Friday, December 18, 2009

Teed-Off Facebook Dumps Patrick Byrne Accounts, Issues Stern Warning


Facebook expelled stalker Judd Bagley--even deleting his personal account

As I've described in various blog posts since 2006, Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne has been waging a war on the Internet -- sending paid stalkers to websites throughout the web, harassing and smearing critics. But he's been treated less like a menace than as a nut, and hasn't received much pushback -- until now.

A clearly teed-off Facebook today issued a strongly worded statement condemning Byrne's Facebook pretexting scheme, in which Byrne's hood Judd Bagley set up at least one phony account to stalk critics and smear them on an Overstock corporate p.r. website.

In a previous blog post I noted that Bagley's own Facebook account had been deleted as well as the phony one that he created on Byrne's behalf, "Larry Bergman." It wasn't clear by whom -- I once incorrectly posted that the accounts were deleted by Byrne.

The Facebook statement makes it abundantly clear that the accounts were deleted by Facebook, after what was described as a "thorough investigative review."

Facebook spokesman Simon Axten, responding to my request for comment on the Overstock pretexting, emailed to me the following statement:
We take the privacy and safety of our users very seriously. Using a fake name or operating under a false identity is a violation of Facebook’s policies, and we encourage users to report anyone they think is doing this, either through the report links we provide on the site or through the contact forms in our Help Center. In this case, we conducted a thorough investigative review, discovered accounts linked to the reported misconduct, and promptly removed them.
Axten wouldn't elaborate on the accounts removed, citing policy, but "accounts linked to the reported misconduct" obviously refers to Bagley's now-deleted personal account and "Bergman." If there are other pretexting accounts controlled by Byrne, Axten isn't saying.

Facebook has been criticized a lot for its own approach to privacy, and today was the target of complaints to the FTC, so clearly the last thing it needs is criminal activity on its own website. The timing of using Facebook, of all things, for pretexting and invasion of privacy was about as moronic as I've ever encountered. Bagley must surely go down in history as the most inept p.r. practitioner since Baghdad Bob.

Bagley, meanwhile, is continuing to insist that pretexting -- establishing phony accounts and seeking to gain people's confidence -- is... well it's honest, that's what it is, and is such a routine practice among p.r. practitioners that it's as second nature as writing a press release.

He said in one blog comment that "Larry was just a tool for determining whether or not certain people accept every Facebook friend request.' That's like saying he threw a rock through someone's window to see if it was shatterproof.

The guy is a psycho. Seriously. No p.r. person that I know of would ever tell embarrassing whoppers like that, no matter how desperate for employment (or terrified of criminal prosecution) he or she may be. It's also flat-out dumb. If there ever is a criminal prosecution, this kind of defiance would be evidence of criminal intent.

Though some friend lists were not kept private, most Facebook pages contain private, personal information that only can be accessed by "friends." Bagley was compiling that information, under false pretenses and using a stolen photograph, for clearly hostile purposes, in the course of his employment by Byrne.

Copyright violation and identity theft are a violation of federal law. Indeed, Facebook nuked the stolen photo of "Bergman" -- actually the photo of an Italian art critic -- before it deleted the account.

Pretexting in pursuit of a corporate agenda has been prosecuted. Just ask Hewlett-Packard. Overstock is already under SEC investigation for cooking the books.

Byrne and his cronies are endlessly entertaining, but they're remorseless criminals. They belong in prison. Until Byrne, Bagley and their accomplices are locked up, no critic of Overstock.com, real or imaginary, or their families, will be safe from harassment and invasion of privacy.

© 2009 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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