Scammer comes in to defend scam March 12, 2006 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Interesting blog indeed. Looks like a scammer decided to stop by and defend his scam.
posted by allen.spaulding to Etiquette/Policy at 7:21 AM (43 comments total)

Would it be possible to check new or changed URL's in people's profiles against something like the MT-Blacklist central registry? That way if somebody drops a spam/scam link into their profile (which a lot of these people seem to do), Matt gets a flag to take a look at them.
posted by aaronetc at 7:27 AM on March 12, 2006


Not a bad idea. It never ceases to amaze me how brazen some people can be, as a little subtlety would seem to go a long way.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:30 AM on March 12, 2006


Sorry, unless you can draw some link b/w roundrock and the scam/site in question (which seems unlikely, given his posting history), I see no foul here. Were this a more savory enterprise, Matt would probably sidebar it. As it is, roundrock got what he asked for from an authoritative source.
posted by felix betachat at 7:32 AM on March 12, 2006


This post is concerning the last poster in that thread, upline, not roundrock.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:35 AM on March 12, 2006


Right. roundrock asks about a specific company. Someone associated with the company buys a membership and pitches his product in thread. This new member hasn't run afoul of any AskMe/MeFi etiquette, so what's the ground for your callout?

Why don't you take your gripe into the thread and substantiate your charge that this is a scam? You know...since that's what roundrock was asking in the first place.
posted by felix betachat at 7:40 AM on March 12, 2006


MLM schemes aren't really scams per se, they're just incredibly seedy. I see no scamming going on in that thread.
posted by killdevil at 7:45 AM on March 12, 2006


Someone associated with the company buys a membership and pitches his product in thread.

The pitch is written to imply that the poster is a disinterested third party, when he is not.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 7:46 AM on March 12, 2006


Interesting. So the banhammer falls because he (clumsily) tried to circumvent a rule that doesn't exist (self-linking in thread). Sets a bad precedent, don't you think?
posted by felix betachat at 7:49 AM on March 12, 2006


I, personally, see no difference between this instance and the whole articlebot fiasco, excepting that this has yet to turn into an argument. If he wishes to defend his ...

Nevermind, IshmaelGraves has a point, there.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:05 AM on March 12, 2006


Woah, I made a mistake, although this might be even more annoying than I thought. Upline is not one of the creators of the company but an affiliate trying to get more customers by registering an account here. The website he linked to is just mirrored content from the original website, which is what threw me off. If you try to start an account, upline gets the referral credit

So, felix, do you like the idea of a member of an MLM using MetaFilter to recruit new members? Roundrock was looking for independent information. Instead, he got someone who spent $5 trying to recuit new members. If the information was decent enough, then Matt or Jessamyn should remove the links at the very least.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:10 AM on March 12, 2006


So, felix, do you like the idea of a member of an MLM using MetaFilter to recruit new members?

Why should I care? AskMe exists to answer the questions of posters. upline is no doubt a terrible person. But his reply speaks directly to roundrock's question...and his link is part of that reply.

It's a slippery slope you're advocating here. If I write a question asking for good advice on a car purchase, and a dealer from my area writes in with a recommendation, should that post be removed? Or, let's say somebody writes in a question about life after death. Should a proselytizing reply from an evangelical christian be removed simply because the poster might have something to gain from answering the question?

Pretty soon, you're going to be policing the character of the posters within a thread, which strikes me as a quixotic enterprise at best.
posted by felix betachat at 8:22 AM on March 12, 2006


I see no problem with this specific case. Let's not go down the slippery slope arguments on either side.
posted by grouse at 8:38 AM on March 12, 2006


We should kill everyone who tries to profit from our work. Except Matt.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:40 AM on March 12, 2006


In several cases, where people have asked about sites offering free photos, I pointed them at my site, which I happen to make some good money from. In one case Matt even pointed a user to the site. Is that bad?

No. It's not.

I would like to see more timeouts for idiots who keep coming up with these bullshit callouts.
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:16 AM on March 12, 2006


Slippery slope is a fallacy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:20 AM on March 12, 2006


"In several cases, where people have asked about sites offering free photos, I pointed them at my site, which I happen to make some good money from. In one case Matt even pointed a user to the site. Is that bad?"

Yes. Prepare for pitchforking.

*pitchforks y6y6y6*

There, now don't we all feel better?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:23 AM on March 12, 2006


Might be fun to compare against admissions made in this thread :P (several long time users have admitted to posting affiliate links)

It is obviously pretty weird, but surely this information belongs in the question and not MeTa. That way, people stumbling upon that answer can get a more complete picture.
posted by Chuckles at 9:27 AM on March 12, 2006


People, these analogies are way off. This is hardly an established poster sharing information or linking to a useful site (it's the exact same as in the question, but with referral info). This guy signed up for the expressed purpose of trying to get more referrals, which is not what AskMe is supposed to do at all.

