Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sam Antar Gagged Again

As I observed in a recent post, reformed scamster Sam Antar has been a thorn in the side of Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne and resident stalker Judd Bagley.

Antar has posted numerous polite but probing questions on the Investor Village message board, and in the process has elicited answers (and evasions) that are of real value to investigators and others probing the company.

Well, Investor Village's crackerjack management team -- which has done nothing to prevent IV from being used as a cyberstalking vehicle by Byrne and Bagley -- has restricted Sam to three posts a day. By way of comparison, IV took no such action against Bagley, even after he planted spyware in IV posts. Nor did it take action against members of the Byrne fan club who have used IV to threaten, stalk and libel Sam, myself and others.

IV has used shabby pretexts to gag Sam and another Byrne critic twice before (see this post and this one), both times in reaction to a campaign egged on by Byrne. Both times IV meekly backed down, but this time they seem to mean business.

The excuse given by IV's boss Ralph "Yellow" Kidd -- oh sorry, wrong color. Make that Ralph "Blue" Kidd -- was "clogging our forum to conduct an informal and unofficial campaign of 'deposition-style' messages targeting other members of InvestorVillage."

The "other members" were the CEO of the company and Bagley, operator of the corporate smear site and an officer of the company. The piercing and detailed character of the questions, and the unintentionally revealing answers, are what made Sam's contributions so valuable -- in contrast to the vast mishmash of noise, ravings and ad hominems that comprise IV's Overstock message board.

In effect, Kidd has turned IV into a stock-pumping mechanism for this doggy company -- something that deprives the board of any value for investors, and in fact can do real harm by misleading people seeking information on the company. As Sam observed, "They call it an Overstock.com message board. It seems more like an Overstock.com propaganda board where anyone who questions the actions of Patrick Byrne and Judd Bagley can be attacked with impunity."

To rub salt in the wound, Kidd et al don't even have the guts to talk with Sam about their turning the board into a closed-loop of tinfoil hat rants and stock-pumping. They actually had their lawyer draft the private message that was sent to Sam telling him that he was being gagged, and said Sam should speak to this lawyer if he had any questions.

Got to hand it to Kidd and the other geniuses at IV -- they sure do love paying lawyers. Too bad a lawyer is no substitute for common sense, or a conscience.

UPDATE: Later that night, IV decided to officially make its Overstock board the Patrick Byrne Fan Club, deleting a post from Sam and apparently booting Sam entirely, without explanation.

You really have to wonder why a message board would ally itself so firmly with the management of a foundering company.

Given the litigation that is likely once the Overstock/antisocialmedia dust settles, perhaps hiring the lawyer wasn't such a bad move. When Overstock meets its maker, which I suspect will be in the not-too-distant future, IV is going to have some 'splaining to do. The legal implications of message board postings, and the possible liability of service providers, is explored here.

Byrne celebrated Sam's gagging in a typically nutty post in the now dissent-rein IV: "Let us show our support to Investor Village by spreading the word about what a fair place it is, one that keeps corruption at bay." "Corruption" is, as we all know, Byrnespeak for "criticism."

The New York Post later described how IV's NovaStar message board has become a forum for unrestrained stock touting, helping untold numbers of gullible small investors lose their shirts when the stock collapsed this week.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.


Wall Street Versus America was published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its Amazon.com listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site.

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