Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Internet Astroturfer Fined $300,000

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the bet-amazon's-traffic-spikes-today dept.

The Courts 245

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that Lifestyle Lift, a cosmetic surgery company who posted fake reviews of their services on various websites, will have to pay $300,000 to the state of New York. Cuomo's office says this is the first US case to specifically target astroturfing on the internet. "Internal emails discovered by Attorney General Cuomo's investigation show that Lifestyle Lift employees were given specific instructions to engage in this illegal activity. One e-mail to employees said: 'Friday is going to be a slow day — I need you to devote the day to doing more postings on the web as a satisfied client.' Another internal email directed a Lifestyle Lift employee to 'Put your wig and skirt on and tell them about the great experience you had.' In addition to posting on various Internet message board services, Lifestyle Lift also registered and created stand-alone Web sites, such as MyFaceliftStory.com, designed to appear as if they were created by independent and satisfied customers of Lifestyle Lift. The sites offered positive narratives about the Lifestyle Lift experience. Some of these sites purported to offer forums for users to add their own comments about Lifestyle Lift. In reality, however, Lifestyle Lift either provided all the 'user comments' themselves, or closely monitored and edited third-party comments to skew the discussion in favor of Lifestyle Lift."

cancel ×

245 comments

niggers etc... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703277)

lazy, violent, untrustworthy.

you get the idea....

HEY BE NICE (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703467)

Please call them our "coloured cousins."

So they couldn't shout across the office? (3, Insightful)

bossanovalithium (1396323) | about 5 years ago | (#28703303)

We all know this shit goes on, all the time, but to email about it? they deserve more than 300k fine.. Will it stop this from happening? I doubt it.

Re:So they couldn't shout across the office? (4, Funny)

pizzach (1011925) | about 5 years ago | (#28703381)

Where the hell is myslashdotstory.com!? So sad...so sad...

Re:So they couldn't shout across the office? (3, Informative)

pizzach (1011925) | about 5 years ago | (#28704431)

The most interesting thing about slashdot is when I think I may be moderated funny, I get moderated insightful. When I think I am insightful, I am funny. When I think I am a troll, I am insightful. Such a confusing community we have here.

Re:So they couldn't shout across the office? (2, Interesting)

Abreu (173023) | about 5 years ago | (#28703553)

In order to not be fined $300,000usd, instead of posting glowing reviews of my product, I will start posting negative reviews of my competitor's product and will ask my sales force to spread FUD about them... ...

What?

Re:So they couldn't shout across the office? (3, Informative)

2obvious4u (871996) | about 5 years ago | (#28703703)

This case is Fraud [wikipedia.org] .
Spreading FUD would be Slander/Defamation [wikipedia.org] .

Re:So they couldn't shout across the office? (1)

Coldmoon (1010039) | about 5 years ago | (#28704511)

In order to not be fined $300,000usd, instead of posting glowing reviews of my product, I will start posting negative reviews of my competitor's product and will ask my sales force to spread FUD about them... ...

What?

Instead of attacking your competitors in some form of infantile temper-tantrum, why not use these same marketing resources to provide dedicated out-reach support for your products and services? Perhaps answering questions honestly, transparently, and completely? Jeesh, use the brains you were given to understand your customers and to making your products/services better...

Re:So they couldn't shout across the office? (5, Insightful)

clam666 (1178429) | about 5 years ago | (#28703659)

The overall problem is that the message still hasn't gotten out to people.

Stop believing everything you read on the internet; most of what you read is, at best, an opinion. The rest of it is entertainment and outright lies.

If you're watching a third rate cable channel a 3 a.m. and you see a "news style" interview with a doctor about a growing medical problem that can be solved with a supplement called "pomegranacai" extract or by using a "XTremeGazelle Exercycle" with testominials from other doctors in white coats and satisfied customers who lost 50 lbs, it is completely fake.

If you know that, why would you believe anything on the internet with testimonials, blogs, google ad links, myspace links and the like? Are you the first person who's never been flooded with SPAM?

Re:So they couldn't shout across the office? (1)

bossanovalithium (1396323) | about 5 years ago | (#28703701)

I watched an infomercial on electric vegetables once. I think the tide is turning, people now rip the piss from Amazon obvious fake reviews. But there's always goign to be a percentile that you wouldn't want helping you across the road.

