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Thursday, May 30, 2013

PA Legislator Jesse White Found to Have Posted Anti-Gas Messages on Internet Under False Names

State Rep. Jesse White
In what has to be one of the weirder stories from the annals of drilling opposition, Pennsylvania State Rep. Jesse White, who has become something of a small-scale celebrity for his outspoken opposition to drillers (although he has claimed in the past to not be anti-drilling), has been exposed as the real person behind a collection of false names that have been posting anti-drilling messages on the Internet.  The posts often included insults and name-calling directed at commenters who supported drilling, many of whom are White's constituents.

The story from CBS Pittsburgh:

First, State Rep. Jesse White allegedly posted Gibbs’ real identity. Then, someone posting under the name “Prouder American” called her an “industry troll.”
Another posting under the name “Harold,” called her an “undereducated yonder,” “dumber than a box of rocks,” “an embarrassment to her community.”
Gibbs has long suspected all the comments were actually posted by White himself.
“I can’t prove it Mr. Sheehan, but hopefully somebody can and stop it because it’s getting worse,” Gibbs said.
And things did get worse. Gibbs was soon under attack by someone posting under a name “Janice Gibson.”
One of the comments said, “Janice Ludwin Gibbs is a local mole for the gas industry propaganda group Energy In-depth.”
“A mole, an Internet troll, I’m getting paid by Energy In-depth. I wish my paycheck would hurry up because I could sure use it,” Gibbs said in reaction to the comment.
Energy In-depth is a gas industry funded organization. When anti-drilling posts appeared on their website from “Janice Gibson” and another from someone falsely representing themselves as “Janice Gibbs” herself, the organization traced them.
The internet protocol — or IP — address of those people came up as the same computer as Rep. White’s state e-mail address.
There is more to that story, including White's evasive responses to an investigative reporter when confronted with the evidence that he was posting under false names and that an anti-drilling website which he claimed to have no association with was found to be registered in his name.  Read it all here.

Pennsylvania Independent has an interesting further twist to the story:  when state Rep. Kathy Watson introduced a bill to make "online impersonation" a crime punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of $5,000 the bill progressed from the House Judiciary Committee with a vote of 22-1 and was passed by the full house with a vote of 196-1.  The one opposing vote in both cases belonged to...wait for it...state Rep. Jesse White.

That article also features an update with White's response to the reports that emerged regarding his Internet postings:
Thursday afternoon, White released a statement apologizing for any actions he may have taken that were “harmful or offensive” to the individuals named in the KDKA story. 
He admitted to responding online to what he called “numerous misleading and personal attacks against me in an attempt to distract people from the real issues.” 
“On occasion, I have exercised my First Amendment rights and responded in kind, which was an error in judgment that I regret,” White said. “To be clear, I did not use government resources while posting comments on these sites.” 
White said he will not stop “asking the tough questions and standing up for what I believe in, because the stakes are too high to allow petty differences to distract us from ensuring that we’re developing our natural resources in a responsible way that generates an economic benefit to our community but also protects the people who live and work here.”
Read the rest of that article here.

This story is pretty surprising, to say the least.  Although really, if one has been following the comments that White has made under his own name, it's not that surprising.

Maybe White was inspired to use multiple identities by another well known opponent of drilling:

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