The Hanoi Hannah of the smartphone wars - updatedDecember 26, 2012: 8:16 AM ET
Who is The__Truth__Hurts and what does he (or she) have against Apple?
FORTUNE -- On September 10, a reader using the handle The__Truth__Hurts contributed his (or perhaps her) first comment on this site -- a 163-word post that criticized Siri's reliability, pointed out that there still wasn't (at the time) an iPhone that supported high-speed LTE networking and made the dubious (and most likely false) assertion that "iOS apps crash far more often than Android."
It was a classic The__Truth__Hurts comment, mixing fact with unsupported slander aimed directly at Apple (AAPL).
And it was not the last. In the past four months, The__Truth__Hurts has posted more than 2,000 anti-Apple comments on a variety of tech-related websites, including AllThingsD, SlashGear and WMPowerUser.
But TTH spends more time on the Apple 2.0 site than any other. On Christmas Day alone he (let's assume it's a he) contributed 39 comments on three different stories -- Christmas Eve at the Apple, Microsoft and Sony stores, Sculley and Kirkpatrick vs. a couple of Bloomberg gals and Apple v. Samsung: Who's been editing the judge's Wikipedia page?
- "Apple RELIES on POPULARITY to SELL. Once the popularity decreases, they are doomed."
- "Samsung popularity will continue to increase. LG, HTC and Nokia are all turning around. And that will have a massive effect on Apple's bottom line."
- "Why pick up a iPhone for $650, when you can pick up another flagship phone for $450 to $500? (if not $300 in the Nexus 4 case). That is why the iPhone does /extremely/ well in America. Because Americans are stupid and see an iPhone 5 for $200 with 'high monthly bills' as a far better deal than an iPhone 5 for $650 with 'low monthly bills.'"
For a site that encourages reader interaction, the presence of a reader like TTH is a decidedly mixed blessing. On one hand, his comments spark spirited discussions from which actual, supportable facts can emerge. On the other, he can be a bit of a bully. And in an online community, the presence of a bandwidth hog with an axe to grind can, like Gresham's bad money, drive out the good.
His critics -- and there are many, including some who have taken up mocking handles like the Ugly Truth, He_Doesnt_Speak_The_Truth, and IgnoranceIsBliss -- believe TTH is a shill, a professional "troll" or provocateur paid by one of Apple's competitors to spread FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).
I don't know much about TTH's actual identity. According to "apppletini," one of his regular sparring partners, he used to post as techgeek01 on AllThingsD before he was banned from that site and re-emerged as The__Truth__Hurts. His IP address places him in the vicinity of Lawrence, KS, home of the University of Kansas, one of the best places in the U.S. to retire (according to the now defunct U.S. News and World Report), and less than 40 miles from the center of Google's (GOOG) fiber broadband experiment.
I don't like censorship. I believe that the best answer to bad speech is more speech, not less. But I've also been hanging around the Internet long enough to know how much havoc one bad apple can wreak on an online community.
I've e-mailed The__Truth__Hurts at the address he used to register at DISQUS, but have yet to hear back. I'm going to give him 24 hours to answer the charge that he is being paid to interfere with the flow of legitimate discussion here. If I'm not satisfied by then, I'm going to exercise my moderator's prerogative and put him on the blacklist.
UPDATE: I've heard from TTH. He assures me that he is not and has never been paid to post negative comments about Apple. But he adds that this has been a learning experience for him, and that his eyes have been opened.
"You have my permission," he writes, "to delete, block, censor my comments. You can also tell your readers that they never have to deal with this particular person/troll/commenter again."