August 21st, 2018
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
As a teenager in the early 2000s, I was a member of a large, passionate, and loosely affiliated community of Harry Potter lovers (known, like other, similar communities, as a fandom), mostly gathered on LiveJournal. We discussed the books and characters; we wrote fanfiction and long diatribes about the movie adaptations; and we formed friendships and relationships with one another from behind our keyboards.
One particularly memorable community member was a poster named MsScribe. MsScribe was, like most of us, just one of the large group of fans who found a community on LiveJournal. But she wanted to be a Big Name Fan — a small-scale celebrity whose posts and stories would be read by hundreds, if not thousands, of Harry Potter fans online.
To accomplish this task, she created a web of fake accounts. Some were her biggest supporters; others endlessly harassed her. It was an incredibly delicate and involved ecosystem of sockpuppets that she developed over the course of four years, and it worked. By 2006, MsScribe was one of the best known contributors to the LiveJournal community.
It’s become more and more clear the extent to which discussion across the largest platforms for expression online is broken.
And then it all came crashing down. My peers and I were getting sick of the months of MsScribe drama dominating an already dramatic fandom, and one anonymous user got fed up enough to take action: they posted an eleven-page document on her trickery. The evidence against MsScribe was exhaustive. Afterward, others came forward to fact-check the work. People checked IPs, cross-checked the journals she made and populated for her sock puppets, compared typing styles. The resultant post was filled with screenshots, links to specific overlooked journal entries, specific dates when specific blow-ups happened.
These days, that sort of post is called a “callout,” and it seems to happen every day.