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Internet Astroturfer Fined $300,000 245

Posted by Soulskill
from the bet-amazon's-traffic-spikes-today dept.
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."
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Internet Astroturfer Fined $300,000

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  • legal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fulldecent (598482) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @10:43AM (#28703475) Homepage

    >> 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?

  • by Abreu (173023) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @10:52AM (#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?

  • by panthroman (1415081) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @10:52AM (#28703555) Homepage

    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:Microsoft shills (Score:4, Interesting)

    by socrplayr813 (1372733) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @11:46AM (#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.

  • by nbauman (624611) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @11:46AM (#28704115) Homepage Journal
    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:Microsoft shills (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcgrew (92797) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @11:59AM (#28704269) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by Dragonslicer (991472) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @01:51PM (#28705845)
    But lying about your product and/or your competitor's product is so much easier than actually improving your product. Don't they teach that in the first semester of business school?
  • by Sj0 (472011) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @02:05PM (#28706031) Homepage Journal

    I was going to say something along those lines.

    I mean, I'm pretty positive about Windows 7, but it doesn't mean I work for Microsoft.

    Astroturfing is destroying discourse on the Internet. You can never know for certain if you're arguing with someone with convictions or just some paid marketing drone. Where once you'd have to come up with a good argument, people can now just point and say "You're just being paid to express that opinion, since nobody sane would ever have it!"

  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @03:07PM (#28706819) Homepage Journal

    Certainly. However, the law requires more evidence than "does not hate Microsoft, therefore is an astroturfer".

    There are several accounts here on Slashdot, though, that not only vehemently defend Microsoft, but use Microsoft marketing clueless drivel to do so. Saying that Windows is better because adopting Linux on your server is more costly due to retraining costs is sure to get you labeled as an "astroturfer." Surely if that is your argument, you can come up with a better one than that load of BS.

  • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy@nosPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @04:59PM (#28708189)

    Astroturfing is destroying discourse on the Internet.

    Rubbish. Paranoia about "astroturfing" is stressing certain individuals who in some way define themselves by their feelings about whatever-it-is that isn't being "astroturfed".

    You can never know for certain if you're arguing with someone with convictions or just some paid marketing drone.

    Why do you care ? What difference does it make ?

    Where once you'd have to come up with a good argument, people can now just point and say "You're just being paid to express that opinion, since nobody sane would ever have it!"

    Which they've done in the past, just with different words instead of "you're being paid". People who zealously and steadfastly hold true to a particularly opinion are not a new phenomenon, either on the internet or in real life. Whether they hold that opinion because of "convictions" or a paycheck, is, at most, a peripheral issue .

  • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Wednesday July 15, 2009 @11:21PM (#28712097)
    Well, you could do it the Australian way. Cash for Comments [wikipedia.org] worked for a while...

For God's sake, stop researching for a while and begin to think!

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