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Kid-Porn Vigilante Hacked Media Page 3
9:20 a.m.  8.Feb.99.PST

continued
Valor showcased his vigilantism as a more benevolent alternative to government censorship. But when one man's exaggerations are widely reported in the press -- like Joseph McCarthy's list of Communist spies -- they can influence legislation, believes Paul McMasters, First Amendment ombudsman for the Freedom Forum.

"It has an inevitable impact on public policy and public perception. The Rimm study [a discredited exposé of pornography online printed in Time magazine in 1995] ends up being waved on the floor of the Senate."

The eagerness of reporters to embrace Se7en's crusade points to a crucial lack of professional skepticism around the subject of child pornography, McMasters charged: "It's all about a cyberpanic -- the mainstream media's inability to resist the temptation to find another monster in the belly of the beast."

In a news industry refashioned in the image of the Net, where deadlines are perpetual and anxiety about getting scooped is soaring, reporters "aren't allowed to do a good job," he observed.

With hackers making front-page headlines, many reporters and editors are scrambling to ramp up their technical knowledge. A juicy high-tech item may not get the same edit-desk scrutiny as a story on another subject.

Ultimately, it was Valor's former comrades who brought down the legend of Se7en.

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