Re:So they couldn't shout across the office? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703933)

You sure you weren't watching Cinemax?

The lesson they've failed to learn from history... (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | about 5 years ago | (#28703909)

The lesson they've failed to learn from mistakes of historical greats like Richard Nixon and the Plumbers - destroy the (e-mails.)

Re:The lesson they've failed to learn from history (4, Insightful)

MarkvW (1037596) | about 5 years ago | (#28704329)

Wow! You really miss the point. The lesson from Nixon is that the cover-up is what kills you.

Re:The lesson they've failed to learn from history (2, Insightful)

Hyppy (74366) | about 5 years ago | (#28704495)

The botched cover-up kills you. Do it right, and nobody will know.

Suffer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703343)

Pwned... and so they should be.

What I really want to know (3, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 5 years ago | (#28703369)

What I really want to know is this: does this "anti-astroturfing" law apply to "Team Windows"? If so, watch out Softies, Cuomo's got your number....

$300,000 that's all? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703373)

That's a small price to pay.. not even close to the cost of a decent condo. Cost of doing business, as they say...

Re:$300,000 that's all? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 5 years ago | (#28703391)

Per occurrence.

Re:$300,000 that's all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703465)

The multiple web postings postings and the web site are all together considered one violation.

It was totally worth it. Trust me.

Well... (1)

Aristophrenia (917761) | about 5 years ago | (#28703375)

Sounds like Sandra Lee wasn't happy with the results...




(Google their names before you mod off-topic)

So? (4, Insightful)

cdrudge (68377) | about 5 years ago | (#28703387)

Marketing department tells lies about their product. News at 11.

What I Wanna Know Is... (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | about 5 years ago | (#28703479)

...what kind of Marketing Cuomo's office did to get this story on Slashdot. Political Slashvertisements now? Or was Soulskill just passing some time surfing the website of the NY Attorney General's Office when he came upon this gem?

Re:So? (5, Insightful)

glop (181086) | about 5 years ago | (#28703509)

Did you read the summary?
They lied and got fined.
That sounds like news to me.
I had always known that people were planting fake reviews on forums and thought the only defense be cautious. So hearing that this is actually illegal is big news in my opinion.

Re:So? (1)

Still an AC (1390693) | about 5 years ago | (#28704019)

So they got a little slap on the wrist. I would think it's safe to assume that they got more then $300k worth of business from their lies. Looks like a win for them....

Re:So? (3, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 5 years ago | (#28703515)

Marketing department tells lies about their product. News at 11.

Indeed. I think that prosecuting this company for astro-turfing is pointless and inconsistent. As long as we have such a laissez-faire attitude towards all the lies and misdirection that marketing people have been doing for decades now, going after a handful of astro-turfers does nothing but give people a false-sense of trust in what they read on the net. Never mind the free speech implications that come into play when defining exactly where the line is between valid promotion and astro-turfing. (does giving away a free "review" produce with a promise of future "review" products qualify as illegal, what if the promise is never spelled out? what if its not a give-away, just an open-ended loan, or what if it is 1 year loan and it just so happens that the next review product shows up in exactly one year too?)

Re:So? (5, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | about 5 years ago | (#28703953)

No, there's a pretty clear difference between astro-turfing and normal marketing. In normal marketing you know the message is coming from the company, and thus can easily take said message with a grain of salt. In astro-turfing, its made to sound like someone living down the street actually tried the product and liked it. So the assumption there is that the person making the statement isn't biased because they are on the companies payroll.

NY Mom Lost 47 lbs Following 1 Rule! (4, Interesting)

nbauman (624611) | about 5 years ago | (#28704115)

The funny thing is that when I read the Seattle PI story, I got an ad next to it saying, "NY Mom Lost 47 lbs Following 1 Rule!"

That's the same NY Mom who appears as a California Mom, Texas Mom, Florida Mom and %ipaddress% Mom.

It's like the 17th Century, when pickpockets used to work the crowds who came to watch pickpockets being hanged.

Re:So? (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 5 years ago | (#28703517)

Your recap leaves out the news and then claims it is not news. The news is not that they lied, but that they were caught and prosecuted. Good.

Re:So? (1)

frozentier (1542099) | about 5 years ago | (#28703645)

Marketing department tells lies about their product. News at 11.