Getting info from somone who has used the product is a good thing. Getting a sales pitch from someone who directly stands to benefit while pretending to be a disinterested observer is exactly why FreedomRocks is a hoax.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:29 AM on March 12, 2006


1) it looks to me that the question was answered by a knowledgable, if biased, person

2) i think if people here are free to disparage a site or a company, then it's only fair that a person associated with the site gets to explain or defend it ... even if it's in the form of a sales pitch

conclusion ... if we don't want to see such answers here, perhaps we shouldn't ask the questions ... not that i think roundrock was out of line for asking

no foul here
posted by pyramid termite at 9:29 AM on March 12, 2006


Astro Zombie writes "Slippery slope is a fallacy."

no it is not. slippery slope is a chain of events. it is possible to advocate against a slippery slope with no evidence to back that up, but it is also possible to point out a legitimate possiblity of events leading to one another with an increasing difficulty of ending the chain.
posted by shmegegge at 9:34 AM on March 12, 2006


I think the nature of the MLM scam is clouding judgement here. Like y6y6y6 said, it happens all the time that people mention their experience and site when answering a question. There's no foul here.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:36 AM on March 12, 2006


I agree with the "no foul" side here
posted by matteo at 9:53 AM on March 12, 2006


Well, I suppose slippery slope is only properly a fallacy if the arguer is saying that one event will absolutely lead to another event, but it's still a weak approach to arguing a point. It just doesn't seem to me like decisions here are made based on precedence.

The admins will not delete a post simply because it is vaguely similar to a post that annoyed them in the past. Instead, it seems like these decisions are made on the spot based on fairly flexible criteria, and, perhaps, based on the mood of the admin when it is deleted.

So I just don't think we need to worry about setting an immutable precedent that will lead to worthwhile answers getting deleted.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:29 AM on March 12, 2006


With all due respect Matt, I think you're wrong.

It's been discussed in that past that it's not cool for people to use MeFi for their gain with regard to Amazon or DreamHost, but somehow this is different?

I think that's a razor thin wire.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:40 AM on March 12, 2006


It would be ok if he mentioned that he's affiliated with the program, but he doesn't. The comment was posted in bad faith and is an abuse of askme.
posted by puke & cry at 11:10 AM on March 12, 2006


I think it's pretty bloody obvious from the style and tone of the post that the person is involved with the company. Just because they don't explicitly say so doesn't mean "bad faith".
posted by cillit bang at 11:23 AM on March 12, 2006


It's the "They must be very proud of their product" bit that gives the comment the distinct odor of hucksterism.

While it's clear that financial self-interest shouldn't be an automatic criteria for banning, there's more than enough evidence here that the poster's primary intent was profit rather than information sharing. I think that's where the line should be drawn: selling things, ok; salesmanship without a genuine belief in the integrity of the product, not ok.

It's admittedly a subjective test, but to my mind, upline does not pass it.
posted by footnote at 11:29 AM on March 12, 2006


I don't have any problems with people mentioning their sites in comments, but they should be upfront about it, especially when they make money out of it. Just a quick mention by upline that he is affiliated with FreedomRocks (How dumb is that name anyways) would have been enough. That lack of honesty is what makes this comment look scammy, not the MLM currency trading program.
posted by insomnus at 12:02 PM on March 12, 2006


I'd say delete the comment but not the account. it's right on the line, and the benefit of the doubt should extend a little, but not to taking the comment at face value.

the fact that the account was freshly minted for this leaves me with a bad taste about the whole thing. on the other hand, it's far short of outright spam.

The account's next comment(s) will give us the real answer.
posted by tiamat at 12:30 PM on March 12, 2006


"upline"-even his fucking name is scammy. That's an MLM term, isn't it?
posted by evariste at 12:49 PM on March 12, 2006


I would like to see more timeouts for idiots who keep coming up with these bullshit callouts.
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:16 AM PST on March 1


That's a good idea. I sure hate the people who are trying to make sure the increasing numbers of spammers and scammers here are kept at bay. How dare they use MetaTalk to discuss issues relating to MetaFilter?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:46 PM on March 12, 2006


The amount of spam may be increasing, but the number of unwarranted accusations and callouts related to spam is also increasing. This has been pointed out about umpteen-million times in recent MeTa threads, so it's kind of disingenuous to pretend you don't understand the difference.
posted by cribcage at 3:00 PM on March 12, 2006


The amount of spam may be increasing, but the number of unwarranted accusations and callouts related to spam is also increasing.

If X% of callouts will always be unwarranted and the number of spam callouts are increasing in general, then...well you see my point, I hope.

