My original interest in this area led me to suggest that the hackers are "squatting" on America Online. I utilized a term which one would use to describe someone who is occupying a physical space without permission. But this sort of a leap is one of which I am now leery. AOL does have a physical reality, of course: it is housed in a large network of mainframe computers at the AOL headquarters in Virginia. But it seems too easy to call AOL a "virtual community," especially when you’re paying $30 a month to share something with seventeen million people.

AOHell was a software program that exploited bugs in America Online. Legend had it that you could use it to mail-bomb someone's email account with hundreds of messages, boot them off the system (hit the Punt command), or make an obscene gesture in a chat room. And you could do this for free, courtesy of AOHell's fake credit card number generator.

The July issue of Wired stated that AOHell's creator was Da Chronic, a 17- year-old from Pittsburgh, PA, communicating with the world through an email service in Finland that keeps him anonymous. Da Chronic stated that his family had been affected by child abuse and that he wanted to punish AOL for allowing "pedophiles and child abusers" to use its chat rooms. AOL said it would terminate the account of anyone using AOHell.