problem.
And so on.
That's a fairly complex chain of reasoning. The problem is it doesn't
even have a chance in an unmoderated discussion. It'll get crapflooded
into oblivion. Someone calls me a name. I repeat my reasons, ask
them what's wrong. More name-calling. More repetition on my part. Then
someone else attacks me for the repetition. Maybe I react with less than
perfect calmness. Aha! I've proven I'm indeed insane. What's the point of
going through all that?
This journal is an experiment for me. I'm trying putting in various updates,
or little slices-of-life showing what I go through, or bits and pieces that
wouldn't fit in an essay because they'd then be considered
too much detail or distraction.
I know people have called me various names. Believe me, I know it. I
What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) telling me that.
One of my failures is that I haven't found a way to get across how much
I worry I'm playing Russian Roulette with censorware lawsuits. That the more
I do this anticensorware work, the more chance there will someday be a
legal bullet with my name on it, locked and loaded on me. That has to
be understood for any meaninful discussion. But I doubt it's going to do any
good to repost this long message in response to every name-calling comment.
On your website. on the page
"Hot Issues" http://www.efa.org.au/Issues/
you have a link to
"Passing Porn, Banning the Bible" http://censorware.org/reports/bess/
Any links to censorware.org are no longer valid. The FORMER webmaster
of censorware.org, Michael Sims, hijacked the censorware.org
domain and turned it into his platform for personal ranting.
Michael Sims is now misleading people by intentionally redirecting
all existing anti-censorware report links and returning instead his
current flame. Whatever you think of it, it's certainly not the
anti-censorware information you expected.
For further validation, you may examine the public statement by
Censorware Project, which is archived at
It describes Michael Sims as "flipping out on us" and that his
domain actions "will continue to confuse people and divert traffic"
The new domain for Censorware Project is http://censorware.NET . All
links to http://censorware.ORG should be replaced with http://censorware.NET
Thus, the link above to
Please fix this link. Thank you.
Seth Finkelstein Consulting Programmer sethf[at-sign]sethf.com http://sethf.com
Disclaimer: I was formerly chief programmer for Censorware Project, but
I am no longer a member. This letter represents personal views only, and
is not an activity of, or endorsed by, Censorware Project.
N2H2 was using the recent
Federal censorware law trial
as a PR opportunity.
I don't know if he was implicitly gloating at me, regarding
What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org), and how
Michael Sims' actions had viciously derailed my planned related
efforts, such as
code release. Hard to say.
But it was a depressing moment. I was thinking about how this flack is
being paid to hype censorware, while I have to continually worry about
being sued (huge "negative" pay) for volunteer work against censorware.
Update: Another N2H2 employee explictly mentioned Michael Sims' smear-site to me.
So if there was any doubt, it's clear they at least do know about it,
and will happily use it against me if convenient.
What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org)
April 8 2002: From the-lurkers-support-me-in-email dept.
I don't think there's much point in posting generic he's-a-nut messages
(besides, who can tell if they're fabrications or not?).
But the following comment struck me as having much worth pondering in it:
Imagine if you were the president of the NRA and in the early days of
the Net had personally set up nra.org, and then fell out with them and
replaced the homepage with a rant. It's just insane. It's saying "my
personal shit, with someone I claim to have no need, respect or care
for, is way more important to me than my mission of seeing that this
important issue and goal are taken seriously and succeed."
Really pisses me off. It makes ALL of us look bad, and marginalizes
cyberliberty work even further.
Just sent him a (polite, pleading) note to this effect.
Obviously, the polite, pleading, note had no effect.
[Never forget The Power Of Journalism - my protests and defense are
accounted worse than Michael Sims' actions]
The Censorware Project is now closed. ... Jim, you and Seth can go
fuck yourselves. ... if a serf were to be accused of a such a crime,
he would go on a rampage, settling old debts with violence while the
At some primal level, I don't understand journalism. I'll undoubtably
be accounted worse for talking about this today, than Michael
Sims will be accounted for continuing doing this today. That is,
it'll be more proof of my bad character to continue to protest, than
it will be proof of his bad character to continue obsessively
hijacking the domain name and misleading people who mistakenly try
to find material there. It's great stuff, that journalism.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-- The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost
Let's see how this quasi-blog works ....