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AltaVista scam man gets new job

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The man responsible for the biggest Internet scandal of the year has got a new job - and it's not one that involves asking "do you want fries with that?".

Andy Mitchell, the former boss of AltaVista UK and the man who lied to the nation, misled Prime Minister Tony Blair and lied to his bosses about delivering unmetered Net access, is to be the chief executive of the "intelligent search engine", Webtop.

Just in case you need reminding, Mitchell coughed up for the whole sorry saga. In a signed confession posted on the AltaVista Web site he said: "I made the decision to delay the rollout [of AltaVista's unmetered service] and, subsequently, put on hold the service. I am remiss in not informing you (or my management) earlier about this situation. In fact, regrettably, during a television interview AltaVista's CEO erroneously referred to an estimated number of users expected to have been signed up for the service based on our capacity and projection for the service roll out at that time. He, too, understood that our service was operating."

Mitchell's crime wasn't that AltaVista's unmetered service failed. Gawd knows, other ISPs have been making a pig's ear of that ever since the craze for unmetered access hit the UK.

No, his crime was to lie and to obfuscate the truth. Repeatedly.

He lied to Net users - that much is true. He said he lied to his bosses, although it's feasible he could have taken the rap just to protect them. Martyr or fall guy, the man still lied - and that was his downfall.

Anyone - everyone - makes mistakes. But the AltaVista incident was a cover-up - a sham - and it dented people's confidence in the Internet.

News of Mitchell's appointment was made public this morning at a press conference, although not before someone had "leaked" the story to the FT, according to Mary Morrison, PR manager for the outfit.

Which is fitting really, since news of Mitchell's humiliating departure from AltaVista UK at the end of August was also leaked - to Reg.

Asked whether the appointment was wise, Morrison told The Register: "We wouldn't have taken him on if we thought he was damaged goods."

According to the FT, Bright Station - which owns Webtop - has developed a "reputation for investing in troubled dotcom assets".

Well you don't get much more "troubled" than Andy Mitchell. ®

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