Dealing with Cyber Abuse in Australia
Since I won my defamation case against Google over Ripoff Report I have been the recipient of a significant amount of abuse and defamation by Ripoff Report, the website Techdirt and by others. This is one example:
Although pursuing legal action was absolutely not a life path I would have chosen, I have stood up and fought Google and the decimation is perpetrates on people’s lives and I accept that there are going to be critics.
After media was published about the forthcoming defamation trial, and in particular, when the liability decision was handed down in October 2015, I have been confronted with more than just criticism. I have been falsely accused of crimes such as extortion, threatened with physical harm, referenced in the most derogatory terms, ridiculed and humiliated on blogs, in online comments, and by way of emails sent to this blog. This is one example:
Abuse and Intimidation by Techdirt Followers
In February 2017 a message was sent to my blog threatening harm because of my case against Google over Ripoff Report and my support of a plaintiff who is currently suing Techdirt.com for USD$15 million.
Apparently, Techdirt’s version of free of speech applies only to those who hold and express the same views. Those who dissent are targets for ‘mob’ vilification and ridicule. Abuse from someone who lives overseas (as distressing as it is) at least does not engender fear of physical harm.
In late April 2017 I was absolutely terrified due to messages that consisted of an abusive and possibly defamatory comment by an Australian whom I later found to be living in Sydney. This was followed by a message that imputed that my Centrelink records and/or my emails had been hacked.
For several days, and until I was notified that issue of the imputed hack was solved, I was so scared that I was sleeping in a locked room and only leaving the house to go to the shops.
It started on 21 April 2017 when an Australian digital forensics expert by the name of Graham Thompson delivered an abusive and potentially defamatory message via my contact form. This person is closely associated with Techdirt as one of their ‘Insiders’.
I posted his message on my blog and stated that I would not comment on the Techdirt website. I later discovered that Thompson had posted that same comment on that website several days earlier with the clear intent of goading me into a response. I did not react and he apparently decided to ‘come at me’.
At that point I had not seen that comment on Techdirt. I made a decision in December 2015 NOT to respond to the defamatory and abusive comments on that website because it is clear that Techdirt regulars like to goad people into a ‘flame war’ and use their ‘mob rule’ tactics as a weapon.
The message imputing that I had defrauded the Australian Government was sent three days after Thompson’s contact. It was followed by another message that can only be described as an attempt to ‘back peddle’ after I published and tweeted very real fears.
But I have no doubt that the purpose of these messages was intimidation by Techdirt supporters. This was not a case of ‘playing the victim’. The comments on Techdirt directed at individuals who attempt to exert their rights online are often extremely vile and cruel and I am not the only target. It appears that this might be their idea of fun.
1 May 2017: Problem Solved
Upon receipt of the email imputing that I had defrauded the government I asked the question on Twitter to Alan Tudge MP, Federal Minister for Human Services of whether my Centrelink records had been hacked? The investigation was conducted quickly and I was called by Darren from the Department of Human Services and informed that they were taking this seriously.
Darren found that my records had NOT been hacked. The author of the email had looked at my twitter account, found two two innocent tweets from April 2015 thanking service staff for their assistance, and used them to impute that I had acted dishonestly. This was a clear attempt at intimidation for the amusement of Techdirt regulars and it worked! But the prompt response alleviated my fears.
Abuse by Ranjit Rana of Adelaide
In November 2015, a local Adelaide resident (who lives about 3 km from me) by the name of Ranjt Shamsher Jung Bahadur Rana commenced a campaign of abuse and defamation. It consisted of emails sent to me, emails sent to others and copied to me, and a Google blog containing multiple pages of false, abusive, and potentially defamatory content about me and other women in Australia. These two screenshots are from his blog (but there are many more in the police report):
I have never met this man. I had two communications with him. One on Facebook when he contacted me in November 2015 with a link to his Google blog and the other in an email sent from the gmail address email@example.com to which I responded:
Rana has quite a litigation history and at least some of this pertains to a police retraining order against him taken out by another Adelaide woman. The abuse did not stop in November 2015. Rana even included a copy of his passport in a letter addressed to Assistant Commissioner Karen Toohey, in the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. It was copied to me.
In a separate email Rana also sent this letter to the OAIC, a law firm, the State Department of Health, SAPOL, and two other individuals. This letter contained abusive and potentially defamatory comments about me and another Adelaide woman. I have chosen not to publish the names of these women or Rana’s passport photo for obvious reasons of privacy but they were put into the police report.
The Police Report
In November 2015 I reported Ranjit Rana to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN). My report was accepted and sent back to the Adelaide police (SAPOL). The policewoman assigned to my case was outstanding. The Department responsible for Public Prosecutions reviewed my case and said that more evidence was needed so she arranged for warrants to be issued. As part of the investigation, the police issued warrants to the tech corporations for information that could assist their investigation. However, the necessary information was not forthcoming.
