When the online world affects the offline world

Two cases this week in the U.K. and Japan show the insanity of cyberspace's impact on real life.

Published October 24, 2008 5:49PM (EDT)

Chris Read is a 42-year-old father of five from Herne Bay, Kent, in the United Kingdom. He, like many of us, buys stuff on eBay from time to time. Earlier this month, he tried to buy a Samsung F700 (described as being in good condition), and instead received a Samsung F700V that was not in good condition.

According to an account in the Daily Mail, Read left a negative comment for his seller, and wrote: "Item was scratched, chipped and not the model advertised on Mr. Jones's eBay account."

Now normally, if buyer and seller don't seem to get along and have a dispute over the particular feedback that was left, eBay has a mediation service designed for this express purpose. Apparently the seller, Joel Jones, 26, never contacted this service to resolve this issue -- and instead, he went straight to legal action.

Jones then sent Read a letter threatening him with libel unless he retracts the feedback message.

According to the Daily Mail, the letter reads: "The negative feedback you left on October 3 regarding Samsung F700 was unfair and is damaging to my business's reputation and ability to trade. We require a signed statement accepting that the feedback is unfair."

Now, to complicate matters, Jones apparently gave Read a "no-quibble refund," and yet he's still extremely unhappy with the effect that a single negative rating has had (or rather may have) on his sales and search results.

It seems that this is turning into a pissing match for both sides, with Jones trying to restore his pristine feedback record, and Read telling the Daily Mail: "If it has to go to court then so be it. Hopefully it won't go that far but I'm prepared to fight my corner."

Guys, you're turning this into an American-style legal battle -- is this really necessary? What happened to English gentlemanliness?

In another equally bizarre story that's floating around the Internet, the Associated Press is reporting that on Thursday, a 43-year-old woman was arrested over an online incident. The woman's avatar had been virtually married and then recently divorced from the avatar of a real-life man in the Japanese online game "Maple Story." As retribution, she surreptitiously took over her "husband's" account and killed off his character in the game.

So what's she being charged with? Well, because she didn't have permission to use that account, her charge is "illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data." Further, because it was the man who made the claim against her (and prompted her arrest), she had to be transported to his real-life location, in the city of Sapporo, over 600 miles from where she actually lives. If convicted, the woman could face up to five years in prison.

Sheesh. People, just chill out, OK?

By Cyrus Farivar

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