Internet Reality Distortion..

Imagine returning to your house to find much of your belongings gone and an army of strangers rummaging through your house and packing their cars and vans with your possessions.

When you try to stop them they wave a print-out of an advert from Craigslist that says everything in your home is available free gratis.

It happened in Oregon (via TechCrunch) From the AP Report:

The ads popped up Saturday afternoon, saying the owner of a Jacksonville home was forced to leave the area suddenly and his belongings, including a horse, were free for the taking, said Jackson County sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan.

But Robert Salisbury had no plans to leave. The independent contractor was at Emigrant Lake when he got a call from a woman who had stopped by his house to claim his horse.

On his way home he stopped a truck loaded down with his work ladders, lawn mower and weed eater.

"I informed them I was the owner, but they refused to give the stuff back," Salisbury said. "They showed me the Craigslist printout and told me they had the right to do what they did."

The driver sped away after rebuking Salisbury. On his way home he spotted other cars filled with his belongings.

Once home he was greeted by close to 30 people rummaging through his barn and front porch.

The trespassers, armed with printouts of the ad, tried to brush him off. "They honestly thought that because it appeared on the Internet it was true," Salisbury said. "It boggles the mind."


It’s not the first time either, a similar episode took place in Washington state last year.

I’d agree with TechCrunch that the Internet mirrors society and there’s always good and bad.

But the interesting thing, from a communications perspective, is that people consistently take the validity of content they find on the Internet at face value.

Now that’s scary.

5 thoughts on “Internet Reality Distortion..

  1. Tom, are you bored? You’ve blogged more in the last two days than you have in the last month. Not that I’m complaining, well not much as it’s all very interesting stuff, but I don’t like the people in my “Must Read” folder blogging too much. It’s far too time consuming as its the only folder actually read all the time!

  2. OK Stuart, you got me.

    I have been a busy boy.

    There’s a few reasons. Firstly I have had pangs of guilt about my lazy blogging recently. Secondly I am on top of my RSS feeds for the first time in a long time and finally (and probably the major reason), Sorcha and Cillian are enjoying an Easter holiday break with friends in the West of Ireland, and I’m working :-)

    Too much time on my hands in the evenings!


  3. Tut tut Tom. You need to learn cold turkey and disconnect.
    I am surprised there are not more stories like the Jacksonville one. A friend one mine had a similar experience after he split with his girl friend (at least he blames her). His mobile number appeared in an ad in Buy and Sell saying he was selling and Xbox with games for 10 euro. He eventually had to turn off his mobile phone and even changed the message to say he was not selling an Xbox. It effectively rendered his phone as useless for 2 weeks and tied him up answering the same message. Each time he turned it on he had 10-20 messages. They took down the online ad but it was too late for the paper edition and it all flared up again. Not great for someone in PR. The gardai took it seriously enough though.
    Web 1.0 was an easy place for revenge, I can only imagine the mischief potential that Web 2.0 offers.

  4. That is a terrifying example of community stupidity. Really shocking.

    How much value do people place upon information from no real reputable source (unless Craigslist as a whole is counted as such a source)? Is it collective encouragement of the stupidity?

    Eoin is right on the mark for ‘mischief’ in web 2.0.

  5. @Eoin: That’s unbelievable, of course now you are just giving people great ideas!

    @Richard: That’s the scary thing. Not only are these pranks pretty easy to execute, but there are far more sinister possibilities.

    Challenges lie ahead…


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