Another Overstock Critic Silenced
Overstock.com's Patrick Byrne and loyal flack Judd Bagley are obviously feeling the heat over last week's revelation that Overstock is behind a smear site called antisocialmedia.net. They've just silenced the Internet sleuth who has tied Bagley-Byrne to antisocialmedia--a slimy relationship that could be devastating for Overstock.
The Internet sleuth in question goes by the name of "scipioafricanus," and all of this person's posts have been removed en masse, in Stalinesque fashion, from the Investor Village message board. Since IV hasn't removed the dozens of posts by Bagley (via peseudonyms), Byrne and their pals, mostly hysterical personal attacks on myself and others, it is reasonable to conclude that Byrne and/or Bagley have screamed bloody murder. It is particularly reasonable since Byrne's antisocialmedia stalker site has recently targeted message board posters, as the Post story pointed out.
This same sleuth has since shown that Bagley posted Internet messages under various IDs ("veg-o-matic" was one) showing prejudice against Jews, Mexicans and others. (I'd post links to more of his bizarre yammering, but the posts containing them were deleted by Yahoo, no doubt at Bagley's insistence). The net sleuth also traced his Internet smear campaign in 1999 and 2000 against a Florida reporter who wrote tough articles about his then-boss. Bagley has not denied the former, and responded to the latter by gloating about it.
IV's action is odd indeed for supposedly neutral message board, but apparently IV is seeking a franchise as a free-fire zone for stock touts and stalkers, undeterred by skeptics and dissenters. For example, a death threat ("you ought to be put out of your misery") against Scipio remains on Investor Village. Scip's typically civil response was erased. Ditto for attacks on me and others.
Byrne can now spew hate and lies about his critics, and generally behave like a clown, without fear of contradiction -- something that hardly benefits his shareholders, who have suffered from his inattention. The same goes for other cranks who parrot Byrne's lies, such as this idiot--who can now repeat the "Wikipedia lie" without Scipio to explain that it has been denied by Wikipedia.
Byrne is, of course, always vigorous when it comes to silencing dissent, and his desire to cover his tracks is understandable. Barron's pointed out today that Medifast CEO Bradley T. MacDonald was fired for Internet activity far more benign than Byrne's and Bagley's:
More recently, Barron's has learned, Medifast's board has become concerned about Internet postings, under the name firstname.lastname@example.org, in support of Medifast on the Yahoo! Finance message board. People in a position to know say that this is a pseudonym and that MacDonald was the author of these messages.
Barron's reported that "company directors reprimanded MacDonald in mid-December after learning of a Barron's inquiry into the postings, and told him to stop posting messages, fearing, among other things, that this could violate 'fair disclosure' regulations."
That's what happens at a normal board of directors, by the way, as opposed to the collection of Byrne cronies on the Overstock board.
But even if a CEO weren't disclosing private company information, corporate governance experts say failure to identify himself as an executive of the company could be a problem. "In a worst-case scenario, it could be considered a fraud on the market if you are giving incomplete information and in my mind it is incomplete per se if you don't say where it is coming from by hiding your identity," says Nell Minow, editor and co-founder of The Corporate Library, a corporate governance group.I wonder if a company "aiding and supporting" (to quote the Post) a vicious, lying, cyberstalking website violates Regulation FD--and a slew of other securities laws?
It obviously violates any semblance of morality and corporate ethics, but hey, this is Overstock.com!
UPDATE: Reacting to this blog item, Investor Village reinstated Scipio's posts, and IV's Ralph Kidd denied that IV had deleted the messages under pressure from Bagley and/or Byrne. (Well, sort of denied. Kidd used the words, "to my knowledge.") According to Kidd, Scipio's messages were wiped out en masse supposedly under pressure not (to his knowledge) from Bagley or Byrne but from Bagley's/Byrne's supporters, who called Scipio's posts "clogging." Without bothering to look into the matter further, but just caving in to a bunch of jugheads on a message board, IV just deleted all the posts.
It's hard to believe that any message board operator would be quite so craven and irresponsible. It is, to say the least, hard to believe, and frankly I don't (Kidd's fibs about his contacts with me not enhancing his credibility). But this does explain why IV is Patrick Byrne's favorite message board, one that he prefers to post in more than his own.
Bottom line: Scip has been forced by this ham-handed action to curtail his posts to the Overstock board. Byrne and Bagley can now lie to their heart's contend, with Scipio handcuffed. If Kidd truly is not interested in running a cyberstalker board, he will show a little backbone and allow Scipio to respond to Byrne's and Bagley's lies in the forum where they spew them.
© 2006 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.
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