Ha, yeah, no kidding... Clorox pays people to get on TV and tell the world how good their bleach is, whether or not they've ever used it. I don't see how this is any different.

Like phone sex with fat ugly chicks or even dudes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703409)

But I have to credit Lifestyle Lift with the trustworthiness needed to at least make their employees wear skirts and wigs.

Just goes to show what a good company they are. And on another note, I found my lifestyle lift to be a quite effective alternative to surgery.

Re:Like phone sex with fat ugly chicks or even dud (5, Funny)

Buck2 (50253) | about 5 years ago | (#28703441)

I had three Lifestyle Lifts and now have more confidence than ever. I look good, feel confident, and just landed a new high-paying job. I don't know why the government is giving them a hard time. Don't they have something else to do, like fight crime or win wars or something?

Re:Like phone sex with fat ugly chicks or even dud (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#28703913)

Your subject line is totally incorrect. I know a woman with the sweetest, sexiest voice you ever heard, and a pretty good body, but her face - AAAAAGH!

Sex with her in the dark is GREAT. If you're having phone "sex" it doesn't matter what she looks like, only what she sounds like.

Fake reviews and astroturfing are nothing like that. It's more like the My Name Is Earl episode where "Patty the Daytime Hooker" uses Joy's picture in her newspaper ads.

Re:Like phone sex with fat ugly chicks or even dud (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | about 5 years ago | (#28704191)

But I have to credit Lifestyle Lift with the trustworthiness needed to at least make their employees wear skirts and wigs.

Yeah! Why is the Attorney General bigoted against transvestites?!

(Dons wig.) SOLIDARITY!

Oh, wait, my coworkers are looking at me funny. Solidarity... after work!

legal (2, Interesting)

fulldecent (598482) | about 5 years ago | (#28703475)

>> New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that Lifestyle Lift, a cosmetic surgery company who posted fake reviews of their services on various websites, will have to pay $300,000 to the state of New York. Cuomo's office says this is the first US case to specifically target astroturfing on the internet.

How is this illegal?

Re:legal (5, Informative)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 5 years ago | (#28703575)

False Advertisement.

You and I can say anything about any product we want... that's our opinion. But if the company making a product makes claims that are untrue about said product it's False Advertisement. These people just try to hide it by pretending to not be affiliated with the company. That may even be in itself Fraud.

Re:legal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703609)

Ah, so all those Apple zealots are actually secret Apple employees? I knew it!

Re:legal (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 5 years ago | (#28703759)

But if the company making a product makes claims that are untrue about said product it's False Advertisement.

So all those "male enhancement" commercials on TV are real, and portray real customers with satisfactory experiences?

This stuff is sleazy, but I don't see how it's inherently worse than other advertising we already tolerate.

Re:legal (3, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | about 5 years ago | (#28703977)

The difference is that you KNOW YOU'RE WATCHING AN AD, paid for by the company. There are also usually disclaimers on the ad, if you look saying "actor portryal, actors potraying real customers, real customers compensated, real customer not compensated."

Re:legal (3, Insightful)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 5 years ago | (#28703991)

No, they aren't real and a majority of the public wouldn't mistake it for real either. Aside from that, things like "Male Enhancement" are ambiguous products with ambiguous claims. About the only thing solid you can pull away from the advertisement is "These characters claim to have a better sexual experience", but what does that mean? A better orgasm? What does THAT even mean? How do you even measure it? Even if the product did nothing on the physiological level, a placebo effect can certainly cause results on the psychological level.

Re:legal (1)

rpillala (583965) | about 5 years ago | (#28704363)

It's been a while since I watched a commercial, but don't they put a notice at the bottom saying that the people are actors or something? Kind of like "professional driver on closed course"?

Contrast this with ads that say they're going to present real testimonials from actual customers. If they say that, then they have to do it.

Re:legal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703593)

I don't know the legal term, but this seems like fraud and misrepresentation. There are restrictions on how a company can advertise. For instance they cannot claim in commercials that person X endorses the product if that person doesn't actually agree to it. They cannot make unsubstantiated or totally erroneous claims.

I think the law takes a dim view of trying to circumvent these advertising laws by pretending to be someone else and delivering the same message.

Re:legal (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703619)

Re:legal (2, Informative)

2obvious4u (871996) | about 5 years ago | (#28703651)

  • How is this illegal?

It is Fraud.

