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Israel Antiquities Authority/AP
A fragment of the Dead Sea scrolls before and after infrared imaging.

Online Masquerade as Dead Sea Scrolls Scholar Leads to Criminal Charges

March 11, 2009 09:00 AM
by Anne Szustek
The son of a famous Dead Sea scroll scholar has been arrested for posing online as his father’s academic rivals; it’s the latest in a string of Internet impersonations.

Filial Loyalty or Vicious Behavior?

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Raphael Golb, the son of University of Chicago professor Norman Golb, is facing identity theft, criminal impersonation and harassment charges in connection with accusations that he opened e-mail accounts under a variety of aliases and used them to libel his father’s academic critics.

Norman Golb is well known in academic circles as a proponent of an alternative theory regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls, a set of 900-odd documents that includes some biblical texts discovered in the 1940s and 1950s. Many scholars suppose that the scrolls were penned in a monastery by the Essenes, a Jewish sect. But Golb is among a handful of researchers who believe that the texts were a compendium of documents written by several Jewish sects.

The Chicago Tribune writes that the professor has a reputation for disparaging museum exhibits on the Dead Sea scrolls that present information that runs contrary to his views.
“The fact of the matter is that if I understand it, Raphael was responding to the attacks of me,” Golb was quoted as saying by the Tribune. “I suppose my son felt it was important to get things straight.”

But NYU professor Lawrence Schiffman, a primary focus of the younger Golb’s alleged online smears, told the Tribune that he “obviously went way overboard to protect the intellectual views of his father.”

Raphael Golb is accused of opening an e-mail account in Schiffman’s name and sending e-mails in which Golb, posing as the NYU professor, confessed to plagiarism. Golb also allegedly created blogs that accused Schiffman of plagiarism and created e-mail accounts in the names of other ancient history professors who disagreed with his father’s theory.

Related Topic: Other recent online poseurs

Whole Foods bought its chief competitor Wild Oats in August 2007 for $565 million.
The merger was complicated by the revelation that Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey was touting his company’s stock on Yahoo message boards.

According to the FTC, Mackey, using the screen name “Rahodeb” (derived from Deborah, the name of his wife), also insinuated that the merger would lend Whole Foods a clear advantage in the grocery industry. 

Discovery of Mackey’s “Rahodeb” posts prompted an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has since cleared Mackey of any wrongdoing.

Others have been called out for posting phony reviews on e-commerce sites.

In January 2009, computer peripherals company Belkin issued an apology after it was discovered that an employee of the company was apparently paying people to write positive reviews of Belkin products on Amazon.com.

“Belkin does not participate in, nor does it endorse, unethical practices like this,” Mark Reynoso, Belkin’s president, wrote on the company’s Web site, as cited by Digital Media Wire. Belkin has since taken steps to have the bogus reviews removed from Amazon.com.

Roughly a week later, New York Times tech blogger David Pogue, acting on a tip from a reader, wrote that computer backup service Carbonite was posting its own 5-star reviews on Amazon.com. According to Pogue, shortly after his exposé was published on Jan. 27, the fake Carbonite reviews were taken down from the popular e-commerce site and Carbonite CEO David Friend emailed Pogue: “These ‘reviews’ on Amazon from 2006 should have sourced the authors as Carbonite employees. I will personally see that the reviews are updated to disclose their employment affiliation.”
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