Online lynch mob
Anime distributor Odex incurs wrath of Netizens over anti-piracy crackdown

By Chua Hian Hou

NETIZENS are waging a high-tech war against anime distributor Odex.
Wikipedia entries on Odex, for instance, have been turned into attacks on the firm, which has taken flak from the online world after news spread that it was going after people who downloaded anime illegally.

Some entries talk of how Odex goes around threatening to throw nine-year-olds in jail if they do not pay it $3,000.

Others tell tall tales of how those who could not pay the company were made to borrow from them at an exorbitant interest rate of 10 per cent.

Odex has denied both allegations. Its spokesman said it is monitoring the situation.

The firm recently obtained court orders which force Internet providers SingNet and StarHub to reveal the names of those who downloaded anime illegally.

The judge in the case against Pacific Internet, though, did not grant a similar order as Odex was only a sub-licensee and had no rights to sue.

But the smear campaign has gone on unabated and things have become so bad that one of Wikipedia’s editors was compelled, in an Aug 14 entry, to tick off these ‘contributors’ and remind them to ‘stick to facts and try to balance them’. Some of the more offensive posts have been taken down.

Popular websites such as have also received many submissions – almost all of which had bad things to say about Odex, said Mr James Seng, one of the site’s founders.

The outpouring of rage against the anime distributor, say Internet industry observers, is the clearest indication of how tech-savvy communities are wising up to the Internet’s power as a propaganda tool.

Mr Seng noted that the community that Odex had targeted in its piracy crackdown was a very tech-savvy one, and so was able to employ many Internet propaganda techniques not used before.

These tactics include the Wikipedia edits and even uploading satirical videos making fun of Odex on video-sharing site YouTube.

Previously, upset Netizens contented themselves with whining on online forums. The furthest they went was to start an online petition occasionally.

Psychologist Daniel Koh said that online lynch mobs were more likely to hit out at anyone who appeared to be attacking their cause as they felt a ‘sense of loyalty’ with others in the community.

The sense of anonymity in an online world also lent them more courage in lashing out, he added.

But even as most simply go online to slam Odex, some users have been using the Internet in positive ways, Mr Seng pointed out.

He said these include digging up details of what the previously little-known company does, putting together repositories of copyright law-related information here and around the world, and collecting donations for those hit by the crackdown.

One was even able to unearth a damning post by an Odex director gloating about his campaign, for which he has had to apologise.

In fact, said a veteran public relations practitioner, the anti-Odex camp has probably ‘won the propaganda battle’.

She declined to give her name because ‘what if they come after me?’

She was referring to how some online users had threatened Odex staff with physical harm and even posted online personal information such as the home addresses of the people they believe are responsible for the crackdown.

All said and done though, communities need to temper their behaviour and pitch their points of view online ethically without going overboard by lying or making personal attacks.

This is easier said than done, said Mr Koh, especially when sentiments are running high, as is the case now.

He said that when this happens, ‘people (will) act irrationally’ to the point that they get carried away and are willing to do anything to advance their cause.

Just take ‘Skurai’, who had no qualms suggesting ‘stunts’ that downloaders can pull to milk donations and sympathy from the public and hopefully force Odex to end its crackdown.

He wrote: ‘Ask around. Wait for someone poor to kena sue. Then write to The New Paper or The Straits Times, get a sad story from it.’

But lawyers warn that those who post wild allegations online could land in trouble.

Mr Mark Lim, director of law firm Tan Peng Chin LLC, said: ‘If the allegations are untrue, and if they are able to obtain a court order to get the subscriber’s information from their ISP, Odex can sue for defamation.’

Source: jq75 of Hardware Zone Forums