Re:legal (2, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | about 5 years ago | (#28703795)

A market without transparency is not a market. Consumers need accurate information to make informed decisions. The goal of major corporations is to deceive people as much as is legally possible for the greatest short-term profit possible. If the company in question gained more profit than they had to pay with fines, it's a win-win for them.

So, in a healthy market, astroturfing is illegal. I doubt this will effect any company behavior, since the fine was so low. They will just come up with some legal loophole like hiring contractors to conduct interviews with clients and put those up on the web. In a truly healthy market, any flagrant violations of the law by the CEO or a significant portion of the organization would result in the revoking of their corporate charter and the seizure and auction of all company property.

Re:legal (2, Informative)

rpillala (583965) | about 5 years ago | (#28704239)

It sounds like wire fraud [wikipedia.org] to me. Even though wikipedia is no place to get legal advice, the definition of wire fraud is included in the article. I followed their link [cornell.edu] to the appropriate US Code section:

Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

The emphasis is mine, and I think that's where this activity on the part of Lifestyle Lifts employees is illegal.

Microsoft shills (2, Insightful)

jkxx (739331) | about 5 years ago | (#28703483)

Now hopefully someone will look into the MS shills frequenting this and other technology sites.

Re:Microsoft shills (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703537)

yes, because only microsoft would stoop to using shills on a tech website.......

Re:Microsoft shills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28704181)

No, but MS is the best at it. MS shills have numerical superiority, not to mention world class "reality distortion" capability. I would like to find out just how their shills get compensated. How much does the job pay? Is it regular work or on a contract basis? Paid in cash or just perks? I wonder about the taxes owed on the perks that are given in exchange for positive blogging and other forms of cheerleading.

Re:Microsoft shills (4, Funny)

ciderVisor (1318765) | about 5 years ago | (#28703561)

Leave us alone !

Re:Microsoft shills (1)

wjousts (1529427) | about 5 years ago | (#28703899)

Hopefully they will look into tin-foil hat shills too!

Re:Microsoft shills (3, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | about 5 years ago | (#28704009)

The problem is that you assume anyone here that actually LIKES MS' product (like me) is automatically a shill. I'm not a shill, I'm a person that was exteremly disapointed when I jumped to Linux, and thus jumped back. My Linux experience actually turned around my opinion of MS software. It was very much a case of "the grass is greener on the other side," only to find that not only wasn't it any more green, there were quite a few brown patches.

Re:Microsoft shills (0, Flamebait)

BobMcD (601576) | about 5 years ago | (#28704117)

In all honesty, I find anyone who responds to a comment about the existence of shills with "I am not a shill" to be very, very suspect. Nobody was calling you out, nor am I now, and yet I'm pretty confident you feel that I am.

Point being, if your opinions are well founded and phrased well, the metamod system tends to handle the rest. Usually, anyway. You could even BE a shill, and if you made good posts you'd still be very successful.

Re:Microsoft shills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28704235)

No, he knew what you were saying and so did you! I really hate people like you. You spout your nonsense on forums like this, and then act like people disagreeing with you somehow proves your point. All because you didn't really say what you clearly said. You, in your incredible wisdom, were just baiting the ignorant.

Re:Microsoft shills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28704481)

Take your tinfoil hat off. I'm sure the big bad corporations have better things to spend their money on then paying people to troll slashdot.

Re:Microsoft shills (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28704311)

McDonalds sells hamburgers. Not the greatest hamburgers, but they are very convenient. People who have no real choice often end up at McDonalds. Although there is nothing really wrong with McDonalds, there isn't a whole lot right about it either. You might try Burger King and discover that you like McDonald's better. That much I can believe, but most people who want a better choice than McDonalds will go to a real restaurant.

So I can understand why you might legitimately dislike Linux. But most of the people who jump ship from MS in search of a better experience end up with Apple. A few of them might even go back to MS, but I have yet to see that happen in real life.

You may be a genuine McDonalds fan. There really ARE some people who have acquired a test for their food, even though the majority view it as a last resort. But in the computer industry, a lot of people get paid to express an opinion. Brand loyalty is a commodity to be bought and sold. So the pro-MS comments get a fair amount of skepticism, as would a glowing review of McDonald's cuisine.

