Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Technical Boner Snares Overstock.com in a Lie


Overstock computers linked to "antisocialmedia"

Of all the mammoth lies that have spouted forth from Corporate America's Lie Machine, Overstock.com, and its CEO Patrick Byrne, none has received as much well-deserved ridicule as his claim that his antisocialmedia.net corporate smear site is unconnected to the company.

Well, this lie was laid to rest this afternoon by the O-Smear blog.

Seems that Byrne's paid stalker, Judd Bagley, made something of a boo-boo when he set up a "wiki" on the astroturfing site. As O-Smear points out, it doesn't take much technical expertise to see that edits to the site were clearly made from Overstock.com and by Bagley, and during normal business hours.

Aw gee. That will never do. The purpose of astroturfing is to hide the sponsor's involvement, not to advertise it -- particularly when the head of a public company has been saying that there's no involvement.

Golly. Is there something wrong with a CEO lying like that? I wonder if the SEC, which is investigating Byrne and Overstock.com, have any thoughts on the subject? Here are Sam Antar's thoughts on the subject.

As I noted recently, O-Smear has found that Bagley uses the term "black ops" to describe what he does. The term refers specifically to operations of questionable legality and ethics. Lawyers will have a field day with that sooner rather than later, I reckon. Today's item ties a bow on the whole thing by landing the "black ops" right on the door of Overstock.com.

UPDATE: Some insights from a person familiar with Overstock from the inside:
  • Prior to being caught using spyware, Bagley had been spending most of his time surfing the web and working on Byrnes Jihad. Now he "apparently" just surfs the web from 9-5. (And his fingers just happen to slip onto the keyboard by accident from time to time.)
  • Byrne is trying to distance himself figuratively and literally from Bagley, and has moved Bagley from the executive suites down to a small cubical in the marketing department.
  • This person believes that Byrne is only to glad to have his misdeeds "deflected to the more visible Bagley."
  • This person has heard, but cannot prove, that Yahoo banned Overstock IPs for 24 hours because of the spyware revelations, most of which were from O-Smear.
Interesting stuff. If I were Bagley, I'd read Sam Antar's post today -- the one about how prosecutors use the little fish to snare the big fish in federal prosecutions.

I have a funny feeling that some of the smaller fish may already be chatting. Call it intuition.



© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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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, gary-weiss.com.

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