Thursday, February 01, 2007

An Overstock Critic Silenced

Sam Antar, a reformed felon who was mastermind of the Crazy Eddie stock scam, has been performing a real public service lately. He's donated his time to shareholders of by directing pointed questions to Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne at the Investor Village messgae board, which Byrne regularly uses to smear critics and justify his actions.

It's been a valuable service, not just for investors but for securities regulators, who I happen to know are following the cat-and-mouse game between Antar and Byrne very closely. Overstock, after all, is a very public transgressor of corporate norms -- with much of that being played out on message boards upon which Byrne obsessively posts.

As I noted in a post that I updated yesterday, some of Byrne's admissions, in his comments, have been incredibly damaging.

That valuable dialogue has been squelched, however, by the crackerjack management team of Investor Village, which has knuckled under to pressure from Overstock loyalists by squelching Antar. IV has limited his ability to post on IV, while giving Byrne, Bagley and their sockpuppets free reign to spread their poison, and repeat the lies and smears of Overstock's smear site. It's not clear how much, if at all, Antar will be allowed to post.

IV also censors even mild ridicule of Byrne (such as the message formerly located here, reprinted here) while allowing the most vicious cyberstalking.

None of this is a surprise, since it has happened before, with Overstock critics gagged on flimsy pretexts.

The excuse given by IV, when it silences critics, is not that they have fallen afoul of some rule, but that they have been subject of "complaints" for "clogging." In other words, the people who are hyping Overstock just don't like them. It's interesting to speculate what motive, aside from stupidity, is behind this curious way of running a public forum.

I do find it interesting that Antar was silenced within hours after Byrne expressed annoyance at his questions.

By running an ostensibly neutral message board that restricts posts by company critics, IV has turned its boards into stock-hyping forums. That creates a nice set of legal entanglements down the road for IV -- or at least, I certainly hope it does.

UPDATE: As previously, the brilliant management team of IV has been shamed into a 180 -- until the next critic draws complaints from the Byrne fan club.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.


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