Tag Archives: Chris von Ulmenstein

Watch THAT space!

At 4.13 yesterday afternoon, the Internet Service Providers Association advised CapeInfo that our complaint regarding offensive statements on the site, whalecottage.com, had been forwarded to Whale Cottage’s service provider for action.

The first step in the take down process usually takes 24 to 48 hours, but it was handled by the ISPA in about two hours.  Maybe that stems from the gravity of the situation or the large number of take down requests from various members of the public against Whale Cottage, since CapeInfo publicised the take down process in this blog.

There is going to be keen interest in Chris von Ulmenstein’s Whale Cottage blog and her service provider, Hetzner, who have to decide on the action to be taken.

Hetzner screwed up badly when they took down Martin Hatchuel’s This Tourism Week after a complaint by Chris von Ulmenstein.  Hetzner have admitted that they did not follow correct process before taking the site down but now they want Hatchuel to indemnify them from any actions that may arise from this.  It beggars belief!  Read their email to Hatchuel here.

Von Ulmenstein now has a day or two to decide what to do.

Is this censorship?  No, it’s not.  Complaints to the ISPA are based on “unlawful content” – libel, dishonesty, etc.  Society has laws and processes to protect the community from bad people.

Von Ulmenstein has already conceded that what she wrote about me is unlawful by removing one defamatory and libelous statement overnight.

I have submitted supplementary demands to Hetzner ([Abuse #20101123-G-268] complaint ##389 / Hetzner / Offensive Statements) that addresses the “unlawful content” in her entire article about me.

What are von Ulmenstein’s options?  She can:

  1. remove specific content or blog posts, conceding that her actions have been unlawful.  She has, in a minimal way, already done that.
  2. refuse to act further in which case her whole website, whalecottage.com, will be closed down within days.
  3. move her blog outside the jurisdiction of SA’s internet laws, which is what the infamous “Neil Watson” did with the libellous and scandalous crimeexposa.com.  But that was closed down in the end too.

CapeInfo is examining legal options against von Ulmenstein.  The knock on the door she’s expected for so long with the lawsuit may happen sooner than she thinks.  There’s a big enough victims’ club out there for a class action!

Her fans will be dismayed and will rally to her support – they enjoy their daily soap opera.  And Cape Town’s dinner parties and cyberspace will have less spicy gossip, but it will be so much saner and more constructive.

Poscript

It appears that von Ulmenstein has chosen option 3 and is moving her website with the sole reason being to escape the jurisdiction of South Africa’s internet laws, specifically, the ECT Act.

On Friday I received the following notification from the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA):

“Resolution of complaint COC.#389 / Hetzner / Offensive Statements

“The client – whalecottage.com – has decided to terminate her hosting with Hetzner. She is in the process of moving her domain to a different hosting company.”

I queried a number of issues with ISPA, including whether the site should be taken down until that transfer is effected.  ISPA’s response was:

“If they decide that they are willing to keep a site up while the site-owner arranges for it to be moved, they are entitled to do so (and potentially incur some legal risk in doing so).  ISPA cannot compel anyone to take down a site — permanently or temporarily.”

I replied to ISPA’s official notification:

“This complaint is NOT resolved.

“Unlawful content is still on the internet at www.whalecottage.com which Hetzner continues to host at this time.  I request that an Independent Adjudicator be speedily appointed in terms of your process where complaints are not resolved.

“I maintain that, by its actions, Hetzner has made a mockery of the ECT Act and now has legal liability for the unlawful content.  I also question the fact that a legal process that is underway can be halted by moving – or indicating the intention to move –  the web site in question out of the jurisdiction of South African Laws.

On Sunday, www.whalecottage.com’s IP address was 188.40.0.245 which is held by Hetzner Online AG, located in Germany.

But a ‘whois’ search for www.whalecottage.com shows the following details:

Registration details for www.whalecottage.com showing Hetzner SA as the service provider.

So now one just has to wait for the appointment of the Independent Adjudicator and the outcome of that process.

188.40.0.245

The bane of Cape Town’s hospitality industry

“I’m such a nasty person,” she said with glee.  One can laugh it off but in Chris von Ulmenstein’s case, it’s become a fact.  And she went on to say how she waits for knocks on the door bearing lawsuits.