This lack of response is unsurprising because in 2014 Google Inc gave me a range of excuses in response to a court order to provide information about an gmail account belonging to a man associated with Ripoff Report, Darren M Meade. When served with the order to produce details about Meade’s Google account in 2014, it made me jump through hoops in order to avoided providing me with the requested data. Note that the order WAS properly served:
Meade is currently being sued along with Ripoff Report founder, Ed Magedson for USD$60 million by an American war hero and surgeon. In addition to defaming Dr Pitman (and many others), Meade wrote on Ripoff Report that I and another Australian activist defamed an Australian Federal Justice for the purposes of extorting Google. Meade also posted a plethora of other defamatory statements on Ripoff Report and other websites, including Techdirt.
Meade has since published a video online in which he refers to ‘research’ ordered by Ripoff Report on the day that the false accusations were published. It is accompanied by Meade’s commentary about the ‘work’ ordered by Magedson. The video is available to watch on this link. the reference to me is at (6.40).
Catching the Cyber Abuser
The abuse continued through 2016 and into 2017. If the tech corporations had provided the necessary evidence I could have obtained a restraining order against Rana. This would have enabled some sort of protection from his relentless defamation, harassment and abuse.
On 6 April 2017, frustrated and upset because I had received yet another abusive email from Rana, I asked an internet expert to see if he could ascertain the IP address used by firstname.lastname@example.org. This was done legally.
Rana used a computer registered to the Department of Premier and Cabinet in the South Australian Government for at least some of the abuse. The IP address of the computer was found to be 18.104.22.168.
This IP address has been reported twice for abuse:
It was also reported for vandalism on Wikipedia and blocked:
Geolocation is not exact and the nearest location that my friends with expertise could ascertain for this computer was at a disability services provider, Accept, which is registered with the Department of Premier and Cabinet. On 15 May 2015 I visited their office and was informed they did not house any government computers. I will now need to seek a court order to ascertain its location.
This IP address of 22.214.171.124 has quite an interesting history. Logs show that on 1 May 2015 IP address 126.96.36.199 (associated with User:188.8.131.52) was blocked by Wikipedia. The same user, 184.108.40.206 was blocked by Wikipedia on 22 May 2015 using a Adelaide University IP address of 220.127.116.11.
Recently Rana has been sending communications to my lawyers and I and some of these contain false and defamtory accusations such as I posted child pornography on his Facebook page and stole his passport and photos. These also contain denials that he used the government computer with the IP address 18.104.22.168. But Rana has sent some of these from that same computer.
This screenshot shows one of Rana’s recent communications. Although he tried to implicate another Adelaide woman, Rana sent it from the computer with an IP address that he has also frequently used to send abusive communications to me.
Ranjit Rana Cautioned by the Police
On 16 May 2017 a detective from the Adelaide CIB called and said that he had interviewed (video taped) and cautioned Rana. If he contacts me or posts any further false, defamatory or abusive content on the Internet I can and WILL have him arrested.
In April 2017 I sent the information about the IP address and the latest abusive communication from Rana to the policewoman handling my case. The police responded quickly and I was impressed with their attention to finding a solution.
I understand that the police have to work within procedures and are under resourced. But the Australian government needs to do something about the fact that Google and the other tech corporations simply ignore or fob off Australian police warrants and court orders for information that could assist with identifying perpetrators of online abuse. It also needs to put in place accessible remedies for Australians forced to confront cyber abuse.
In 2011, when I filed proceedings for defamation against Google there was no other choice if I wanted to be free from the damage of serious defamation indexed at the top of a Google search for my name. Prior to filing proceedings I had notified Google at least a dozen times over a period of 18 months and received three refusals.
As stated on the blog of the former public face of Google, Matt Cutts, from at least 2008 it knew about Ripoff Report’s business model of using its high page rank to profit from online defamation and abuse. Yet, soon after my blog went online Google de-indexed it. It was only re-indexed after I complained on a blog on which Cutts was conducting a discussion.
Victims only want the abuse to stop. In 2011 if there had been any viable option other than launching litigation against Google I would have readily and happily taken it. This whole process has been physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting and absolutely soul destroying. It is now more than six years since I filed legal proceedings and it is not over.
Over the years since I launched this blog I have received volumes of emails from Australians who have been through the system and cannot find a way to stop the harassment because the overseas tech corporations will not assist. They are confronted with a dearth of options for effective remedies especially if obtaining the evidence is dependent on information held by Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Yahoo and other social media platforms and websites hosted outside Australia.
Unlike in the EU which has recently passed a motion to appoint an Internet Ombudsman, victims of cyber abuse in Australia either do not know what to do or are confronted with a barrage of closed doors when they seek remedies and resolution.
The Australian Federal Government does not listen to the problem. I know because I have tried on multiple occasions to elucidate the problem to politicians. Cyber abuse is a serious issue that deleteriously affects lives, families and livelihoods. At this point I know it is possible to provide easily accessible remedies for victims of cyber abuse but it is unclear how that can be conveyed to the Federal Government.