‘Catch me if you can’
A top New Zealand digital forensic investigator says that finding anonymous ‘Ghost writers’ and bloggers shouldn’t be that difficult.
Daniel Toresen from The Investigators New Zealand has plenty of experience in tracing bloggers and tells SUGA that this aspect of Private investigation has grown over the years due to bloggers now having an outlet such as social media to vent their fustrations.
This week Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his government announced that they are officially looking into reinstating the Criminal Libel Law in a move to hunt down Ghost writers and anonymous bloggers who are exercising their rights to freedom of speech.
Earlier in the year a police investigation in Samoa was launched to find the identity behind the popular Ole Palemia page in which the blogger describes in detail, the ‘corruption’ carried out by individuals and groups within the Samoa government.
The government advised in that press conference that they would work together with Samoa IT experts in tracking down Ole Palemia.
Seven months and several wrongful arrests later, the Samoa Police have been unsuccessful in finding the identity of the blogger. So what are Samoa Police doing wrong?
Mr Torensen says that tracing bloggers should be relatively easy. Although he can only speak from a New Zealand perspective, the process is normally generic
“The police conducting the investigation would usually have powers to compel the ISP to provide the users details.
“[In New Zealand] we conduct an investigation into identifying a natural person behind a blog by first ascertaining the IP address. This can be achieved through emailing with the blogger and trapping the IP address or baiting the blogger to click on links to more information and capturing his or her IP address. The IP address will also be held by the host of the Blog such as WordPress etc. And they will only typically help authorities with a search warrant or production order from the Police.”
Mr Toresen says that the investigation would only become difficult when IP addresses are dynamic or ever changing or where pre-paid cellphones have been used to connect to the internet but even with these obstacles, the person should still be traceable.
“The ISP will have the details of the people or organisations that are assigned to these IP addresses.
“For example if the blogger was using an Internet cafe in Auckland to post the blogs ,the cafe will be known to the ISP and therefore the police can find out who was using the service at that time that the posts were made, get credit card details for the blogger and so forth.”
Bloggers such as Ole Palemia have had a surge in popularity with Facebook likes soaring over the last year and readers describing Ole Palemia as the ‘voice of the Samoan people.’
A move to implement such a law in Samoa that ultimately limits freedom of speech has been criticised by many who are calling the move a dictatorship.
One user wrote on the Samoa Observer facebook page: “The PM is worried that the people of Samoa are actually reading OLP articles and that the allegations they are dishing around on FB seems legit. This is a great concern to him as he wants to shut the person up. Stui, its freedom of speech but you’re running a dictatorship and that aint fair on the people of Samoa who are paying for your fraudulent activities.”
Another user wrote, “Worried about an uprising from what a ghost writer has to say and yet nobody wants to up rise against corruption and the land grabs otherwise known as the LTRA 2008? Or sexual assault against our women and children? Or special greenlane privileges for certain groups and their containers? A move such as this states the obvious: That the PM is a dictator and the government has their priorities a little messed up.”