Web Development

Are some Web sites evil or just the people who embrace them?


With each passing week, the stories that are covered on News.com's Police Blotter series more closely resemble News of the Weird. This past week, Police Blotter highlighted a Texas church leader, Patrick Russo, who was found guilty of murder (strangulation by ligature). Detectives searched the Internet history on his home PC and discovered some truly shocking information. See the News.com story in its entirety: "Police Blotter: Necrobabes.com leads to murder conviction."

Here's a snippet from the article:

Detective Roy Rector initially searched the computer using the Encase software for references to Diane Holik [the victim] and found none. He then expanded it to include Russo's search history, and a prosecutor noticed references to Necrobabes.com.

What exactly is Necrobabes.com?

Necrobabes.com [is] a Web site that offers "erotic horror for adults" by providing staged photos and video of usually nude women appearing to be strangled, suffocated, hanged and drowned.

Ok, so maybe Russo accidentally happened across Necrobabes.com when he was researching something for the New Life In Christ Church in Bastrop, Texas, where he was worship leader and music director? Nice try, but that's not what the second search warrant revealed:

Rector did a more complete search of the computer for "information pertaining to death by asphyxiation." He confirmed with a billing company that Russo had been a member of Necrobabes.com and had viewed Web pages there dealing with manual and ligature strangulation. About 1,200 Necrobabes.com-related images were found on the seized computer, and there was evidence Russo accessed the site two days before the Holik murder.

In a recent post, I asked TechRepublic members how to get rid of evidence on your computer. This time, I'd like to know how many people think that Web sites, such as Necrobabes.com, should be allowed to have a space on the Internet? Are these sites evil in and of themselves, tempting even the most religious and righteous into wrongdoing -- or are the sites harmless, and it's the people that seek them out and embrace them that ultimately bring forth the evil? Let us pray...

About

Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the Smartphones and Tablets blogs.

28 comments
chrisbedford
chrisbedford

Whether it's the evil website or the evil visitors, the effect is the same. More to the point, the origins are the same. As midniteone said, wicked websites kinda reflect the human condition. And the Web is so big, overall I'd guess it pretty much represents the demographics of the world population by now. Of that part with Internet access, anyhow. You can't lay the blame for evil deeds on the website - or its owner - any more than you can blame Smith & Wesson for murder, or Ford for that matter. The naive will tell you that, for instance, rape statistics went up in the US when pornography became freely available (it may or may not be true, I don't know) but they will happily ignore the almost nonexistent rape statistics in the Scandinavian countries that had porn freely available for decades before America did. All depends on the people. In South Africa, we have astonishingly high crime statistics - housebreaking, burglary, robbery, and cash-in-transit heists the most obvious - and the standard scapegoat is "poverty". Ignore the fact that Mexico's per-capita income is even lower than ours, and crime negligible by comparison. Different culture, different mores, different values. Don't shoot the messenger, doesn't matter if you don't like the message.

Yardbyrd
Yardbyrd

Why is it "either/or"?. It can't be both? Good grief!

Johnny Bee
Johnny Bee

Is the site evil? No, it is like a book. Neither evil nor good. It simply conveys images or ideas that are left to the viewer/reader to do with as they wish. The application of evil is subjective to the intent of the information provided. This is directly attributable to the person(s) who create the website. What Russo did was evil, and the thought may have come from the website, but it also appears that Russo may have gone looking for such material in the first place which makes what he did inherently evil as he made a conscious choice to pursue the information and apply it to this ultimate tragedy. We, far too often, portray people as weak and as having no will of their own when confronted with "evil" subject matter. In many cases we call these people addicts, or depict them as being led astray. It is bad enough when the common person perpetrates these acts and blames the influence of the internet, or music, or a movie, or whatever other media source put "the thought into their head". To my thinking, a person who is supposed to be in a position of trust and responsibility, and who chooses to act on the evil that they have learned of is doubly damned (since we are talking about a religious figure in this article). They not only evoked the evil by committing the act, they were in a position to have known what it was and to have spoken out against it. I do not, nor have I ever, supported the mental health world's penchant for calling everything under the sun an addiction. To me the addiction happens when the person would suffer physical or mental harm with the sudden removal of the stimulus. In its initial stages ALL addictions are a choice, made by an individual who, in many cases, should have known better. To lay the blame on an inanimate object is ludicrous. It should be placed squarely on the shoulders of those who commit the acts and on those who make the information available. Anyone who, knowing that something is of, or depicts, evil is just as guilty as the person who commits the act. In answer to the initial question, are the sites evil? No. Are the people who allow them to exist, or worse, create them? Yes. Do they lead others astray? No - that is a choice made by the individual and should NEVER be blamed on another, unless they were taking steps to coerce or otherwise force the individual to commit these acts. It comes down to the same old argument - any weapon can be used for evil or noble purposes. But the weapon itself is neither good nor evil. Those attributes are the province of sentient beings alone.

