Being a Fugitive in the Digital Age

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Have you ever had to deal with those terrible McAfee Antivirus pop-ups that were pretty much just spam in itself?

Well, the guy behind it, John McAfee, is hilarious (granted I don’t and hopefully will never have to deal with him personally). The 68-year-old software millionaire has been living his life in Belize.

In 2012, police began to search for McAfee as a “person of interest” in connection to the murder of his neighbor. McAfee evaded the Belize authorities, claiming he was afraid they were going to kill him. Belize’s Prime Minister Dean Barrow called said McAfee is “extremely paranoid.”

While a fugitive, he kept up a blog and created a Twitter. He wrote posts like “Cause of the Raid” and “The MDPV/Bath Salts Connection.”

The large amount of publicity surrounding the incident was largely due to McCafee’s ability to say his side a story while being in hiding. This was interesting because most people on the run become, theoretically speaking, invisible. The governmental institutions and institutional media used to be the only sides with the ability to report on what was happening without threat. Yet, McAfee was able to speak directly to his large audience through his blog and through Twitter. He also made himself available to the press by allowing a way to contact him through his site, which is much safer than directly giving your email.

People, especially those working in tech, followed the chase closely. To the tech world, McAfee was already a known eccentric millionaire. Wired reporter Joshua Davis visited McAfee about 6 months before the murder to ”try to understand why the government of Belize was accusing him of assembling a private army and entering the drug trade.”

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He’s the older generation of the tech industry, and I heard jokes at start-ups about how they will turn into McAfees when they become older. Although the incident was happening in Belize and Venezuela, it shaped conversation around the world. I think the conversation was particularly global because of the distribution of the audience. After all, cities with a large amount of technology and/or web development-related business include San Francisco and Silicon Valley, New York, Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Stockholm, Beijing, and Tel Aviv. The story was also particularly popular on sites such as Reddit.

The strong amount of traffic led to media outlets wanted more from McAfee, and McAfee happened to be a uniquely accessible source. It is in this way that technology was actually driving the choice of our news and how much of it we received. Non-journalists were also able to reach out to McAfee if they wanted to ask him anything of their own.

Ultimately, Vice Magazine accidentally revealed that McAfee was hiding in Venezuela. They took a photo of him and the information was found through the metadata.

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