CESNUR's war on Mr Martinelli  

Introvigne goes back to the anti-cultists, quoting an anonymous Usenetter who claimed that Scientologists put LSD on someone's toothbrush. This single episode is supposed to provide the reader with a complete idea about newsgroups. The toothbrush brings Introvigne to speak the incredible "study" he had his followers do on Usenet. 

I never had to do with Usenet groups; so it was by chance that I learned that these mysterious cyberplaces were being invaded by what amounted to over one hundred messages of personal insults against me. 

However, it had a bizarre conclusion, when Introvigne told the world that these "inflatable doll" messages were part of a "study" on Usenet groups. He claims he had a group of his followers "answer anti-cult postings" on Usenet, in an anonymous "covert participation observation programme." 

Even taking this statement at face value, there are some rather obvious ethical considerations. 

By Introvigne's own admission, the study was only decided in February; for one month, the CESNUR activists read up furiously to find what Internet was. They then launched a three month campaign of promotion of CESNUR and denigration of its adversaries, breaking every known rule of Netiquette. Something like a bull doing research on crockery sales in shops. 

Introvigne then told the Internet community that he had discovered what their world was all about: Netizens are terrorists affected by information overload and "disinhibition." A conclusion he had obviously already come to before starting the study, since the title decided in February already spoke of "anti-cult terrorism." Shortly after, Introvigne gave practical expression to what he thinks of freedom of speech on Internet by suppressing our website. 

Describing this "participant observation", Introvigne speaks of "fierce flame wars" on "both sides." Actually, as far as I know, the whole group of CESNUR activists posted their insults for three months almost unopposed, except for some occasional replies by Martinelli, an Italian living in Brazil who has little to do with any "anti-cult movement." The lack of opposition led the CESNUR people to invent a few offensive false posts in my name, and several obscene personal insults against a lady belonging to a Catholic cult-monitoring organisation, apparently in an attempt to elicit a reaction which never came. 

This "study" leads Introvigne to draw a few "conclusions" about Usenet in general, rather than about his brave but solitary opponent, Mr Martinelli; Martinelli is accused of looking for "crucial documents", of suffering from "Internet disinhibition" and of "escalating conflicts." I leave it to Martinelli, should he wish to reply, to comment on this extraordinary outpouring of taxpayers' money devoted to exploring his psyche.