John Bokma Harassment (DreamHost Review)

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This article documents a incidence with dreamhost.com web hosting service provider. My website xahlee.org is hosted by them in 2006.

Summary

I post a lot controversial opinions to newsgroups. They are about programing languages, and usually to 4 or 5 comp.lang.* newsgroups, at a rate of perhaps 4 times a year in the past few years. They are posted from using Google newsgroup service at groups.google.com. My post usually contains a URL to my site xahlee.org that hosts the original article in HTML. Other than that, it has nothing to do with my the web hosting service provider i was using (which is DreamHost.com in 2006)

Because my posts are often harsh and criticize many programing languages or the community or leadership, they are controversial, many call me a troll. In 2006, one particular guy, John Bokma, lobbies people to have my web hosting service provider kick me off. This article is the full detailed account of this incidence.

Detail

In 2006-04-25, I posted a essay to 5 newsgroups titled “Criticism versus Constructive Criticism”.

In the past years, my posts to online forums tend to be controversial, and my opinions are rather unpopular, and my writings arrogant. For this reason, many males have disliked me.

One guy, John Bokma, started to harass me by lobbying people to send complaints to my web hosting service provider.

I did not expect my web hosting service provider to heed this ridiculous complaint. However, my web hosting service is dreamhost.com, and seems to be a very small company run by mostly tech geeks. And, the guy responsible for the abuse reports seems to agree with John's plea is taking issues with me, with the statement that my account may be canceled if i continue.

This event is ridiculous. There is nothing much I can do. This case as a harassment by John is too trivial to take it up to courts. And, my web hosting service provider's contract contain clauses that essentially says they have the final right to cancel account without any cause.

The thread can be seen at google archived at:

Newsgroups: comp.lang.perl.misc, comp.lang.python, comp.lang.java.programmer, comp.lang.lisp, comp.lang.functional
From: "Xah Lee" <x…@xahlee.org>
Date: 25 Apr 2006 12:21:43 -0700
Local: Tues, Apr 25 2006 3:21 pm
Subject: Xah's Edu Corner: Criticism vs Constructive Criticism

groups.google.com archive

The following is one of the last email (so far) of my response to my web hosting provider.

From: 	  xah@xahlee.org
Subject: 	Re: [xah 7265318] Account Concerns...
Date: 	2006 April 28 5:13:23 PM PDT
To: 	  support@dreamhost.com

Dear Jeff,

your contract and policies have these clauses:

«DreamHost reserves the right to disable any account at any time
should it feel there is a reasonable suspicion that it is being used
in conjunction with the practice of spamming.»

«This contract may be terminated by either party, without cause, by
giving the other party 30 days written notice....»

So, i do not seem to have legal background to argue with you. As long
as your company believes that I'm violating the code or don't feel
liking dealing with me, your contract gives you the right to terminate
my account.

I looked at your company's contact info page
http://www.dreamhost.com/contact.cgi

and there's not a phone number I can find to talk with your company. I
would like to speak to you on the phone, and possibly you may see that
I have a point.

This John Bokma guy is doing harassment. Please take a look at the
thread and see there are supporters on my side. (and i receive regular
"thank you" emails from professors, students, programers, and other
walks of life around the world every week since about 1997) See also (
http://xah-lee.livejournal.com/15562.html , a recommendation of my
plight by a professor in UC Davis. I would call for more reputable
advocates if you like.)

The case is too small to be a legal case and there's really not much I
can do about it. What if you are helping the harasser? Spam is legally
defined to be about sending hundreds or thousands of massive emails,
usually in conjunction of forging identify or other devious means or
economic gain. I have done none of these. My posts, about once every 2
weeks in relevant computing groups and on topic too and is valued by
many of the readers.

I might want to send a complaint to John Bokma's ISP or web hosting
services to log a complaint. That is really not what i like to
do. Because I believe that ISPs in general should not function as part
of the government, unless it is in clear violation of the law that are
tied to their business, such as clearly defined terms of spam.