But her latest action shows that she is in fact, in her own small way, a threat to democracy.  She convinced her hosting company, Hetzner, to take down another site which they also host.  Hetzner has not responded to CapeInfo’s email so we find hard to believe that the process is fair and, indeed, constitutional.

One prominent Cape Town hotelier called Hetzner to complain about its actions, but Hetzner’s Gunther Breuninger explained that they were instructed by the Internet Service Providers Association to take down the site.  Now if you look at the ISPA’s take-down process, you will see that it’s not the ISPA that issues any instruction, but Hetzner would have decided for itself.  So did Breuninger tell a blatant lie?  One must wonder if Hetzner is a trustworthy company.

Was Hetzner right or wrong?  Vote in our poll on the right.

The site taken down is Martin Hatchuel’s This Tourism Week – a highly-regarded business-to-business publication and an important part of his livelihood.

One tourism organisation official – who prefered not to be identified – had the following take on all of this: “Martin is an excellent journalist and This Tourism Week is one of the better tourism news sites out there. I find it incomprehensible that his website was shut down because of comments from readers to a vitriolic posting by von Ulmenstein. This action by Hetzner does appear unconstitutional.”

You can read the posting here.

Why the anonymous quotes?  Many people are scared of von Ulmenstein and none want the nastiness of her vitriolic attacks that are sure to follow.

Chris von Ulmenstein has become the Julius Malema of the hospitality industry – a loose cannon who always knows better; she’s happy to criticise but balks at any criticism of herself.

Whale Cottage blog tags

The tags say it all. Von Ulmenstein’s writing is purely a promotion of herself and her Whale Cottage Portfolio. From www.whalecottage.com/blog/

I started von Ulmenstein on her blogging career.  She came to me in 2008 when someone had opened a website with the sole aim of criticising her and her business (Whale Cottage Portfolio) after a bad experience at one of her guest houses.  The problem was, if you googled “Chris von Ulmenstein”, this slagging website was at the top of the first page.

So I advised that she makes as much “noise” as possible – using Facebook, social media and other websites and blogs.  And I even offered her a blog on CapeInfo which she started.  The offending website was pushed off Google’s first page fairly quickly.

This is super – I Google’d “Chris von Ulmenstein” last night, and saw it at no. 8 I think, beating the horrid website, which is now at number 10.  I have to get it off the first Google page.” CvU’s email on 29/8/08

Von Ulmenstein took to blogging like a duck in a downpour.  Unfortunately, this was the time when she’d also just been booted out of Fedhasa – her industry association.    So she used the blog to air her personal grievances (something a professional writer never does) and slag off Fedhasa’s leadership.

Now I now that Google spiders CapeInfo very efficiently and it usually takes between three and six minutes before a blog post is indexed on Google.  But the worst was waking to von Ulmenstein’s emails (often written at about 3am), asking if I’d seen her latest post slagging Nils Heckscher or another victim, and how it’s already at number three on Google’s first page for a search on the person’s name.

I hoped that she’d move on and concentrate on providing the insight that she is so good at.  But no, when I said I was unhappy with her direction she opened a new blog – Fedhasa is a Farce, where she really let rip.

So I was forced to set conditions, which she would not meet, and I felt obliged to close her blog on CapeInfo.  There was no outside influence and I took the decision completely on my own.  I cannot allow CapeInfo to be used as a platform for malicious vendettas where integrity is a foreign word.

I’ve known Chris for a long time.  She and her company, Relationship Marketing, became a tenant at the V&A Waterfront in the early 90s.  Then, she was one of those people one rather avoided.  She always knew better and nothing was good enough.

In subsequent years, I had a good relationship with her while she was on Cape Town Tourism’s board, lastly as deputy-chair when the old CTT was disbanded in 2003.

She was a passionate champion for tourism in the days when tourism wasn’t the glamour industry it is today.  But as the old CTT was being closed, after the City Council withheld funding, I had to wonder if she wasn’t too passionate and if there wasn’t an element of surrogacy in her possessive relationship with CTT?  With imminent closure as funds were running dry, von Ulmenstein reportedly handed over a cheque for over R100,000 to keep the organisation going.  They gave the cheque back to her.

She never made it onto the new CTT board so focused her attention on Fedhasa, where she served on the Western Cape exco until tensions with fellow exco members saw her expelled rather publicly – the first time I’m aware anybody has been expelled in that manner.

