Saturday, January 24, 2009

ChessUSA.Net – RIP

A mysterious litigator managed to close a chess site yesterday. Though I was a partner in that site, I was not legally one, so I don’t know anything beyond what was posted there. Nor, do I know what was written that triggered the lawyer attack.

This is now the second chess site that has been attacked in as many months. In the Chess Blog Carnival on Jan. 1, I wrote this:

2008 had too many stories of governments and other official bodies censoring, punishing, and other wise taking control of the internet. Here in the chess world the internet war between Susan Polgar and the US Chess Federation begat dangers for the rest of us. First came the accusation that SP had conspired to hack into a USCF leader’s e-mail account. The USCF then used that as a pretext to commence legal attacks on her websites, ostensibly seeking the data to verify this accusation. The legal tactic was to serve papers on the internet service providers. Once the “keys to the kingdom” were turned over to the USCF, it could then use them to get the IP addresses of anybody who had ever posted anything and then go after them. (They are suing Susan, Gregory Alexander, and 10 other “John Does”.) Both defendants deny having anything to do with this.

Up to this point, the chess world can say that this is just a personal problem of Susan and Gregory. But those John Does are what concerns the rest of us. If the USCF are just targeting Susan and Gregory just because of politics, then they could target anybody. Do any of you reading this want chess politicians who may not like you, tracking your internet surfing and then use that information to embarrass you? Do any of you want to be victimized by specious lawsuits? - Just because you rubbed someone in power the wrong way?

On the other hand, the chess world should not hinder legitimate investigations into actual wrongs done on the internet. What we need is a statement from the USCF telling us what their policies, procedures, and safeguards are in this area. In the USCF’s Issues Forums I posted extensively on this and the USCF roundly rebuffed this call.

In the future, we may see other authorities in other countries who may want to target chess bloggers. Sadly, these events mean that we won’t be able to look to the chess leaders of the United States for support.

Little did I expect that the next victim would be hit so soon or that it would hit so close to home.