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His online moniker is The1Quiz. Since 1998, he’s been a relentless and often incisive Web critic of J. Erik Hvide, former chairman, president and chief executive of Hvide Marine Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Last week, in a court ruling with national implications for those who post comments anonymously on Internet bulletin boards, Erik Hvide’s lawyers convinced Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Eleanor Schockett to order Yahoo and America Online to unmask The1Quiz. The request is the latest twist in a defamation suit Erik Hvide (not the company) filed last autumn against The1Quiz. But Hvide doesn’t yet know the identity of the person he is suing. The Miami Daily Business Review, however, has been in contact with the “Quiz,” who agreed to a phone interview about his bitter clash with Hvide — and its central place in the embryonic debate about free speech rights and responsibilities on the Internet. It’s a fight that won’t be ending anytime soon. The Quiz, who acknowledged using one other unidentified Web name to post messages, said during a 1 1/2-hour interview that he plans to appeal the judge’s ruling. The Quiz spoke on the condition his real name not be divulged. His lawyer, Christopher K. Leigh of Fort Lauderdale’s English McCaughan & O’Bryan, monitored the three-way telephone call. He’s a former Hvide Marine shareholder who took a hit — he won’t say how big — when the company’s stock tanked two years ago as the oil rig supply company was squeezed between sliding crude prices and a mountain of debt. The company had borrowed heavily to finance a huge expansion of its fleet, which was the centerpiece of Erik Hvide’s corporate strategy after taking the helm from his father, company founder Hans Hvide. “We bought at $17 a share. We got out at 17 cents,” said the Quiz. (Hvide Marine’s 8,999 other shareholders saw tens of millions of dollars in equity wiped out during the company’s brief, planned trip through bankruptcy court late last year.) Hvide, of Delray Beach, Fla., has alleged in court papers that he’s been defamed, tormented and threatened with violence by incognito Web posters using Yahoo’s bulletin board. He also claims their publicly posted messages, falsely alleging or implying fraud and mismanagement, caused the Hvide Marine board of directors to fire him. “They attributed everything the company had done to my father and said I was a member of the lucky sperm club,” Erik Hvide said in an interview with the Miami Daily Business Review last October. The Quiz — whose messages can be found among 3,500 posts at http://messages.yahoo.com/ ?action=q&board=hmarq — scoffs at Erik Hvide’s assertions of defamation. “We wish we had that power over his job,” said the Quiz, who denied making any threats. “We didn’t bring him down. Factions in the company brought him down.” (Hvide Marine maintains Erik Hvide resigned.) By way of example, the Quiz disputed Erik Hvide’s interpretation of his remarks comparing Erik to the captain of the notorious Exxon Valdez oil tanker. Hvide’s civil complaint alleged the Quiz implied Hvide “was either drunk or asleep at the wheel of the corporation.” “That reference actually meant the following: [the tanker] was leaking oil all over the place, and Hvide Marine was hemorrhaging cash all over the place. Yet the lawyers [for Erik Hvide] came back and made an assumption,” the Quiz said. “You can twist things the way you need to.” “And [Erik Hvide] refers to being painted as some sort of criminal. We can’t help it that while he was at the helm of the ship the company was definitely involved in some criminal activity,” said the Quiz, an apparent reference to Hvide Marine’s decision last month to plead guilty to making $60,000 in illegal payments to Broward union leader Walter Browne. “I think that, as shareholders, we were misled. People were sold stock based upon — and we can produce the people — Erik’s statements the company was ‘guided by Godly principles,’” said the Quiz, referring to remarks attributed to Hvide in an annual report. “Do unto others as they do unto you. That’s a Godly principle. Well, I don’t recall 9,000 shareholders screwing Erik.” he said. Similarly, the Quiz objected to Judge Schockett’s courtroom comparison of his desire for anonymity to that of a hooded Ku Klux Klan member. “She apparently didn’t like [a hood] anymore than having a moniker on the Internet,” said the Quiz. “But the fact is, they have a right to wear a veil and to keep their identities behind them.” The Quiz, who learned of Erik Hvide’s intention to subpoena Yahoo to learn his identity after reading it in the Miami Daily Business Review last October, said he’ll continue to resist disclosure. Why? The Quiz said it’s not out of fear of being sued. Rather, he insisted, it’s because of his belief in what the American Civil Liberties Union has called, in court papers filed on the Quiz’s behalf, the “right to anonymity.” “An Internet bulletin board is an ongoing conversation, like a huge conference call. People have opinions. There’s an exchange of ideas. Things are hashed out. You can believe in them, or not believe in them. Act on them, or not act on them. This allows everybody to get into the act,” said the Quiz. “If I was Randolph Hearst, I could put this in all the newspapers. He had the venue. Now, so do I,” he said. Should he ultimately lose his fight to stay anonymous, however, the Quiz has an intriguing fallback. He plans a hunt of his own for the real names of certain anonymous posters. “We think Erik’s on a fishing expedition, but he can’t expect to go to sea and catch just one small fish,” said the Quiz. That includes, the Quiz said, finding out whether Erik Hvide, or any of his former executive underlings, were among those using the Yahoo board to bash the company’s bashers or tout the company’s stock. “Funny thing about those posts … the records are permanent, and no one can change anything,” said the Quiz. “[A message] can be traced to the computer it was written on. So, if you want to open a can of worms, I say, ‘go right ahead.’”

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