Re:Microsoft shills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28704441)

The problem is that you shill shill shilly shill LIKES MS' product (like me) is automatically a shill. I'm a shill, I'm a shill shill shill Linux, and thus more shill. My shill experience actually turned around my opinion of MS software. It was very much a case of "shill shill shill," only to find that not only wasn't it any more shilly, there were quite a few shill patches.

Fixed that for you.

Re:Microsoft shills (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | about 5 years ago | (#28704045)

She shills C-sharp shells by the sea shore.

Or something like that.

Re:Microsoft shills (3, Interesting)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | about 5 years ago | (#28704111)

Yes, because no sane person could ever disagree with you.

While there are probably MS shills out there (just like every other major company), the fact that you specifically target them in a story not at all about Microsoft suggests that you're just anti-Microsoft, which really isn't much different from being a shill.

Re:Microsoft shills (1)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | about 5 years ago | (#28704227)

More to the point, it sure clears up that controversy surrounding wikipedia paid edits, which some wikipedia editors tried to push a while ago.

Re:Microsoft shills (3, Funny)

kalirion (728907) | about 5 years ago | (#28704263)

All right, fess up, how much did Linus pay you to post that comment?

Re:Microsoft shills (2, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#28704269)

Not to mention Sony shills, who seem to always have mod points at slashdot. I was an XCP victim, but any time I say anything negative about Sony I'm modded down.

I wonder if that's illegal as well? Probably not.

At any rate, there are also lots of shills here from other companies besides Sony and Microsoft, although it seems the Sony and Microsoft shills seem to get lots of mod points (lots of employees, so it makes sense). In their defense (my God, I can't believe I'm defending MS and Sony) if someone blasted my employer I might mod them down, too, depending on what they said.

Not the first! (5, Informative)

Mathinker (909784) | about 5 years ago | (#28703491)

Sony got caught doing this a while back:

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4741259.stm [bbc.co.uk]

The link is to the BBC coverage of the California court decision.
I found out about it after reading a Slashdot post panning one of the movies which was pushed this way.

Re:Not the first! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703863)

And to throw in another, Belkin were also caught paying people to do reviews on some tech websites fairly recently, the whole "pay for good review" thing.

So many links on it, it is just better to link the search.
Belkin Paying for good reviews [google.co.uk]

And funny thing about these is that so many companies do it, even small-time shops, anything to get customers.
And if you were to ask most of them if they knew the legality of it, they'd never think once that it was illegal.

In other related news (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | about 5 years ago | (#28703511)

Lifestyle Lift Revenue went up by 300K last month...

Re:In other related news (1)

SupremoMan (912191) | about 5 years ago | (#28704139)

So you are saying they also cook their books?

In other words... (4, Insightful)

Idaho (12907) | about 5 years ago | (#28703547)

As a company, you should be absolutely fine, unless you are so incredibly stupid as to put instructions like these down in writing, and making them so explicit that they cannot be read or weaseled out of in any conceivable way.

why "to the State of New York" ? (3, Interesting)

panthroman (1415081) | about 5 years ago | (#28703555)

The company gets a punitive fine, okay. But who gets the money?

A Michigan-based company lies on the internet, so giving the money to the State of New York doesn't make sense to me. I'm having a tough time specifying just which group was wronged by the company -- Michigan consumers, American consumers, all consumers who have access to the internet, suckers? Wouldn't the money be more appropriately given to the FTC?

Re:why "to the State of New York" ? (4, Insightful)

trogdor8667 (817114) | about 5 years ago | (#28703687)

According to TFA...

Lifestyle Lift is like a franchise. They have offices in a bunch of places, including 21 in New York, and they also advertised specifically in New York, hence harm was done in the state of New York. I'd think that the Michigan AG could now also perform the same type of fine, and probably other states that the company has offices in too.

Re:why "to the State of New York" ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703749)

The State of New York was the party harmed, therefore it gets the money. When you commit a crime, you're charged for the harm to the country/state/county/municipality by your disruptive actions, not for the harm to the victim of your crime. Michigan/American consumers, suckers, and "all" other internet consumers have recourse through the civil court system.

They have operations in New York (1)

sirwired (27582) | about 5 years ago | (#28703807)

As a corporation, if you have facilities in a certain state, you are expected to abide by the laws of that state. New York gets the money because the AG filed the suit and did all the work. I suppose the FTC could join in the fun if they wanted to... but it looks like there is no need here.

