FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW INTERNET "GAME" DESIGNED TO DESTROY ETOYS.COM
RTMark has joined the growing torrent of outrage, sometimes violent in tone, against Internet toy giant eToys by helping create and distribute what RTMark calls "a new toy": a multi-user Internet game whose goal is to damage (or possibly even destroy) the company.
The game, which aims to punish eToys for shutting down prominent Internet art group etoy's domain (see this press for more information), takes the form of an RTMark "mutual fund," or list of sabotage projects. All projects in the "etoy Fund," some of which have already been financed, aim to lower the company's stock market value as much as possible. The site also includes pages that will help visitors to cripple the eToys servers during the ten days leading to Christmas, pages providing detailed financial information about the company, and a page of links to the dozen or so other groups calling for eToys' downfall.
Since November 29, when eToys lawyers shut down the art group's domain and news of the massive and violent-toned reaction began to spread, huge sellouts (including a 2.5-million-share sale by Moore Capital Management, Inc.) have caused eToys stock to fall from $67/share to $45/share, or nearly 33%; before November 29 eToys stock had been rising. RTMark's new projects group aims to systematically capitalize on and accelerate the eToys share fall.
"The etoy Fund projects are a game the whole world can play," said RTMark spokesperson Ernest Lucha. "Many of the projects--boycotts, pickets, e-mail campaigns--can be played by anyone, while other projects--countersuing eToys, disturbing the eToys servers, etc.--require specialized work. There's something for everyone, and we know we can easily count on 10,000 players to start with."
There's also something for hackers, who are normally apolitical but have by and large taken eToys' attack on etoy as an attack on themselves. "eToys is trying to take advantage of a legal situation in which there's basically no protection against corporations, whether you're an artist, an activist, or just someone in the wrong place at the wrong time," said a hacker who identifies himself as "Code Blue." "But they're relying a bit too much on the legal. They're saying f*ck you to everything that etoy stands for, and that's like spraying tear gas all over the entire hacking community."
RTMark and its "etoy Fund" collaborators are only one group among dozens to mount digital and real-world attacks against eToys in time for Christmas.
Two other anti-eToys "products," soon to be announced independently, come from groups of programmers who have, like the hackers, taken eToys' action as a personal affront. One such group is nearly finished with an "action entertainment product" inspired by some of etoy's well-known pieces (such as the "digital hijack," which won Ars Electronica's most prestigious award, and $7,375, in 1996; see the etoy site, still available at http://184.108.40.206:8080/, for more information). The "product," which will shortly be available at http://www.toywar.com, "will enable any net user to directly attack eToys.com," according to one of the programmers involved in its development.
Another anti-eToys tool that has already been deployed and will be announced within the next several days, according to a source within the above-mentioned group, is a program that generates fraudulent web page accesses ("hits") disguised to look like those of Internet shoppers coming from numerous, randomly-chosen locations. The aim of the tool is to make the financial valuation of eToys.com, which depends heavily on web access counts, unreliable. This uncertainty, which should become more evident in the days to come, should increasingly make investors even more skittish about investing in the company, according to the source.
ANGER AND FUN = MASS PARTICIPATION
"This game is much more exciting than any other computer game, because you have a real-world bad guy to fight," said RTMark spokesperson Lucha.
"We think it's especially exciting that the court date [December 27, at which the final fate of etoy.com will be decided] falls so close to Christmas," said Richard Zach, a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley who has closely followed the dispute since the beginning. "The holiday season is a time of giving, but since eToys decided to take, we're making an example of them during their busiest season. Christmas won't be the end of the game, but it's an important first milestone."
It's not just about etoy, nor about art or hacking, according to Lucha: the etoy Fund and directly hostile efforts like it could help lead to a new balance of power between citizens and big business. "Why should global culture be dominated by business? The net is a playing field that could help to create, through law, a worldwide balance of power that just doesn't exist now."
The anger against eToys is not likely to dissipate soon, even with a favorable outcome to the case (i.e. the survival of etoy.com), according to Lucha. "eToys says etoy.com was hurting sales by disturbing those who stumble upon it. Well, eToys' domain is disturbing people who want to see great internet art but stumble upon eToys instead, and so why not say eToys shouldn't exist? Why should financial might make right? If they want to play by barbaric rules, we will too."
"eToys feels comfortable destroying art for the benefit of its business, so
all the players of this game can feel great destroying eToys--for the benefit
of art," said Lucha.
RTMark, which is in no way associated with etoy, aims to publicize the widespread corporate abuse of democratic institutions like courts and elections. To this end it solicits and distributes funding for "sabotage projects"; the groups of such projects are called "mutual funds" in order to call attention to one way in which large numbers of people come to identify corporate needs as their own. RTMark projects do not normally target specific companies; the etoy Fund projects are an exception.
RTMark is no stranger to the hot topic of domain-name control. The World Trade Organization's press release about http://gatt.org, accusing RTMark of "illegal practices" in publishing information critical of the WTO at that site, merely brought the WTO ridicule from the press; George W. Bush's and Microsoft's legal attacks on GWBush.com and MicrosoftEdu.com failed to affect the domains. See also this release for more on this issue.