Lott Believes Liberal Internet Activist Behind Website

July 7, 2008 - 8:04 PM

Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - Pro-gun researcher John Lott of the American Enterprise Institute believes a liberal Internet activist is behind a website that falsely claimed to be operated by Lott when it first went online but now presents itself as a parody.

The site's domain name registration was changed Friday, removing most - but not all - of the fraudulent information with which it was originally registered and adding details Lott believes may identify the site's operator.

The registrant name for AskJohnLott.org is still listed as "Mary Rosh," a pseudonym Lott used in Internet chat rooms after he received harassing and threatening telephone calls in response to online postings under his real name. Critics say Lott used the fake persona to bolster his image and shore up his reputation. Lott has admitted that adopting the alter ego was a mistake.

As CNSNews.com reported August 4, the creator of AskJohnLott.org posted Lott's photograph and a mostly accurate biography of the former Yale Law School researcher on the site.

E-mails from visitors questioning whether or not the site was actually run by Lott were responded to with messages signed by "John Lott," arguing that the site was, in fact, run by the academic well known for his research into the reductions in violent crime resulting from citizens carrying concealed handguns. But comments on the site and claims made in e-mails purportedly from Lott were inconsistent with his research and beliefs.

While the name "Mary Rosh" is still listed on the AskJohnLott.org registration, the physical address and telephone number have been changed to those of the employer of Internet activist Jonah Peretti, who is best known for publicly distributing an e-mail exchange he had with Nike after the company declined his request to personalize a pair of shoes with the word "sweatshop."

In addition to the Nike e-mail exchange, Peretti takes credit for creating social commentary websites including JusticeMachine.com, RejectionLine.com and BlackPeopleLoveUs.com.

Shared servers, addresses and phone numbers lead to conclusion

"I'm not a computer expert, but it seems pretty overwhelming that there's a connection between this Jonah Peretti and AskJohnLott.org," Lott said after learning the exact details of the connections between a domain name registered by Peretti, that of his employer and the AskJohnLott.org registration.

Peretti is employed by Eyebeam, which he describes in an online biography as "a not-for-profit arts organization focused on exploring the expressive potential of emerging technologies." Eyebeam.org lists Datagram.com as its domain name server.

Peretti, who is the registrant for the domain name ContagiousMedia.org, lists Datagram.com and his own web address as domain name servers. Datagram.com and Peretti's domain name, ContagiousMedia.org, are both listed as domain name servers for AskJohnLott.org.

Lott believes the shared physical addresses and phone numbers of the three domain registrations, combined with the interlinked domain name servers, lead to only two possible conclusions.

"I don't see how one can get around that he either is running it, or he knows in detail exactly what's happening with the website," Lott said.

Alleged hacker's e-mail address still replying to inquiries

As CNSNews.com reported on August 6, the operator of the AskJohnLott.org website claimed to have been the victim of hacking, having temporarily lost control of the website. Lott notes that, while the creator of the site now claims to have "regained control" of it from the hacker, the e-mail address the hacker posted on the site is still active and auto-replying to messages from the ContageousMedia.org mail server.

"It just makes it fairly suspicious to me that this person or group who is running AskJohnLott.org hacked their own site," he charged.

When CNSNews.com attempted to contact both the operator of the AskJohnLott.org website and the alleged hacker through their published e-mail addresses, the identical auto-response was received to both queries purporting to be from "John@AskJohnLott.org," promising to "reply to your e-mail shortly." No reply was received after more than four hours.

Lott believes Peretti should confess or identify site's creator

While he would not be surprised if Peretti denied being responsible for AskJohnLott.org, Lott argued that he should divulge the identity of the site's real registrant.

"He should tell us who has been doing this," Lott said. "He should be willing to tell us, also, information about the 'hacking' of the site and explain to us why it is that the domain name servers seem to be so closely tied in with him."

The telephone number listed for Peretti's ContagiousMedia.org domain name registration is a "PCS telephone number" that was "temporarily not in service," according to a recorded message played when CNSNews.com tried to contact Peretti Monday. Calls to Peretti's office and another number provided on his voicemail recording were not returned.

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