SirWired

Re:why "to the State of New York" ? (1)

FatRichie (1456467) | about 5 years ago | (#28703911)

Because it's in their jurisdiction. Just like if you get a parking ticket in your city, you pay the fine to the city... even though the state may have given the city funds to assist in building the street on which you got ticketed, or the federal government may have had funds trickle down to that street as well. Frankly I don't care who ends up with the money, just so long as a$$hats like Lifestyle are forced to give their money away as punishment for schenanigans like this.

Re:why "to the State of New York" ? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#28704313)

I'm assuming you're British. I wish we had an ASA here, but unfortunately there's nothing an US customer can do about false advertising. The company's competetion has to file the complaint here, the customer has no recourse unless it's out and out fraud. And even then, if you file a complaint with the BBB you can't file a complaint with the AG (at least here in Illinois).

But then, we have the best legislators money can buy. And corporations have LOTS of money.

Thank you Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703565)

Thank you Slashdot! Reading you every day while at work has taught me so much about Technology and has made me a productive member of our IT team.

Re:Thank you Slashdot (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | about 5 years ago | (#28703853)

Productive? You must be new here.

Re:Thank you Slashdot (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | about 5 years ago | (#28704103)

He probably is. Back in the Olden Dayes, we weren't forced to read every single article, whether or not we were interested int the topic, like we are today.

Individual Responsibility (3, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 5 years ago | (#28703649)

The problem is not the fine. The problem is that the individuals who did this can hide under the corporation and not be held responsible. Why is it that if I did this on my own, I would personally be liable, but if I did so working for a corporation, the corporation is liable? Can I just do anything I want, so long as I have a shell corporation with a boss who tells me to do it?

If we held individuals responsible, then individuals would stand-up to the corporations and say no. But so long as they can clear their conscience by blaming their boss, and on up the chain, these things will happen. Oh, and punishing the CEOs doesn't fix it either, unless the CEO was really involved. Everybody seems to want to go to the person at the top. I want to beat the person at the bottom who actually did it.

Re:Individual Responsibility (1)

u38cg (607297) | about 5 years ago | (#28703805)

The point is, if you or I did this, it wouldn't *be* a problem. It would be fairly daft, but as far as I know there's nothing to stop you posting a fake review anywhere per se. So there's by extension nothing that the people have done wrng as individuals. This does not mean that a corporation can order its employees to gun down the opposition (though it would make hostile takeovers much more interesting).

Re:Individual Responsibility (5, Insightful)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | about 5 years ago | (#28703809)

If we held individuals responsible, then individuals would stand-up to the corporations and say no. But so long as they can clear their conscience by blaming their boss, and on up the chain, these things will happen.

If you work at such a morally righteous company then good for you. However, many corporations would have a field day with the ability to ask employees to do illicit activities without any threat of it falling back on the company itself. If you "stood up" to the company as you suggest you'd likely find negative consequences to your employment/advancement.

The individuals stood little to nothing to gain. It's the corporate entity that is involved in the illegal actions. Could you make a dummy corporation with a boss and do the same thing to "protect" yourself? Sure thing, but the $300,000 fine is going to come to your boss and dummy corporation (ie: you) so what would be the point?

I think it's also important to make the distinction that their violating laws pertaining to the legal operation a corporation and therefore the corporation is fined. Had they been told to go murder someone, then clearly the individuals would be held responsible as well, not just the corporate entity.

Re:Individual Responsibility (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 5 years ago | (#28703951)

I agree with your logic, and it serves to prove my point. Since the individuals are not responsible, they have no incentive to follow the law. If the law held them responsible, then employees would no longer engage in illegal activities.

In that scenario, if your boss threatens to fire you over your refusal, then they violate labor laws and face blackmail charges. If you go along with it, then the boss is also an accomplice. So the individuals would have disincentive to ask employees to do illegal actions.

Therefore, holding individuals responsible for their actions makes individuals less likely to commit crimes. Since corporations are a group of individuals, corporations are less likely to commit crimes.

QED.

Re:Individual Responsibility (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | about 5 years ago | (#28704075)

It is however, very difficult to prove the case of blackmail. Your boss could ask you to do it it verbally, and if you don't maybe you just get passed up for a raise or bonus. Maybe you just get crappy assignments from now on. There's any number of different ways they can punish you that would be difficult to prove in a court case.