Or, did you mean increasing faster than that.
posted by vacapinta at 3:07 PM on March 12, 2006


AskMetafilter sucks more every day.
posted by quonsar at 3:53 PM on March 12, 2006


The amount of spam may be increasing, but the number of unwarranted accusations and callouts related to spam is also increasing.

As it should be. That's how things get done around here - we discuss problems until the cows come home in Metachat, so that in the future no-one can say they "didn't know". This sort of spamming is the biggest threat Metafilter faces - the character of the site has changed, the existance of ask.metafilter in particular has now become public knowledge, and we're getting an influx of the "wrong sort" of people who either don't know, or don't care, what Metafilter is really all about. The only way to figure out how to solve this problem is to talk about it, and get it on the public record.
posted by Jimbob at 4:10 PM on March 12, 2006


it's kind of disingenuous to pretend you don't understand the difference.

Here's a difference I understand: spam is the kiss of death, unwarranted callouts are merely annoying. I'll take a few of the latter to keep the lid on the former.
posted by scarabic at 4:25 PM on March 12, 2006


"upline"-even his fucking name is scammy. That's an MLM term, isn't it?

exactly, evariste. somehow i don't think some of the commenters are familiar enough with the evil of MLM. but as a brother to someone who got sucked into amway and is now estranged from his sister, i have to tell you that there's almost no capitalist enterprise that's more villainous on a person to person level.

except maybe slavery or auto title loans.
posted by Hat Maui at 5:33 PM on March 12, 2006


Have we established whether upline is roundrock's sockpuppet?
posted by fandango_matt at 6:54 PM on March 12, 2006


Er, never mind.
posted by fandango_matt at 6:55 PM on March 12, 2006


While it's clear that financial self-interest shouldn't be an automatic criteria for banning, there's more than enough evidence here that the poster's primary intent was profit rather than information sharing. I think that's where the line should be drawn: selling things, ok; salesmanship without a genuine belief in the integrity of the product, not ok.

Sorry, but this is a bullshit excuse. How could you possibly measure "genuine belief"? If upline had bought a membership and written:

WORK FROM HOME.GET RICH QUICK.ASK ME HOW:www.borneveryminute.com

that would have been spam and would rightly have been deleted...he would simply have been adding noise to a thread.

But he didn't. He provided on-topic, substantive information. Had allen.spaulding and others taken the effort to respond to this information in a reasoned, point-by-point fashion, that thread would have been a splendid example of MeFi working as it should. Heaven knows there was enough going on in that post to permit someone to cast doubt on upline's motives and the integrity of his venture.

Instead, we get this callout, which is more about policing community membership than about protecting people from evil MLM scams. In-thread dialogue with upline would have accomplished the latter aim. Deleting his comment actually impedes that goal, since it would prevent roundrock from hearing one, pretty essential perspective on his question.

Look, at it's best, I think MeFi facilitates reasoned and lively debate on a variety of topics. We get all kinds here, though not all of them stick around. When they go, it's usually because, at its worst, this community tends to self-police, self-congratulate and to reward conformity of opinion. A MLM scammer, a child molester, a racist...anybody should be able to come here and defend their point of view, so long as they do it in a reasoned manner. And critiques should be equally thought out. Otherwise, this place turns into DailyKos, LGF or any one of a thousand pointless internet cliques for terminal cowards.

I keep coming here because we have a great many members like omiewise, matteo and languagehat, who take time to argue points on their merits. When I think about leaving, it's because of sneering, clubbish callouts like this.

I don't care if upline doesn't make another post on MeFi again, ever. His first post falls within the range of what we've considered acceptable and deserves to be responded to in the same fashion. Speculation into his motives is specious and sets a terrible precedent.

Nothing better serves roundrock's question than a healthy argument that reveals the cupidity underneath upline's pitch. Nothing better serves MetaFilter than taking the trouble to debate, rather than silence an interlocutor.
posted by felix betachat at 2:13 AM on March 13, 2006


Sounds like astroturfing, and for some MLM scheme hawked by a dude named "upline." Smells like success!
posted by krinklyfig at 11:07 AM on March 13, 2006


I think the ban was warranted. The most important thing is to preserve the culture of AskMefi - not to make sure everyone adheres stringently to a prescribed set of rules. The dude might not have broken any metafilter rules per se, but there are a couple suspicious factors that make me doubt very much that his post was made in good faith:

a) he seems to have registered specifically to comment on a forex post, with only a link to his forex affiliate site in his profile

b) he makes no mention of his affiliate status in his post

c) his site seems to be designed to hide the fact that it is associated with the product the poster is asking about

Thus, banhammer falls, and I'm very glad that it did.
posted by lemur at 4:23 PM on March 13, 2006


For those of you claiming this isn't an obvious scam, I'd like to point out the useful link lemur posted to the original thread:

Wikipedia article on forex scams
posted by thanotopsis at 7:31 PM on March 13, 2006


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