Ensnared in the Web

On April 30, 2003, my office phone rang.

Stephen Wolniak
Feb 13, 2005
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On April 30, 2003, my office phone rang. The caller, who wouldn't identify himself, wanted to discuss messages I had allegedly posted about the Eli Lilly Company on a Yahoo! Finance message board. Prior to the call, I knew nothing of the board's existence, but I soon learned that for more than a month, I was the subject of repeated attacks on the forum because I had been misidentified as an antagonist there who went by the screen name Mitosis03.

Users of the board thought I was Mitosis03, because in 1997 I had created a mitosis Web site as a cell biology course supplement.1 By 2002, the site was averaging more than 50 page views per day from students around the world, with each user spending an average of 2.5 minutes on the home page. When a board user searched the Web for "mitosis," they found my site and...