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Posted 14 Feb 2000 00:00:00 UTC

In yet another example of the media completely misunderstanding technology, Fox News has defined changing a nickname on IRC as "vandalism."

It all happened in the middle of a live CNN chat with President Clinton. CNN was using a version of Internet Relay Chat which happened to crash every now and then when the user load got to around 1500. During one of those instances, a mischief maker managed to sign back on with the username of "President_Clinton" because the real Clinton hadn't gotten back on yet. The operators of the channel didn't bother to check if the user was authentic and automatically gave him a voice. That allowed the user to speak as the president and express opinions such as the desire for more porn on the net.

Anyone who has ever used IRC would recognize the stealing of a nick as an occupational hazard. To hear Fox News tell it, this should be considered a crime. "The incident Monday was the latest in a recent wave of cyber-vandalism that has already targeted CNN.com once before, as well as major commercial sites such as eBay, Amazon.com, and Yahoo!"

CNN has wisely referred to the culprit as a "prankster" and insisted to Fox News that they were not hacked into at all and that the person merely changed their username, as any user can do at any time. However, no mention of the incident can be found anywhere on the CNN site, including the transcript of the online chat.

Fox News is demonstrating the witchhunt mentality that has demonized hackers worldwide. Over the years, we've been concerned over the misuse of the word "hacker" by the media to mean anyone who commits a crime using a computer. With stories like this, it's now become apparent that the media is also misusing the word "journalist."

CNN Transcript

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