ozren
ozren

there have been more lives ruined by World of Warcraft and similar games than by obscure fetish sites.

ed.fletcher
ed.fletcher

How can the web site itself be evil? The people who design and run the site may be evil (a tough definition by itself), as may those who deliberatly access it. Is the underlying question: should we "allow" such sites? This is a censorship issue, and where do you draw the line. Personally I follow Voltaire: "I [may] disagree with what you say, but will fight to the death for your right to say it". Given what has been done in the past (and in some places in the world, the present) to those the establishment decided were "evil" or "heritics" or "devient", we must be very careful before using such emotive language. Don't get me wrong, I absolutly do not condone anything that is offensive or worse, but what is offensive to one person may be sacred to another.

TechExec2
TechExec2

. At your "recommendation" ( :0 :^0 ), I visited necrobabes.com. It is both disturbing and sick, as well as comical (I always laugh at horror films). If you ban web sites like necrobabes.com, do you also ban movies that depict murder and violence for example? Where do you draw the line? I think that people inclined to commit acts of violence and murder are monsters. They were monsters before they sought out that material on the Net. They were not turned into monsters because of that material. So, I'm not inclined to start heading down the proverbial "slippery slope". I'm not inclined to define what an "evil" website is (that is currently within the law) and then mobilize the government to break down doors, throw them off the Net, and the operators into prison. Certainly, they should be controlled much like "X" and "R" rated movies are controlled. They need to be and stay under a rock. Maybe there should be more controls than there currently are. Children should be just fine because they are being carefully cared-for by their parents. Just like parents ensure their children don't get run astray in the "meat world" (movies, magazines, bad circles of friends, etc), parents must ensure their children don't venture into the inappropriate areas of the Net. So, thanks for the tip about necrobabes.com, but it's not really my cup of tea! :^0 (just kidding!! I know that's not why you posted this!)

Absolutely
Absolutely

Information is neutral. Only actions are good or evil. Your questions assume a falsehood.

Sonja Thompson
Sonja Thompson

Do you think that some Web sites, such as Necrobabes.com, should be allowed to have a space on the Internet? Are these sites evil in and of themselves, tempting even the most religious and righteous into wrongdoing -- or are the sites harmless, and it's the people that seek them out and embrace them that ultimately bring forth the evil?

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Don't shoot the messenger, despite the fact you don't like the message. You close made no sense.

ke_xtian
ke_xtian

How could a web site about torturing and killing innocent people be sacred? The people who built the web site have evil intentions. They are playing on the weaknesses that many people have, and they are making money from it. If you don't think that is evil, then let me suggest that you can make lots of money selling your 6 year old daughter to some really not evil guys in Thailand. They will in turn rent her out to other not evil people so that those people can perform all kinds of not evil acts with her. It would be against the law for you to do this (for some reason, since it is not evil), but you should do it any way because it is not evil and you could make lots of money. Sorry to be so graphic, but your post is hogwash. I am hoping to wake you up. We all have weaknesses. I personally know from my younger days that certain kinds of porn (none of your business what) are a weakness. I avoid it. This pastor has a weakness for that torture web site. I cannot explain his weakness any more than I can explain mine, other than to say that if he or I, or you, cultivate such weaknesses, you are giving in to evil, and you will suffer from it, one way or the other. I am not defending the pastor. He should have seen the danger and run from it. Lots of people do and sadly lots of people do not. There are many who would argue with me, but even those people know they are wrong. Their arguments are full of the kinds of "logic" that you used. If you would read any Voltaire at all other than that one quotation taken out of context, you would know that he would not fight to the death to defend such web sites as "free speech". He would volunteer to be the first cop through the busted-down door to nab the creeps that built the web site. The guys that drafted the Bill of Rights never dreamed we would use it to defend such cretins.

