David Mabus of Internet Infamy FINALLY Investigated

tl;dr If you would like to report harassment or threats from Mabus, see contact info for the Montreal Police at the bottom of this post.
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Taken from a Mabus-related Facebook group (see link below)

A man from Montreal, who generally goes by the name David Mabus, has been harassing scientific, atheistic, and skeptical bloggers for years. Every day, several of these people (including PZ Myers, Tim Farley, Phil Plait, Michael Shermer, James Randi, and many many more) purge their various inboxes of hundreds of hate-filled messages. His history is well documented — so much that people know his real name, work place, contact information, and home address and have reported him to the police.

Frequently his messages include threats of death/murder, decapitation, and taunts that “the police won’t help you”. Other times his messages are entirely incoherent or just vaguely menacing, but are sent with enough frequency and consistency to be fairly considered harassment and stalking. This is disturbing (and illegal) in itself, but what’s also worrying is his attendance at an atheist conference last October, possibly demonstrating an escalation from online threats to real life encounters. Luckily, nothing happened other than a pulled fire alarm (also illegal).

Unfortunately, the police reports filed by American bloggers that are among his primary targets (for example, PZ Myers in 2009, Michael Shermer in January 2011, and Tim Farley in 2011) have so far apparently been stifled by international jurisdiction rules and perhaps by officials not getting a true sense of the scale of Mabus’ activities, as many more victims of his harassment have simply opted to just ignore him. To this day, Mabus continues his unbridled stream of hate-filled vitriol seemingly untouched by the police.

This week that seems to have changed.

A Facebook group (The David Mabus Appreciation Group – private) got the attention of several people that have received threats from Mabus. Shortly after, a San Francisco native Kyle VanderBeek started a petition that emailed Montreal Police public relations with every signature/comment. As of today the petition has about 4000 signatures. The massive flood of emails prompted the police to respond on Twitter (@SVPM) saying: “Please stop sendind e-mails to our media adresse by signinig the petition.We are investigating the case. Thank you fou your help.” [errors theirs] This message was both amusing and unwelcome to those who have been pleading for respite from Mabus’ constant abuse for years (see the twitter searches “mabus” and “SPVM”).

During the same time period, Mabus (and/or his Twitter bots) detected activity going towards the Montreal Police Twitter account and he began spamming them from multiple sock puppets, along with several of his usual targets. So far the messages have not been directly threatening (“atheist nazis: you really need to worry about your OWN mental health”; “what happens when god does the striking?”; and most recently, “want to compare my crimes to that of donald rumsfeld?”), but they have included links to forum posts in which he wishes death upon atheists (e.g., “we’re going to bury/nuke you” and “die atheists, die” — he probably didn’t mean “the atheists, the” in German).

Within a day of the existence of the petition and the increased Twitter activity, Tim Farley (of What’s the Harm?, a target of Mabus) was interviewed by the Montreal Gazette. They frame this as largely a Twitter problem, but Mabus’ activities are much more widespread — harassing and directly threatening people on blogs, forums, email, Facebook, and Twitter using multiple aliases (as he is frequently blocked) and posting from internet cafes. The story was also picked up by Cyberpresse (Google translated). Mabus’ mother defended his actions saying that she does not interfere with what he does because “he wouldn’t hurt a fly” and “it’s [his behaviour] his job for what he believes” [paraphrased, translated from French].

Years of daily obsessive harassment and violent threats are not the actions of a healthy individual.

One way to help the police comprehend the scale of his actions is to report his activity ASAP while he is under investigation. If you have been harassed or threatened by Mabus (particularly Canadian citizens or people living in Montreal, as the police seem to be taking those more seriously) and have recorded proof, you can contact the Montreal Police through Twitter or this contact information and forward your information. (Edit: If you live in Montreal or the surrounding area and have received a death threat from Mabus, you should contact Tim Farley — see info in the comments — for the contact information of the investigating detective.) The important thing now is to (finally) let the police do their job.

UPDATE: The mainstream Canadian media has started to pay attention with Global News, CTV, CTV Montreal, and the Toronto Sun reporting on the story.

UPDATE 12/08/2011: MSN story (French). The Montreal Gazette follows up with more detail. CBC Montreal did a late-night story (video – 4:00 mark) – there is a YouTube version, but the sound is low. The CBC reporter claims that the police have opened their investigation to threats outside Montreal. If you have received a direct death threat (not just spam), please report it to the Montreal police.

UPDATE 17/08/2011: The Montreal Police have tweeted that they have made an arrest in the Mabus case. The rumor mill is that there will be a press release as well within a day or two.