Accusing me of spam or violating your company policies seems
outrageously ridiculously to me on several grounds. (1) I did not use
your service to post the message in question. (2) Even if I did, my
posts in question is not spam and is not violation of ANY web hosting
companies anywhere in any legal aspects.

This John Bokma, according to groups.google.com's archive, he posts
perhaps tens times more than me whose contents have no value and no
relevancy to computer languages. He is typical of students and
computing geeks on newsgroup. He attacks me because what I say and my
writing style is unpopular. In this thread “Criticism versus
Constructive Criticism”, he has posted 16 messages all cross-posted to
5 news groups. Their content has nothing to do with computing
whatsoever nor contending my on-topic writings, but to lobby a
personal attack on me. And please note, if you read his messages, he
hides between seriousness and humor. So, on one hand he harass me by
finding my website XahLee.org's service provider and sending and
lobbying complaints of abuse with absolutely no cost on his part. (The
proper complaint should be send to google groups). On the other hand,
he take a non-serious style so that he seems to be half-joking and
good-natured.  (
http://groups.google.com/group/comp.lang.perl.misc/browse_frm/thread/8fec378b74263f25?
)

Newsgroups is in general a un-moderated forum, and a import part of
that is that because people want it to remain that way through its
history. It is a place where alternative opinions can go, and many
socially important events have originated from newsgroup's uncensored
nature. My posts are on-topic, relevant, serious, I use my true
identity (even anonymous posts are widely protected as a right), and i
content that my post are highly valued. If anything, in USA freedom of
speech is highly valued. Please consider these aspects as well.

My cell phone is xxx-xxx-xxxx if you feel like letting me know your
point of view.

  Xah
  xah@xahlee.org
∑ http://xahlee.org/

On 2006 Apr 28, at 11:55 AM, DreamHost Customer Support Team wrote:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Please consider filling out our 15-second feedback form on this message!
http://www.dreamhost.com/survey.cgi?n=7265318&m=8860552
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hello Xah,

│ Technically, my behavior in newsgroups really don't
│ have anything to do with your company. It was posted
│ through google.com's service.

This is not correct - if you are posting using an email return address
that is hosted by us, or promote a URL of a domain that we host, it is
being done in conjunction with our services and is subject to our
policies.

	http://www.dreamhost.com/spam.html

│ It is not gonna be good for me (nor you) to bicker
│ over this.

No, it won't. If you continue spamming newsgroups with unrelated
cross-posts and do so in cojunction with our services in any manner, your
account will be disabled without any further notice. Please consider this
your final warning.

Jeff

-- 
	  DreamHost Support Team  +  support@dreamhost.com
 Earn over $97 for each referral: http://www.dreamhost.com/rewards.html
       To continue this support case, just reply to this email.
     Open a new case at: https://panel.dreamhost.com/?tab=support

Here is one response i got from DreamHost: dreamhost_20060428.txt, which i did not reply.

Then, about 3 weeks later, I got this notice:

To: p0lyglut@yahoo.com
From: "DreamHost Customer Support Team" <support@dreamhost.com>
Subject: Re: [xah 7443239] Account Concerns...
Date: Thu, 18 May 2006 16:16:41 -0700 (PDT)

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Please consider filling out our 15-second feedback form on this 
message!
http://www.dreamhost.com/survey.cgi?n=7443239&m=5520043
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hello Xah,

It appears that you have continued to cross-post messages to Usenet
newsgroups which have only the vaguest correlation to your posting,
even after being instructed not to do so.

Given that it is apparent then this activity will not cease, please
consider this message a formal notification that your account will be
disabled 30 days from this date. You should use this time to find
alternative hosting arrangements elsewhere.

	http://www.dreamhost.com/tos.html
	(see #1 under "Termination")

After 30 days, your account will be disabled. We will of course provide
you with a refund of any unused portion of your account payment at that
time. If you have any questions, please let me know.