ke_xtian
ke_xtian

The next to the last paragraph covers it pretty well. If you don't want your kids to see it, it most likely is not appropriate for you, either. Another way of putting it is, would you show that web site to your Grandmother? If not, what in the world are you doing in it? Don't you have something useful to do with your life. We probably all have foibles that we are unaware of, and some we are aware of. Visiting sites that depict horrible, brutal treatment of helpless people can awaken those hidden quirks, or enflame the ones we know about. So it does not make sense to just try things, especially if they are prima facie evil. All of these posts seem to dance gingerly around the question of the existence of evil. That is a sign of the times we live in. Of course evil exists. Otherwise, this little debate would not have happened. If what that pastor did was not evil, why would we be talking about it. What if he, instead, visited a web site about how to improve health care and treatment of children with Down's Syndrome, or some such, and as a result he put together a team of people to teach this method to the local orphanages in his area, free of charge? Would we be commenting on that? Would we be asking if that web site was "good"? Evil exists. Torture and strangling innocent, helpless people (or actually, anybody) is evil. How can you deny it? Why do you spend so much time skirting the issue?

jdclyde
jdclyde

If you post something that is inflammatory, it can lead people to act on your posts. Incitement to riot would be an example of information that is not neutral.

Sonja Thompson
Sonja Thompson

As a parent, I'm very well aware of the saying, "YOU are not a bad child, it's your behavior that's bad." Actions will always speak louder than words, and thoughts (while sometimes disturbing) and are even less harmful. Sure, there's that rare case of a child born with 666 etched on the back of his head, but let's save that for the movies... Personally, I don't think that it's possible to regulate Web sites based on personal tastes or distastes. As midniteone pointed out, the only true determiner should be from a legal standpoint - if the site commits a crime, then it should be yanked off the Net.

tokunbo007
tokunbo007

I just thought the question should be the other way around....since its people who create websites.... WHAT THE WORLD IS TODAY IS WHAT PEOPLE HAVE MADE IT TO BE....

midniteone
midniteone

I think that maybe we want to be careful about terminology here because we're going to get into people's belief systems and the corresponding metaphysics, if that's the word I am looking for. I do not personally believe that 'evil exists' - it is not, if you like, personified and living in the basement like some fallen angel. Things that people do can be called 'evil', although the term is often cheapened and overused (like 'tragedy' or 'disaster' which wind up as cheap emotional heighteners). There is no prima facie 'evil' and all acts are judged on their merits - or lack of them. People may offer the argument that some issues like the taking of life or the abuse of children are "automatically" evil - but our respective legal systems accept that the taking of life is not always 'murder', that it may not be premeditated, that it may be an 'acceptable' response to a threat situation (or whatever other situation is described at that point). This is not to say that some acts and activities will not be found to be unacceptable when judged by some form of objective criteria! On the other hand, there are a significant number of issues where religious or other belief systems clash, whether it is in the treatment of other people, of animals, or of the appropriate form of worship. History shows that these differences are easily exaggerated into an 'us and them' and ultimately 'good vs evil' scenario which in the modern, overlapping, partway integrated world is no longer an acceptable way of judging or describing each other. Even without the multifold difficulties which I picked up in my earlier post, and those which others have highlighted, it does seem very clear to me that a rush to judgement whereby anything which is in any way objectionable (read 'contrary to the way I think or want to lead my life') is automatically labelled and subsequently targetted for condemnation/censorship/elimination is a very dangerous road to move onto. But, again, some will disagree...(!!)

DadsPad
DadsPad

I am addressing you question on should sites such as this be denied the internet. You are really delving into deviant sexual behavior. There are experts in this field. It should be a study of theirs to determine if sites like Necrobabes.com (I have not visited the site) are a help or an inducement to this behavior. I think most of us would have a hard time understanding this behavior. Now, my opinion, I do not believe that internet sites, movies or computer games make criminals. I do believe it desenitizes the severity of the problem and I believe minors should not see them. There are many parts of society that are so different from the mainstream; it makes most of us very uncomfortable (to put it mildly). We should, however, be careful about surgery. I agree that anything criminal on the web should be procecuted. And there are cases where this has happened. This is not a happy topic :(

