Sock-Puppeting Cyber-Bully Convicted

As has been widely reported, lawyer Raphael Golb has been found guilty by a New York court of various charges relating to cyber-bullying and harassment. Golb had attempted to discredit scholars working on the Dead Sea Scrolls whose theories differed from those of his father, Norman Golb. Archaeologist Robert Cargill, who was one of those targeted, has the details:

The charges stem from a bizarre case where Dr. Golb used an army of internet aliases to falsely charge his father’s perceived rival, NYU Judaic Studies professor Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, with plagiarism, and then criminally impersonated Dr. Schiffman by opening an email account in Schiffman’s name, emailing Schiffman’s students and colleagues, and admitting to the “plagiarism” on Schiffman’s behalf. Dr. Golb was also charged with criminally impersonating and/or assuming the identity of Dr. Frank Moore Cross, Dr. Jonathan Seidel, Dr. Jeffrey Gibson, Stephen Goranson; the aggravated harassment of Dr. Lawrence Schiffman, Stephen Goranson, and Dr. Robert Cargill; and of the unauthorized use of a NYU computer.

Golb was also a prolific sock-puppeteer in defence of his father, using dozens of aliases to polemicise against academic rivals. Robert assembled and analysed the evidence at this website; the attention to detail sets the bar for the rest of us who like to unmask on-line deception. As he notes in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

“The verdict… should be a reminder that you simply cannot just say whatever you want behind a supposed veil of anonymity and get away with it. There is always someone watching online.”

One of Golb’s strategies was to complain that his father had been sidelined due to a conspiracy of Christian fundamentalists; interestingly, among those so accused are a couple of people I had contact with during my undergraduate days – and I know for a fact that in their case, the “fundamentalist” jibe is off-base.

Norman Golb, meanwhile, has been keeping a low profile – he did not attend the trial and has not made any statement. According to documents shown to the court written by Raphael, Norman had at least some knowledge of his son’s activities; Robert again has the details here.