Jeff

-- 
	  DreamHost Support Team  +  support@dreamhost.com
 Earn over $97 for each referral: http://www.dreamhost.com/rewards.html
       To continue this support case, just reply to this email.
     Open a new case at: https://panel.dreamhost.com/?tab=support

He says that:

It appears that you have continued to cross-post messages to Usenet newsgroups which have only the vaguest correlation to your posting, even after being instructed not to do so.

This “continued to cross-post messages to Usenet newsgroups” must refer to the following posts.

These messages are posted through groups.google.com and are cross-posted to: comp.lang.perl.misc, comp.lang.python, comp.lang.java.programmer, comp.lang.lisp, comp.lang.functional. I have never used dreamhost to post any newsgroup messages.

I asked the person to speak to his manager, and he said he'll forward it. I wrote the following:

From: xah@xahlee.org
Subject: Re: [xah 7450714] Account Concerns...
Date: 2006 May 22 6:17:04 PM PDT
To: support@dreamhost.com

To Dreamhost manager and Jeff:

Recently I've been given a 30 day notice about the cancellation of my
account, the reason given is my alleged spam activity.

Your policy at http://www.dreamhost.com/tos.html contains this clause.

«TERMINATION

This contract may be terminated by either party, without cause, by
giving the other party 30 days written notice. ...»

Even though you have the legal right to terminate accounts without
cause, but I do not think this is a reasonable business practice in my
case.

I have sent to your abuse department about my reasons against this
alleged spam activity, archived here:
http://xahlee.org/Periodic_dosage_dir/t2/harassment.html

I am very serious about my posts and behavior online and am fully
aware what I am doing. If I get kicked out, I will publish this
incident as factually as possible, with records of all communications
and the newsgroup threads in question, and I will attempt to contact
Electronic Frontier Foundation as well as Better Business bureau, as a
record and to defend myself against future harassment.

I very much like DreamHost.com service. I think the price is right and
the service and quality is fantastic and you people are responsible
people and your company policy good for society. Would you consider to
re-evaluate this accusation against me? I'm aware at least 2 people
(no relation to me) who have sent email to your company in defense of
me, and in the newsgroups there are possibly half who expressed that
this spam accusation is not just.

Sincerely,

  Xah
  xah@xahlee.org
∑ http://xahlee.org/

Their reply is here: dreamhost_20060523.txt

On 2006-05-24, I wrote the following reply

From: xahlee <xah@xahlee.org>
Subject: Re: [xah 7484998] Account Concerns...
Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 02:06:57 -0700
To: DreamHost Customer Support Team <support@dreamhost.com>

This is not right!

How can you kick me just because some random joe didn't like my
writings?

I don't know how many complaints you received, but i'm sure Martin
Luther King, Ghandi, Bertrand Russell, or even Larry Flynt has
received far more complaints in their lives?

I'm posting to newsgroup, which is a non-moderated forum that is
historically the bedrock of controversial messages. I'm posting about
1 message per week, using my real name, an essay related to computing
industry and programing, to 5 computing language groups. You call that
spam and wronged your policy? I've know at least 2 persons who sent to
your company in defense of me, without my involvement whatsoever, and,
a survey of the newsgroup of the threads in question you can see that
perhaps half of all the people who expressed opinion on this do not
think what John Bokma's doing is right.

Where did Free Speech go?

What policy did I violate in your company exactly?

You are a business entity. I don't understand why are you doing
this. Are you doing this for justice? are you doing this for business
gain? are you doing this to avoid trouble?

