Weinergate is the biggest mystery to hit the internet since Sarah Palin's pregnancy. Is it really him? Was it a hacker? a Jealous lover? Thousands of cyberdetectives are on the case! And they (almost) all suck.
Since a link to a picture of a man's brief-clad boner was posted to Rep. Anthony Weiner's official Twitter account last weekend, a number of idiots have claimed to "prove" one thing or another about the story. The only thing they have proved is that a lot of people have too much time on their hands. Consider:
The Case of Weiner's College Student Mistress
Minutes after Weiner's fateful tweet, hundreds of right-wing cybersleuths with the taste of blood on their lips swarmed the 21-year-old college student at whom the message was directed. They dubbed her the "Femme Fatale of Weinergate," Seattle resident Gennette Cordova. They hounded Cordova's friends and family, posted her phone number and creepily contacted her undercover as "old friends" to try to dig up information.
Imagine if real detectives conducted sensitive investigations this way: A crime occurs and dozens of them pile into a clown car, speed to a suspects' house, jump out and pound on all the windows and doors at once demanding answers. Would not work! A traumatized Cordova deleted all of her social-networking profiles and issued a bewildered statement to the Daily News. Who knows if Weiner really was sexting Cordova—but if she were to cop to being Weiner's e-mistress, it would be to a reporter who won her trust or marshaled incontrovertible evidence, not a pack of conservative weirdo's pounding on their keyboards in a basement room lit only by the flickering of Fox News.
The Case of the Photoshopped Crotchshot Screenshot
The Inspector Clouseaus on the left haven't been any better. The first liberal net detectives on the case debunked Weinergate by "proving" that the original screenshot of the crotchshot on Weiner's account had been photoshopped by a right-wing goon. See, a commenter on Daily Kos ran some fancy photo analysis on the screenshot which made it all static-y. Somehow that static proved that the screenshot had been edited to make it appear that the crotch shot had been posted to Weiner's account. It never actually was there! The Daily Koser who ran the analysis possessed sterling credentials: "I have an actual college degree in Digital Multimedia and Graphic Design. I've been using PhotoShop professionally nearly every day since 1993." Light up a cigar, pour some fine bourbon! Case closed!
But the photoshopping claim was proven completely wrong. Weiner acknowledged that the picture appeared on his account by claiming he'd been "hacked." There is no question that the screenshot of the crotch on Weiner's account is genuine. A crotchshot did appear on the account. The mystery is who posted it, and the image's provence.
The Case of the yfrog Hack
When the Case of the Photoshopped Crotchshot Screenshot proved fruitless, liberal detectives moved onto another investigation: Could someone have possibly figured out a way to covertly post the image to Weiner's account on the image-hosting yfrog? Yes, screamed the liberal blogger Cannonfire! "CASE CLOSED! CONGRESSMAN WEINER WAS FRAMED!"
Cannonfire discovered a security hole: Each yfrog user has a secret, randomly-generated, email account which can be used to post pictures. But this allows anyone to post a picture to the account if they know the email—not just the account-holder. Clearly, some right-wing operative got Weiner's secret yfrog email and used it to post the dick pic to Weiner's account! Light up the cigars, pour yourselves a whiskey! Another mystery solved during lunch break at the Greenpeace phone bank!
Not really: All this proves is that Weiner could have been the victim of a hack, which we already know. To illicitly post something to Weiner's yfrog account, the hacker would still have needed his secret email address—something Weiner probably didn't even know himself. (Do you?) So it's easy to break into a yfrog account? It's not any harder to crack a Twitter account and post an image that way. Hacks happen!
(The yfrog detective did, however, point out a real problem with yfrog, which they appear to be addressing.)
The Case of the Sketchy Metadata
This brings us to the one piece of detective work that actually seems convincing. Prompted by observations that the camera-identifying metadata on the Weiner's dick pic doesn't match previous pictures he's taken, The New Republic had the picture analyzed by a respected digital forensics expert. The expert, a Dartmouth professor, compared the picture to a database of 15,000 photograph-taking devices and found it didn't match any of them, which suggests it had been manipulated before appearing on Weiner's account. "It seems unlikely that the photo went directly from Weiner's Blackberry to Twitter," writes the New Republic.
So, unless you are an expert in forensics with a PhD in computer science, your detective work sucks. And even if you do have a PhD in computer forensics: don't you have anything better to do with your time?
[Images via Getty, Shutterstock]