Expatriates in Korea are rethinking their use of EFL chat forums following a rash of cyber-stalking attacks alleged to be orchestrated by moderators and posters from Dave’s ESL Cafe.
Following the suicide of Shawn Matthews, 32, a Chinese-based English teacher in May, who had achieved internet fame in Korea’s EFL community for his prolific blogging, cyber-stalking campaigns were launched against Chris Chiavetta, who owns a Seoul-based English bookstore and the kimchipot.com website. These attacks followed allegations that Chiavetta had harassed Matthews and his girlfriend online and was responsible for his death.
According to Chiavetta, for several weeks moderators and posters on Dave’s EFL Cafe Korea Job Forums participated in an online free-for-all, where he was accused of being a “murderer” and calls were made to boycott his business. But the abuse didn’t end there; members from ESL Cafe – who were identified by thekimchipot.com site administrators from their IP addresses – visited the Website and began threatening to post pictures, employment and personal details of members on an EFL hate site in China.
But Chiavetta is not alone in being subject to cyber-stalking. In May, Paul Robertson, CEO of EFL-Law.com, discovered that his name and website were being defamed on Dave’s ESL Cafe and expatinkorea.com by several established ESL Cafe members.
“These people were blatantly lying,” he said. “Why did the moderators and site owners allow these sick attacks to take place when they knew that what was being written was utterly false?”
David, 36, an English teacher now living in Japan, claims he was also cyber-stalked after arguing with a moderator and being banned from ESL Cafe.
“A post was put up on a Korean police bulletin board saying that I was a drug dealer and a paedophile,” he said. “To read something like that, something which was so untrue, made me sick to my stomach.”
According to a former moderator on ESL Cafe, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Dave Sperling, founder of ESL Cafe, is not involved in the day-to-day running of his site’s discussion forums.
“Complete control has been handed over to a couple of moderators who use this power to censor those who do not agree with them,” he said.
Neither Dave Sperling, nor ESL Cafe moderators, responded to requests to be interviewed for this story.