The Witchfinder has an obsessive fan.
Not so long ago, members of the Block Bot team tried reporting me to the police. That did not work out so well for them. However one argument they advanced was that if they block someone and that person continues to try to contact them, that is harassment. So under their rationale if Betty blocks Bob and he keeps trying to contact her (e.g. by @ messages) directly at her then that is harassment.
Understandably then I was surprised, having blocked Block Blot Administrator @MAMelby, to be repeatedly tagged in to a whole bunch of tweets. Melby tweeted me 8 times on 01/05/2015 alone! Which I archived. She also knows she is blocked. Talk about stalker movie.
I do not mean to be funny but you really can go to prison in the UK for this crap. My explanation for unwanted contact with Billingham and Brown was litigation but unless you are suing someone or have some other good reason it really could be harassment. Melby has no such lawful reason so maybe reporting me for something and doing worse was unwise. If she was doing it on behalf of someone else they could be in trouble for it too.
In any case, I was sufficiently irritated to trace her. Turns out somewhat disturbingly that @MAMelby is actually a teacher at an educational institution in Minnesota. She has happily named me online and there is a public interest in my naming her – especially given all the hate speech and language used in the Block Bot project. For example the awesome Louise Mensch is tagged as, amongst other things, #Whitey. Block Bot blocker Sarah Noble was disciplined by her own political party for hate speech.
Therefore I am happy to disclose that MAMelby is Marian Aanerud [Typo corrected] of the University of Minnesota, Rochester. I decided to complain about Melby to her employer as it looks like she could be in breach of her employers and Minnesota’s conduct requirements for teachers. I copied her in and in response got a bizarre screed about libel tourism and the SPEECH Act.
This was strange as I had not even threatened a lawsuit. All I did was make an (administrative) complaint and point out racist and otherwise objectionable aspects of the Block Bot and some regrettable aspects of Melby’s online conduct.
My personal view on the Block Bot is that a number of highly, um … opinionated people created a tool to block harassment they had provoked (but which was nonetheless unacceptable). However, the tool has got out of control and the people running it are ill equipped to deal with the problems it has created.
As a kindness, my complaint to the educational institution suggests Melby’s superiors give her guidance (although I also point out her behaviour could give grounds for termination). However this is really me being nice. Melby has hassled a lot of people online and is happy go after IRL attributes like names. I just feel sorry for her.
I will give the Minnesota institution an opportunity to deal with matters. They must realise the potential drawbacks of the Block Bot vicious attacking large numbers of journalists and the reputational risks to those involved. If there is further objectionable conduct then there will be appropriate media scrutiny. In addition Minnesota has a teacher licensing and regulatory system that can take action such as revoking a teaching license in some circumstances. Melby needs to take the hint.
Today, after my complaint Melby has been creepily obsessing over me again, storifying tweets and saying, “So our favorite “British Historical Figure” is having a happy dance that the ICO is talking to us – when we contacted them months ago.” She pointed to a tweet on 28/03/2015 in which the Block Bot claimed they had asked for advice.
Perhaps they did but but the email being circulated is a response to our complaints and 28/03/2015 is nearly a month after Billingham was served with a letter before action. Pointing to their belated conduct is not a defence to my claim. If their actions are incompliant asking for advice does not get Billingham off the hook.