Young_Jedi
Young_Jedi

Yes, they should be allowed to have space. Who is anyone to determine what can and can't be posted on the Internet? Do I personally agree with site? HELL NO! I find it very disturbing. It comes down to money. If these people hosting the site weren't making any money, they wouldn't be doing it. They may be greedy/borderline immoral for doing it, but they're making a living. Evil is too strong a word (at least for me) I think those who visit the sites to satisfy some type of fantasy they have are playing with fire and could turn 'evil'. What you feed your mind through reading, TV and Internet is was eventually comes out. Those who may be visiting sites for research or strict curiosity are doing for that. I'd never heard of this site until this article. Of course I stopped by for a visit. I saw the quick preview thing and that was more than enough for me and won't be back. However, could it be that putting these sites in the public eye, giving them more exposure, could be exacerbating the situation?

midniteone
midniteone

At the risk of rehashing a very old point of view: In the specific case you mention, it seems that the perpetrator had a very clear idea what he was looking for, to the point of having asked very specific questions of the search engine. It would therefore seem that he had already acquired the fixation and in the 'old' days (like about 20 years ago?) he would have sought out books, magazines etc which would have provided whatever he was looking for. As an aside, there is an argument to be made (or research to be done) that one thing the Internet has brought about is a failure of imagination, in that nothing you can search out in still pictures or streaming video will match up to whatever can be conjured up in the imagination - there is a great deal of latent power in the written word (although I wouldn't guarantee that someone hasn't written something concomitant to the visuals you describe from Necrobabes). In a more general argument, you have to cope with (a) the difficulty of defining 'evil' - are we strictly dealing with criminal behaviour, with unethical behaviour, or shall we take on 'aceeptable' and 'unacceptable' political views while we're about it? (b) the difficulty of assessing and implementing 'jurisdiction' (c) the difficulty of granting any kind of sweeping, cross-border powers (and how desirable you really think that is - setting unacceptable precedents in that you may start with things which are 'clearly' wrong and targetable only for some degree of mission-creep to develop and you start judging far more marginal cases/opinions/visuals with the same draconian powers (d) the over-riding difficulty (and most difficult to accept) that whatever is popping up in cyberspace does essentially represent some aspects(s) of the human condition - it's not as if the machines are developing this stuff themselves! - and in that sense cyberspace reflects the real world. You won't change what's 'out there' unless people change. A lot. Further - without getting into arguments about why any given individual (although in this case clearly women) gets into the role of a 'sex worker' - or a participant in a pornographic website - the point is that they are not actually (as far as we know) being murdered in this way. If a site clearly breaks the law by portraying a crime (as per 'real' child abuse) then its continued existence stops being 'evil' and becomes a criminal activity in itself - different argument and they are then 'fair game' to be brought down. There is a lot to be done to explain/codify 'fantasy violence' and if you go after THAT then you'd better go after every TV thriller/crime novel/movie you've ever come into contact with. The upshot of all the above verbiage is to say that I don't believe you either can (or indeed should) draw lines about what can (or should) appear on the 'Net - unless you can find, and demonstrate, a very clear 'smoking gun' where crime is being committed or caused. The case you have cited is a very clear indication of someone who sought out a site because of a pre-existing compulsion - not vice versa - and although it is not safe to generalise, doesn't exactly portray the site(s) as a menace in themselves (which is the knee-jerk media reaction). But of course, there will be disagreements...(!!!)

Absolutely
Absolutely

But, there is a well-known religion that holds the act of murder by puncturing the hands & feet of its founder with enormous nails & hanging from a pair of wooden beams until dead to be central to its mythos. How could [u]that[/u] be sacred? "How could a web site about torturing and killing innocent people be sacred?"

dogknees
dogknees

Displaying an image of some action someone has taken does not mean one condones or promotes those actions. It the same as the idiots who think that if some particular behaviour is shown in a movie the writer/producer/director/actor is condoning it. Or the same fools who believe that giving girls a vaccine against cervical cancer is somehow promoting sex at an early age. It is possible, for most of us at least, to know of the existance of some action without actually carrying it out. If someone is not capable of doing so, the existence of a website displaying torture of other people is the least of their worries. More generally, I was always taught that resisting temptation is a fundamental part of religious life. It's the responsibility of a person tempted to resist temptation, not of all of us not to put temptation in front of others.

Tig2
Tig2

My concept of evil is likely to be different from another persons. Each person's personal dictionary is just that- personal. I am frequently amazed that we manage to communicate at all. More importantly to me, there is a different potential for abuse of the mechanism that is used to "judge" what is evil. There are many who would outlaw chocolate because they have a problem with it. The same may be said for virtually anything. The thinking that produces legislation based on "I enjoy this thing but know I shouldn't, but I just can't help myself- There ought to be a law" is fallacious in the extreme. They would rather take a thing away from EVERYONE because of their personal inability to do the right thing. Any time we seek to correct an individual's bad behavior by, in effect, punishing everyone, we start down a slippery slope that only serves the minority.

