Internet: Keep Marathon scammers and trolls at bay


Amid the countless acts of kindness that occurred in Boston after Monday’s explosions at the Marathon, there was also a noteworthy one that occurred online. A California graphic artist named Jaimie Meuhlhausen registered the Internet domain BostonMarathonConspiracy.com — not to spread wild ideas, but to prevent others from doing so. Visitors to the Web address saw this message: “I bought this domain to keep some conspiracy theory kook from owning it. Please keep the victims of this event and their families in your thoughts.”

If only more people had shown the same public spirit. There have been reports of cybersquatters buying up bombing-related domain names — either with the hope of selling them off at a profit, or of showing ads to people who stumble upon the sites. Spammers have been sending out e-mails whose subject lines make reference to the tragedy, in the hope of tricking readers into opening the messages. A fake Twitter account using the Boston Marathon’s logo promised to donate $1 to victims’ charities for every retweet; more than 27,000 people fell for it.

Even sophisticated users can be taken in. Among those accounts passing along the fake message were the Massachusetts State Police. (The agency later corrected the error.) But amid a desperate scramble for information, readers have good reason to tread — and retweet — carefully.

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