Is Chris von Ulmenstein a paragon of virtue in the realms of her chosen hospitality industry?  Well, one thing is clear, she is seriously lacking in the karma stakes.  Her nemesis website in Google, dirtywhale.com, is still there and back up to fourth position; her presence in TripAdvisor (which she calls “the bane of the hospitality industry”) and HelloPeter is hardly salutary.

The latest five Tripadvisor posts about Whale Cottage Franshhoek are:
Whale Cottage Franschhoek – a dirty run down dump.
Whale Cottage – a health risk
An agressive owner, no service, no telephone and a dirty pool..not a 4*
A squalid hovel with horrendous staff and owner
A filthy run down and disgusting dump Do…

On HelloPeter.com there is one compliment and five complaints.

If anything is the bane of Cape Town’s hospitality industry, it is von Ulmenstein’s Whale Cottage Blog.  She’s reportedly been banned at scores of restaurants and was forcibly evicted by police from trendy, upmarket Beluga, when she was refused right of admission and refused to leave.

Yet she riles on and on, sparing no-one she disagrees with.  Her page-by-page criticism of Crush magazine is one of the most embarrassing examples of journalism I’ve ever seen.

Von Ulmenstein seems to have one set of rules for herself, but another set for everyone else.  She wrote the following email to me on October 31, 2008:  “It would be most unprofessional for you to attack me, when we are “colleagues”, so to speak. You sound like a self-righteous policeman, and in judgment of things that do not concern you, as you are not part of my business.”

So, if I started Chris von Ulmenstein on her blogging career which has caused so much distress, I must apologise.

But as one of South Africa’s most esteemed professionals said, “One comfort about being attacked by the Whale is that there is such a large ‘old boys/girls club’ of victims.  Sad little person.”

Postscript
It was actually very sad writing this because I was friends with Chris at one time.  If it was not for her malicious and vindictive rabble-rousing, she would be a great blogger.  Her blog was recently nominated in the SA blog awards in the ‘most controversial blog’ category.  One hopes that this doesn’t inspire her to new heights, or should that be “stoop to new lows?”

Postscript #2
The ISPA has drawn my attention to the following:

  1. It is the ISP that decides on a take down and not the ISPA.
  2. the ECT Act is fairly clear on redress:  77(2) Any person who lodges a notification of unlawful activity with a service provider knowing that it materially misrepresents the facts is liable for damages for wrongful take-down.

NOTE ABOUT POSTING COMMENTS
Due to violations of CapeInfo’s Terms of Use where fraudulent email addresses are being provided ( for example), we have introduced the requirement that only registered, logged in users may post comments.  This is common practice and followed by The Times and Mail&Guardian, for example.  We do not censor comments to promote a particular point of view and all points of view on the topic are welcome.

Where someone is prepared to provide a fraudulent address, the rest of their content is just as questionable.

The registration link is near the top of the page.  For assistance on registration, please click here.

End of the WhaleTales blog on CapeInfo

We were very sad to stop publishing the WhaleTales blog.  It was an agonising decision and considered very carefuly.

We have been very harshly criticised both for publishing the blog and for withdrawing it.  We need to state our side.

We believe Chris von Ulmenstein’s blog has a place and provides a compendium of useful information for the tourism industry.

Chris is know for tackling issues, which is fine, but the blog became a very personal vendetta against Fedhasa members.

Now, Fedhasa is much like a private club who’s sole purpose is to serve its members, and it’s Fedhasa’s right to decide who it allows as members.  Fedhasa is not the representative body for the tourism industry; SATSA and others fulfil roles too.

The vendetta became just too blatant and too much when Chris opened a second blog – “fedhasaisafarce” – on a Google platform.  This was not responsible journalism; it was a personal vendetta at its very worst that aimed to smear names by using high rankings in search engines.

We complained to Chris.  After thinking about it carefully, we informed her that we were suspending the blog and provided detailed reasons – integrity is a cornerstone of CapeInfo.  She removed the “fedhasaisafarce” blog and asked us to reconsider.  We agreed to do so subject to certain conditions.   She was not prepared to meet these and decided to open her own blog.

We wish the new WhaleTales blog well and really do hope that it is a success.