Absolutely
Absolutely

"Personally, I don't think that it's possible to regulate Web sites based on personal tastes or distastes." I know, you meant "feasible" or "practical", not possible, but the point remains that "possibility" is not the only question. Another question is whether or not it would be good to do so. Would it, if the regulation were unimaginably easy, be a good idea to remove such sites, including the evidence they provide of real crimes?

jdclyde
jdclyde

Now that is a loaded statement. All you have to do is have your server running in a country that does not have laws that prevent "X" behavior and it instantly is no longer illegal to have your server up. If the ISP doesn't care, there isn't much else that can be done, now is there? While the websites don't MAKE someone a criminal, if you ASSIST someone, you ARE an accessory to the crime. Giving information that is used to commit a crime is assisting someone. People need to think about what really is "protected speech" and what shouldn't be. And of course, all decadent homosexuals world wide can thank the ACLU for fighting hard to make it so NAMBLA can post a "How-to" on their website for seducing little boys. [i](note/disclaimer: it is the molestation of little boys that makes them "decadent", not the homosexual part. What two or more consenting adults do IN PRIVATE is no concern of mine )

Absolutely
Absolutely

The alias "Absolutely" is chosen to emphasize how many "values" and unquestioned assumptions are in fact quite arbitrary, and that non-absolutes in belief systems play a prominent role in curtailing freedom in real, absolute terms.

ke_xtian
ke_xtian

I have not visited the web site in question, so I might be taking liberties. I assume from all of the talk, though, that this web site offers hundreds of photos and perhaps videos of women being tortured in various ways. There is nothing of redeeming value here. It's sole purpose is to attract people with certain weaknesses to pay to see these displays in endless variation because it excites them in some way. I can actually identify with them because I am similarly excited by different images. I have recognized the destructiveness of these particular images and have chosen to stay away from them. A lot of people, like the pastor in question, have not, and some probably cannot. Christianity is not about the crucifixion, but about a love so great that it was willing to die a horrible death to prove itself. It is a love that even loves the killers. Christians don't worship the crucifixion any more than this poor pastor worshipped the torture of innocent women. I actually probably just wasted 2 minutes responding to your purposely spurious remark, but somehow I still feel it was worth it. Your screen name is "Absolutely". So, what is absolute about you?

ke_xtian
ke_xtian

I agree that they might not necessarily condone it. They do it for the money. That is the "culture" we live in. If you can make money doing it and it is not (yet) against some law, you can feel free to do it. I do worry about it because I think it is wrong that it is out there for kids to see. I also think it is sad that it is there for everybody to see, because we are all children, really. Just because our laws say we are adults, being an adult obviously does not protect us from being damaged by the images on these web sites. I could go on for hours on this. But let me just say this, then I'll quit. If photos, videos, and the spoken word, either on TV, in the movies, or on the Web, don't have an effect on adults, then why does advertising exist? Companies of all sizes spend untold billions of dollars every year creating videos, photos, and text and doing everything they can to put that text in front of each and every one of us. They are not doing it for fun, I can assure you. If those ads did not move us to buy their products, why would they keep spending so much money on them? The answer is that they wouldn't. So, now, can you honestly say that advertising has an effect on people, but porn and torture web sites don't? That would be a ridiculous assertion, wouldn't it?

ke_xtian
ke_xtian

The framers of the Bill of Rights could not have imagined that people would want to display such web sites. I believe they would say it is ridiculous that people justify not legislating these web sites because it is free speech. Having said that, such web sites would cease to exist in a matter of weeks if people quit visiting them. That's the approach I favor. Trying to legislate them out of existence is hopeless at this point in history. The Don Imus uproar is dying down, unfortunately. I liked the effect of it. It showed that even the most sophisticated disciples of secular humanism, those who insist they believe that there is no such thing as absolute right and absolute wrong, believe no such thing. They could not wait to say how wrong Imus was. Then they realized that if Imus was wrong, two things followed: 1) there is such a thing as "wrong", and 2) if Imus was "wrong", then the free speech of all of the Gangstas is also "wrong". You could see them squirming in their desperation to look all modern and sophisticated while sounding like latter-day Puritans. I would like to see this little crack in our post-Christian "culture" grow rapidly by orders of magnitude.