It's not that I don't agree with the idea of personal accountability it's that I fear it would be too easily abused by corporate entities.

Re:Individual Responsibility (1)

jjrff (891275) | about 5 years ago | (#28704417)

The real answer here is "it depends" - for instance a few years ago someone who worked for Internet.com was astroturfing LinuxToday (and probably other Internet.com sites); in that instance the individual was held responsible: granted internet.com was less than pleased about it, however, the evidence that a sole individual was responsible led to that person being dismissed. If, however, Internet.com management overall instructed employees to astroturf it would have been difficult to punish each and every person - hence the organization itself would be punished.

Re:Individual Responsibility (2, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | about 5 years ago | (#28704097)

You have an odd opinion of labor laws. Maybe if everyone worked for a union it might somehow be a contract violation to fire anyone. However, if an employee is told to do something, legal or illegal, and they don't do it they can be fired for insubordination. Or for no reason at all, because there are no laws preventing people from being fired.

In Europe there are plenty of laws preventing people from being fired, for any reason at all. If you decide to employ someone you take on the responsibility for their future employment potentially forever. And paying into the state for them as well. It is practically impossible to fire someone after they have been working for six months in most places. The result of this is very high unemployment - no company can afford to hire someone without knowing in advance they can afford the position for the long term.

Contrast this with the US, where I can hire a sales person and if there is a downturn I can fire them anytime I want. There are no regulations, no laws preventing this. The result is more people get hired. Period. Would it be nice if everyone was assured by the government that they couldn't be fired? Maybe. But the result would be a lot fewer people getting hired. And that isn't good for anyone.

Re:Individual Responsibility (1)

BobMcD (601576) | about 5 years ago | (#28704165)

You're over simplifying. For starters, every employee is eligible to be fired. No one is perfect, and with enough manipulation and due diligence the company WILL eliminate employees if it so chooses. Additionally, you assume that groups of individuals are not somehow distinct from the individuals themselves. This is widely known to be false.

Re:Individual Responsibility (1)

Thaelon (250687) | about 5 years ago | (#28704283)

Why?

If they fined the individuals responsible for the decisions, then they might actually stop doing shit this reprehensible.

A corporation doesn't really exist. It's comprised of individual decision makers who should be held accountable for their decisions just as non-corporate citizens.

And I mean both, those in charge and those responsible for the actual actions. If you put the repercussions on both then shit like this would occur a lot less frequently, don't you think?

I'm sick and tired in this day and age of everybody shirking as much personal responsibility as possible. It is as disgusting and as immoral as lying.

Re:Individual Responsibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28703935)

Also in most companies you are expected to do what your boss asks you. Its their company, you are just acting for them on their whims. So yeah it should be the top level.

Re:Individual Responsibility (1)

plague3106 (71849) | about 5 years ago | (#28704063)

Because as an individual your job depends on if you comply or not; you have been coerced. Personally I don't think people should be coerced into doing bad things, so I'm totaly fine with the company taking the hit and the employees "getting off."

If we held individuals responsible, then individuals would stand-up to the corporations and say no.

And said individuals would be promptly fired, and someone that really needs a job (especially now) will take their place. You can't as an individual employee stand up to your employer, unfortunately.

Re:Individual Responsibility (1)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | about 5 years ago | (#28704183)

The people who were giving the orders will no doubt be held responsible in some way by the corporation. True, it'll likely be more because they got caught than because of what they did, but you can be sure they'll hear about it. Unless it was coming from the highest levels of the company, in which case the fine is already correctly targeting them.

Re:Individual Responsibility (1)

RobBebop (947356) | about 5 years ago | (#28704333)

You're correct.... as long as there are there are no negative circumstances (or even a perception of negative circumstances) to doing immoral or unethical acts people will do them.

We fight pretty hard when there are things we don't think should be considered immoral or unethical (such as jail time for smoking marijuana), but I think what's lacking is a fight to make the negative circumstances of truly immoral and unethical acts more visible.

Re:Individual Responsibility (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 5 years ago | (#28704357)

I wouldn't punish the poor sap who posted the shillage if he was ordered to, I'd fine whoever gave the order. Punishing the low level worker wouldn't fix anything. He's between a rock and a hard place - get fired for not following orders, or get fined for following them.

