Looking to Facebook for help with addiction? Take care: the social network is full of predators, and they know where to find vulnerable people. They're sleazy marketers, brokering questionable self-help and inpatient treatment options.
A stranger named Garrett Hall sent Couch a Facebook message. “Hey Lauri [sic], I saw your name on the Affected By Addiction support group, and I had this weird/strong impulse to just reach out,” Hall wrote to Couch. “[A]re you doing ok?” ...
Couch soon got a call from Meghan Calvert, a paid marketer for a treatment center called Pillars Recovery. It’s owned by Darren Orloff, who is part of Affected by Addiction’s volunteer leadership team. Couch, who has a background in sales, knew a sales pitch when she heard it. She told Calvert off for taking advantage of desperate people. ... After the call, Couch was surprised to find that she could not log back in to Affected by Addiction. In fact, she came to realize, she’d been banned.
Specific addiction support groups are the tip of the predatory marketing iceberg, but Affected by Addiction's the one Zuckerberg personally promoted on his own page.
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Facebook, by making desperation so easily searchable, has exacerbated the worst qualities the treatment industry. A word-of-mouth industry with a constant supply of vulnerable and naive targets who feel stigmatized and alone is a scammer’s paradise.
Stefan Lawrence is a much-loved designer whose work graces such Maximum Fun podcasts as Judge John Hodgman and Bullseye, noticed that the "fast-fashion" brand Topman (a division of the notorious slavers Topshop) had ripped off one of his designs and used it without license or credit in a bunch of its products.
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From the Wall Street Journal tonight, just a few days from the presidential election on Tuesday, a sleaze exposé involving the GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump.
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Sidelined but not fired by Republican millionaire Donald Trump to make way for a new campaign manager, Paul Manafort is nonetheless resigning from his post. The rumor? He's under federal investigation for his role in shady goings-on in Ukranian politics.
Mr. Manafort left nearly a week after a New York Times report about tumult within the Republican presidential nominee’s campaign helped precipitate a shakeup of the campaign’s leadership. His departure reflects repeated efforts to steady a campaign that has been frequently roiled by the behavior of its tempestuous first-time candidate.
Mr. Manafort was also dogged by reports about secretive efforts he made to help the former pro-Russian government in Ukraine, where he has worked on and off over several years. He had also become viewed with trepidation by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a major force within the campaign, amid a number of false starts since the Republican National Convention, according to three people briefed on the matter.
U.S. lobbyists must declare their representation of foreign interests; he did not. Manafort, if found guilty of violating these rules, would be a felon facing "up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000," according to the Associated Press. Read the rest
The March 29 edition of Airbnb's terms of service requires that people who rent out their homes acknowledge that despite the company's widely advertised Host Protection Insurance program, "you understand and agree that Airbnb does not act as an insurer." Read the rest
The UK Intellectual Property Office has sent an official notice to Britons warning them that they don't have to pay the copyright trolls who send them threatening letters accusing them of copyright infringement. Read the rest
Researchers at Duo Labs bought a "stack" of OEM laptops and audited the preinstalled shovelware they came with, looking specifically at the security implications of the default settings. Read the rest
Rightscorp is the notorious publicly traded shakedown outfit that accuses people of online infringement and threatens them with titanic fines and jail time for allegedly listening to music or watching movies the wrong way, offering to make the whole thing go away for a few hundred dollars -- less than a lawyer would charge to advise you on whether to pay up. Read the rest
If you follow my tweets of interesting stories from one year ago, you'll have seen the Roca Labs saga popping up again. Roca sold a "non-surgical gastric bypass" that was mostly made from industrial food-thickeners that were supposed to gunk up your stomach and fill you up. Read the rest
Rightscorp is the publicly traded extortion racket that tries to force/bribe ISPs into disconnecting their customers from the Internet unless those customers pay "settlements" for unproven allegations of copyright infringement. Read the rest
Roca Labs sells dubious snake-oil like a "Gastric Bypass Alternative," and their terms of service forbid their customers from ever complaining; they say that Pissedconsumer.com committed "tortious interference" by providing a place where disgruntled buyers could air their grievances. Read the rest
The City of Seattle paid $17,500 to Brand.com to enhance the "online reputation" of City Light, its public utility, and Chief Executive Officer Jorge Carrasco, asking them to "lessen the prevalence of any negative or less-relevant stories" in search results for the utility or the CEO, who was the highest-paid public employee in the city, with a salary of $245,000.
It's not clear what sort of bad news about Carrasco or City Light Brand.com was trying to push off the front page of Google results, but their promised methodology included placing favorable paid articles with the Huffington Post and Examiner.com, as well as "doctorate level content" written by "influential bloggers."
The Huffington Post says that it was unaware if Damon Banks, the writer who published a favorable piece about Carrasco and his utility, was being paid by Brand.com, but if he was, they'd no longer accept work from him. Banks did not reply to a request for comment from the Seattle Times.
Here's the action plan [PDF] that the city and Brand.com drew up for City Light and Carrasco's online reputation polishing. Read the rest
Cable lobbyist turned FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has tried to "balance" his attempt to nuke Net Neutrality by promising to override state laws that prohibit cities from setting up their own broadband networks. But it's a largely meaningless gesture: practically every big city in America is locked into a decade-long contractual "franchise" arrangement with a big cable company. Read the rest
Robert, a Consumerist reader, called up T-Mobile to close his dead father's cellular account; the rep suggested that he should keep paying for it so he could listen to his dad's voice on the voicemail message whenever he wanted. Read the rest
Brian X. Chen for the New York Times: "The hotel’s Internet service was secretly injecting lines of code into every page he visited, code that could allow it to insert ads into any Web page without the knowledge of the site visitor or the page’s creator. (He did not actually see any such ads.)"
Guest Justin Watt's full report has that air of mounting frustration so many of us now associate with hotel travel. The best parts of Chen's story are where Courtyard Marriot is such an organizational disaster that it can't even figure out what spokesperson is responsible for replying to the Times' inquiries; and where the WiFi provider, RG Nets, "quickly hung up on calls."
Update: Watt has added a statement received from Courtyard Marriot, in which it blames RG Nets and says the script insertion occurred "unbeknownst" to it. However, the hotel chain also claims it is "a common marketing practice with many Internet service providers". Read the rest
A few days ago, AOL fired the staff developing AIM, its long-running instant messaging system. Having done this, it reset user accounts, locking them out of third-party IM clients until they confirmed and updated decade-old personal information. Having done so, I was displeased at such a shameless data mining ploy and tried to cancel AOL/AIM entirely. This is what resulted:
Bear in mind that I was already logged in and could change any account setting I pleased. Who knew that when AOL said it has "no plans" to end service, it was responding to customer demands? Read the rest