   Xah
   xah@xahlee.org
∑ http://xahlee.org/

In the same day (2006-05-24), I posted the following to the 5 newsgroups. (Original raw source: xah_20060524.txt)

From: "Xah Lee" <xah@xahlee.org>
Newsgroups: comp.lang.perl.misc,comp.lang.python,comp.lang.java.programmer,comp.lang.lisp,comp.lang.functional
Subject: John Bokma harassment
Date: 24 May 2006 01:29:37 -0700

I'm sorry to trouble everyone. But as you might know, due to my
controversial writings and style, recently John Bokma lobbied people
to complaint to my web hosting provider. After exchanging a few
emails, my web hosting provider sent me a 30-day account cancellation
notice last Friday.

I'm not sure I will be able to keep using their service, but I do hope
so. I do not like to post off-topic messages, but this is newsgroup
incidence is getting out of hand, and I wish people to know about it.

I wrote some full detail here:
http://xahlee.org/Periodic_dosage_dir/t2/harassment.html

If you believe this lobbying to my webhosting provider is unjust,
please write to my web hosting provider abuse@dreamhost.com

Your help is appreciated. Thank you.

   Xah
   xah@xahlee.org
 ∑ http://xahlee.org/

Their reply was here: dreamhost_20060524.txt, which basically said i've been warned “It was explained to you that such excessive, off-topic cross-posting would not be allowed.” and that i still do it, therefore they are going to kick.

My reply to them: xah_20060527.txt. (they have also relied to this.)

By this time, the newsgroup thread at http://groups.google.com/group/comp.lang.python/browse_frm/thread/28edb6b248dbae85 has about 100 messages on this issue, posted by perhaps 50 people. I think, about 2/3 of those people find this case injust, and have wrote to my webhosting service provider on my hehave.

John Bokma continues to lobby people to complaint to my web hosting service provider, and also lobbying people to sent complaints to my Internet Service Provider. He does this in the newsgroup discussion groups, cross-posted to the 5 newsgroups on computing languages.

If you have any comments and suggestions, or how to deal with this John Bokma guy, please write to me at xah@xahlee.org or leave a comment at my blogs site: http://xah-lee.livejournal.com/19307.html, or send your view to abuse@dreamhost.com .

Dreamhost.com has indeed kicked me out after the 1 month period. I have not done anything about it (yet). I have switched to 1and1.com as my hosting company. (as it turns out, 1and1.com's service/price ratio is actually better than dreamhost.com, and 1and1.com is not a small company.)

I started the business reporting them to Better Business Bureau http://odr.bbb.org/odrweb/public/GetStarted.aspx.

This is their address:

New Dream Network LLC
(Dream Host)
417 Associated Road, PMB 257
Brea, CA 92821
dreamhost site
Screenshot of dreamhost.com as of 2006-07-24

The BBB that handles businesses of their locality is at:

BBB of the Southland
(Colton, CA)
315 N. La Cadena 
Colton, CA 92324-2927
Phone: (909)825-7280
Fax: (909)825-6246
Email: info@labbb.org
Web: http://www.labbb.org

For some reason, their site is down as of now (2006-07-24) and i didn't get to a page where i describe exactly what's is my complaint. (after filling out few pages of forms regarding the company's info and FAQ etc, at the end i'm supposed to be redirected to a page of the pertinent local BBB site to describe my complaint, but instead i just got redirected to BBB.org instead.)

From another private email, i heard that at least one person had similar experience where he got kicked out by dreamhost. If you have similar experiences with dreamhost.com, please report them to http://betterbusinessbureau.com

Another person suggested that i take them to Small claims court (http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/selfhelp/smallclaims/) Filing the claim will cost about $30 to $75. This is gonna take some paperwork and time... I'm still researching on this and see what to do at my next leisure.

Just discovered that there is actually a entire site complaining about dreamhost at 〔http://www.dreamhost-sucks.com/〕. Accessed on 2006-08-18.

As of 2010-01-27, it appears the domain name dreamhost-sucks.com have switched owners, and now the site saying positive things about dreamhost. See web archive: Source web.archive.org (Local copy.)

For a different opinion you can read this dreamhost review from webhostingsearch.com.

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