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Bonsai Kitten

The world's most hated Website?

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(Originally published 02/14/01)

I'M RELIEVED to say it's been a week or two since anyone has written to ask me if the activities depicted on the Bonsai Kitten Website (user discretion advised) are real.

Clearly, they are not.

Even so, the site, which purports to describe "the lost art of body modification in housepets" (consisting basically of stuffing small kittens into glass jars), has offended and angered quite a large number of people. Probably just as many are baffled by the fact that anyone takes Bonsai Kitten seriously. What began as an admittedly tasteless, puerile joke has turned into an Internet cause celebre. Animal welfare advocates decry it and defenders of free speech, well, defend it.

Not since Mahir mania (user discretion advised) has a lone, non-commercial Website commanded this much worldwide notoriety. Bonsai Kitten has inspired online petitions, condemnation by the Humane Society and news coverage in media both online and off.

It's safe to say that neither side in the roiling controversy expected the latest development, an investigation by the FBI. Last week the Bureau subpoenaed "any and all subscriber information" pertaining to the Bonsai Kitten site from MIT, on whose servers it first resided in December 2000. (The domain subsequently migrated from host to host and sprang up on various mirror sites until it was offered a permanent home on the consistently offensive Rotten.com (a whole lot of user discretion advised).)

One of the campus pranksters responsible for Bonsaikitten.com, the pseudonymous "Dr. Michael Wong Chang," told Wired News he was surprised by the move. "I really thought that the FBI had better things to do," he said. "That's your tax dollars at work."

Nobody expects serious legal consequences to come of the investigation, which as a matter of fact only appears to be drawing more attention to the much-hated Website.

Go figure.

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