13 Responses to “David Mabus of Internet Infamy FINALLY Investigated”

  1. Tim Farley says:

    In addition to being interviewed by three different journalists, I have been in contact with the detective at SPVM who is handling this case. One thing she has emphasised is that the problem for them is the lack of LOCAL plaintiffs in the case – i.e. people in Montreal.

    If you live in Montreal and have received direct threats from Mabus like the one pictured in this blog post, contact me and I can give you the name and phone number of the detective. (She asked that I not post it publicly).

    Let me repeat: you need to be a Montreal resident, and you have to have received something more than his usual “spam” posts that he repeats hundreds of times per day, like the screenshot of the message to @Pribbzilla above.

    You can reach me at webmaster@ my website What’s The Harm dot net.

  2. Isn’t uttering death threats a federal offence? It’s great that something is finally happening, but given the national and international nature of the threats, it should be the RCMP doing the investigating.

  3. Composer99 says:

    When you consider the scale of abuse & threats that Mabus heaps on an extraordinary number of people, day after day after day after day, there really is no good reason not to escalate to taking official action. All the more so since he himself has escalated to real-life appearances.

  4. Ian Douglas MacKenzie Young says:

    I’m confused by this.

    My understanding is that “uttering ‘death threats’” is a federal crime under the Criminal Code of Canada.

    Why is there need for a complainant from the SPVM’s jurisdiction?

    The SPVM’s alleged reluctance to charge Mabus with a summary conviction of uttering ‘death threats’ means that those complainants whose police reports have exceeded the statutes of limitation (by being over 6 months from the time of the offense), aren’t taken in to account.

    Is there a loop-hole in Quebec law that I am unfamiliar with that specifies how a citizen of Quebec may use a computer to commit the material component of the offence in cyber and hate crimes?

    WTF?

    • Dianne Sousa says:

      For clarity, criminal law in Canada is a federal responsibility, so all criminal offences are “federal offences”. This is in contrast to the U.S, where states have this responsibility and the federal government has a series of laws in addition (these are the “federal offences”). Canadian criminal law does not vary province to province, therefore all police services are required to enforce the same criminal laws.

      Some provinces have their own provincial police services, some use the RCMP in this role (as well as using the RCMP in municipal policing) and some municipalities big enough have their own police services. In a province like Quebec that has all three sharing policing responsibilities, it is common practice for offences like this to be investigated by the municipal police force first. That’s why the SPVM is handling this, at least at this point.

  5. Kim Hebert says:

    From what I gather (and remember this is an account of events relayed from other people who have spoken to the police – so, get out your grains of salt), this has been reported to the RCMP and to the US authorities (FBI, etc) but they passed it on to the local police who would not investigate without a local complainant.

    Death threats are illegal, as are utterances of inciting hate and genocide (in Canada), but it apparently hasn’t been demonstrated well enough to the police that Mabus could act on any of those threats. I’m not sure that they are taking into account the fact that there are public atheist meet-ups in Montreal and the surrounding area that sometimes have guest speakers like PZ Myers. There’s nothing preventing Mabus from attending those if security doesn’t catch him (and he has at least once in the past gotten in).

    But I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, as I don’t work for the SPVM. So there’s probably more to this than I know about.

    Edit: After writing this comment, I saw a CBC report that the police were widening their investigation. See above.

  6. Tim Farley says:

    Hey Canada! Watch your news today. A little birdie tells me there will be good stuff.

  7. I don’t understand the “not local” problem. The police are also there to deal with the local end of international crimes, such as death threats sent to people in other countries from their precinct. This man has been sending international death threats since at least 1993 and the days of USENET.

    For years, people have been following the proper procedures, reporting to the FBI, the RCMP, or their local police forces as instructed, only to have the Montreal police toss their reports into the circular file because, “Ce n’est pas ici.” Incroyable.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] So denialism is good — in the proper context.  But it also has a dirty underbelly.  Every mother knows that her child never does the things those other boys and girls do.  And just last week, a mother whose child has done far worse than other children proved the point.  David Mabus, internet loony and originator of hundreds — perhaps thousands — of verifiable death threats, is finally being investigated.  And what did his mother have to say about it? Mabus’ mother defended his actions saying that she does not interfere with what he does because “he wouldn’t hurt a fly” and “it’s [his behaviour] his job for what he believes” [paraphrased, translated from French].  (LINK) [...]


  • Kim Hebert

    Kim Hébert is an occupational therapist. She is interested in the promotion of science and reason, particularly regarding therapeutic health interventions. She blogs occasionally about occupational therapy and other health topics at Science-Based Therapy. Her hobbies are art and astronomy. **All views expressed by Kim are her personal views alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of current or former employers, associations, or other affiliations. All information is provided for discussion purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for consultation with a licensed and accredited health professional.