2001-04-21 / Front Page

Ariola Nameless On Net "That’s What We Do," Opponent Says

Ariola Nameless On Net
"That’s What We Do," Opponent Says

By Howard Schwach

Identity Theft has its funny side. You’ll remember that an astute person, betting that the Internet would become big business, registered for himself such domain names (Internet Access Names) as McDonald’s.com, Madonna.com, Cocacola.com and IBM.com. He then turned around and sold the domain names for big money to the appropriate companies when it came time for them to enter the Internet age. It was probably not more than a minor annoyance to the companies and got them lots of free publicity.

It is not as funny to Joanne Ariola, the Howard Beach woman who has the Republican nod for the City Council seat being vacated by Al Stabile.

When Ariola recently decided to set up a website that would put her ideas and ideals on the Internet, she found that she could not use any variation of her own name.

First she tried joanneariola.com. A man named Gerry O’Brien had already taken that name. Then, she tried ariola2001.com. That was taken as well by O’Brien. Two or three other tries revealed the same results. O’Brien had apparently registered a number of sites connected to her name on April 6.

"I was really angry," Ariola told The Wave. It was like he had taken my name, my identity."

O’Brien readily admitted to The Wave that he is John Macron’s political advisor and that he ran the local campaign for McCain in the last presidential election. Macron is running as a Republican for the same city council seat as Ariola.

O’Brien also readily admitted that he registered the domain names connected with Ariola’s name.

"That is what we do in campaigns," he told The Wave. "I did it as a preemptive measure and I am not sure what I am going to do with them."

He chided Ariola for not being quick enough to register her own sites.

"In this business, if you snooze, you lose," he said. O’Brien added that, after The Wave’s original call for information, he went back on the net and registered more sites in her name, including ariola.net and ariola.org.

He responded to Ariola’s charge that this is identity theft and dirty politics by saying, "This is not a dirty trick, and Ariola should not be in the business of telling us how to run our campaign."

"I would think that she should have registered those names long ago," he added. "She didn’t, and I did.

John Macron corroborated what his political advisor had told The Wave earlier in the day.

He also chided Ariola for not doing enough to move her campaign along.

"The fact that she let the domain names slip between her fingers proves the fact that she is not really running a campaign, but simply sitting back, waiting for myself and Alex Lutz to step aside. That is not going to happen, and I think that a primary will be good for the party and good for the community."

Experts say that there may be two reasons that Macron is interested in having a Website connected to his opponent’s name.

"The person who registered the site might simply want to keep Ariola from using it herself," the expert said. "Or, he might want to play some dirty tricks and put bogus material on the site and represent that material as Ariola’s. That has been done before, but never on a local level, that I know of."

Identity theft has become a major issue that has grown proportionately to the increase of home computer use and the widespread use of the Internet as a research and commercial tool. Identity Theft has become such a major problem that legislatures throughout the nation have begun to address it and to pass laws that punish any person who would use another person’s identity for monetary gain. Only recently, the New York State legislature has begun hearings into a bill that would outlaw the practice in this state.

Meanwhile, Ariola is planning to get back her "identity," perhaps by suing O’Brien to force him to give the domain names to her.

"Filing law suits has been successful in some cases such as this one," she says. "Sometimes, however, it is not. It all depends on the judge."

It all depends, as well, on whether the wording in the new State law outlaws political name stealing as well as stealing names for monetary gain.

As of now, that is not the plan, but the Internet expert says that might all change.

"If more politicians find that their opponents are appropriating their names for the Internet, you will probably see the law change, and change quickly," he says.

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