The popular blog Gawker.com has launched a new "Gawker Stalker" feature that pinpoints the locations of readers' random celebrity sightings on the Internet, using a Google map of Manhattan.
"It would be horrible and terrible and the end of Western civilization as we know it if someone were to take the Stalker sightings that have been on Gawker for years and start displaying them in graphical form!" the sardonic site said in a recent entry.
"What sort of evil Nazi deviants would do such a thing?"
Gawker, which had been posting map-free "Stalker" sightings for two years, is now digging in its heels against famously protective celebrity publicists. They're complaining that the cheeky feature encourages creepy stalking, placing the rich and famous in harm's way with just the click of a mouse.
"Not at all," the site's editor, Jessica Coen, told The Associated Press on Monday. "Our spies are just regular people ... people that are excited to see someone they like. Our readers are, for the most part, a very educated, well-meaning bunch."
Coen has hired two interns to update the map daily with readers' sightings, down to the exact time, restaurant and cross streets. Early Tuesday afternoon, there were sightings of Nicole Richie ("petite and cute"), Naomi Campbell ("telling her assistant to hurry up"), Ashanti ("her perfume reeks") and Kenny Rogers ("looked exactly like he's had a ridiculous amount of work done").
Another's impression of Geraldo Rivera, spotted Monday at Rockefeller Center: "Shorter than expected (aren't they all), his moustache definitely greased into place and so tan he looked like he just popped out of an Easy Bake Oven."
That might merit a mean-spirited chuckle, but some folks aren't laughing.
"This is a dangerous thing," publicist Stan Rosenfield, who represents George Clooney, told The Associated Press. "And for them to say that, if somebody gets hurt, 'Don't blame it on us because they're public figures,' it's ridiculous ... Someone could hurt over it. You don't know who's reading it."
Rosenfield thinks the site is "taking advantage of the fact that there is probably no statute on the books at this time that governs this dissemination of information."
Despite her editorial freedom inside the Internet universe, Coen said she thinks the map is essentially harmless.
"We completely acknowledge that there are very many creepy people out there, but truth is, if there is someone really intending to do a celebrity harm, there are much better ways to go about doing that than looking at the Gawker Stalker," Coen said. "If you're using the map to do that, you are a really bad stalker."
By Erin Carlson