As the guilty parties will soon learn, it's almost impossible not leave traces on the Internet (especially if you're an amateur). But the other folks involved need to understand that nothing on the Internet truly goes away -- which means anyone can fact-check just about any time after the event.
Although I've only talked about the fake Teel Goodwin site, the (currently) unknown posters actually did two. Thomas Graves, an incumbent, was the subject of a similar site. Goodwin won, but Graves lost.
While both sites have been removed, they haven't completely disappeared. Google has the text for both cached. The pictures weren't saved, but the text is still there for all to examine.
And that examination can help dial back the drama now being played out in the papers.
The most recent issue of the Orange Review reported that:
According to [Commonwealth Attorney Diana] Wheeler, the state police are executing an investigation to determine who paid for a pair of illicit websites. The sites claimed to be authorized by incumbent District 2 supervisor candidate Thomas Graves, and District 3 supervisor candidate Teel Goodwin, but were not
Both websites used URLs that suggested they were supporting the candidates (teelgoodwinforsupervisor.com and thomasgravesforsupervisor.com), but there's nothing in the sites about anyone authorizing them -- which you can check for yourself.
Wheeler said that by posting the websites with falsified "paid for by", and "authorized by" statements, a misdemeanor criminal offense has been committed.Did anybody look at those sites? These phrases aren't on either site (which you can confirm for yourself).
When the story first broke, Teel Goodwin shared this thoughtful commentary:
"This is nasty and ugly," Goodwin said. "Everybody I talk to thinks it's offensive. I'm particularly offended because they mentioned my son on the Web site."You can check the facts for yourself. The only mention of family I found was this:
Goodwin assisted his family, one of the largest landowners in Orange County, in attempting to rezone agricultural land for development of nearly 750 housing units in cooperation with Hovnanian Homes, a large national developer headquartered in New Jersey.Unless his son was spearheading the Rapidan Crossing project, I don't see the reference that particularly offended Goodwin.
The illegal sites are a good example of how the Internet can be misused (and a damned clumsy example at that). But the aftermath can also be an example of its power. Unsubstantiated claims and exaggerations don't cut it anymore.
Not when the citizenry can go to the original sources and check the facts for themselves. Now that's democracy in action.