If it's corporate policy to break the law, the CEO and board should be held accountable, and not just to the stockbrokers but to the government.

Excuse me, but what is wrong with this? (0, Flamebait)

cdrguru (88047) | about 5 years ago | (#28703995)

OK, they are lying. Everybody lies. All advertising is lying in one form or another. Do believe that went some celebrity appears on TV for a product that they really use it? Or know anything about it other than what the teleprompter is telling them to say?

Yes, this company sounds like they were using the "power of the Internet" a little more forcefully than others are today, but exactly what law did they break? False advertising? I doubt it. Certainly no more false than Wilford Brimley talking about Liberty Medical products as if he was at all familiar with the company before they started paying him.

No, this isn't a good start. This is not "making the Internet safer." If you believe testimonials on the Internet you are a fool, because all of them are designed to elicit behavior - yours. Every single review someone takes the time to write is either telling you how great something is or how bad. Either way, someone was so motivated as to write the review to "help" others to make the "right" decision. I wouldn't trust any of them, especially when it is not tied to anyone's real identity. How many people are out there putting up fake reviews, positive or negative, because they are paid to do so? How many people are putting up fake reviews because they have some other motive? For all you know, the person doing it could just hate the founder of the company because he beat them up in 3rd grade.

Re:Excuse me, but what is wrong with this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28704289)

You can doubt all you want. Yes, what they did was false advertising.

Great! So what's next? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 5 years ago | (#28704011)

Now they can go after the entire online porn industry? I have a feeling that it's all a bunch of sites owned by one person laughing demonically and getting you to click on links that never ever get you anywhe...

Hmmm, no, I've never done that. I don't know about those sites! Really!

Billy Mays Here (3, Funny)

tinkertim (918832) | about 5 years ago | (#28704043)

Hi! Billy Mays here with a completely new and revolutionary product called Internet Astroturfing! Read what thousands of our satisfied clients have to say about IA on popular blogs and forums ....

Re:Billy Mays Here (1)

tinkertim (918832) | about 5 years ago | (#28704065)

Actually, I think that was recursive.

Re:Billy Mays Here (1)

SupremoMan (912191) | about 5 years ago | (#28704149)

You forgot your ghost-voice tags.

Memo's and illegal crap (3, Insightful)

furby076 (1461805) | about 5 years ago | (#28704107)

Haven't companies learned by now that if you are going to instruct your people to do shady/illegal stuff that you should NOT put it in a memo. Just go by word of mouth "hey bob, make some fake posts"....dumb asses

BTW I find politicians a bit hypocritical. In politics the tech writers will write a nice constituant letter about their politician. They will then give it to a loyal constituant and ask them to sign it. So the constituant never wrote the words, never had the experience, but because they like the politician they will put their name to it...and this makes it 100% perfectly legal. So the next time you see grandma who says her politician is the second coming of christ just realize the words/experience may have come from some paid writer and grandma just signed her name to it.

Why New York? (1)

Doug52392 (1094585) | about 5 years ago | (#28704193)

I don't understand why a company which is not based in New York lied on the Internet, and was fined by the "State of New York". They have one location in Syracuse, NY, but they have locations all over the United States. Could every state in the United States fine them for $300,000?

And, of course, we can't forget Andrew Cuomo's lengthy track record when it comes to tech issues, specifically Usenet.

What's the problem? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28704229)

This is called marketing, or rather guerrilla marketing and there's nothing wrong with it. If they're service is false (i.e. doesn't actually work or is fraudulent) then I guess it would be false advertising.
But doing this sort of marketing isn't really illegal now is it?

Below the Radar (1)

lee1 (219161) | about 5 years ago | (#28704253)

These slimeballs just got picked off because they got big enough to get noticed, and they had enough money to make it worthwhile for the government. This will not be likely to give much pause to the small companies and individuals who routinely employ these sleazy tactics [markbernstein.org] .

That name again (1)

Spatial (1235392) | about 5 years ago | (#28704259)

Lifestyle Lift, a cosmetic surgery company [...] Lifestyle Lift [...] Lifestyle Lift [...] Lifestyle Lift [...] Lifestyle Lift. [...] Lifestyle Lift [...] Lifestyle Lift. [...] Lifestyle Lift [...] Lifestyle Lift."

Just in case you didn't catch it the first time!

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...