Sunday, March 06, 2011's Latest Risk: Social Media

The always-entertaining has an unconventional (and unintentionally humorous) "risk factor" in the Form 10-K that it filed the other day with the SEC.

It seems that Overstock, which recently was caught scamming the Google search engine, has a problem: social media:

Use of social media may adversely impact our reputation.

There has been a marked increase in use of social media platforms and similar devices, including weblogs (blogs), social media websites, and other forms of Internet-based communications which allow individuals access to a broad audience of consumers and other interested persons. Consumers value readily available information concerning retailers, manufacturers, and their goods and services and often act on such information without further investigation, authentication and without regard to its accuracy. The availability of information on social media platforms and devices is virtually immediate as is its impact. Social media platforms and devices immediately publish the content their subscribers and participants post, often without filters or checks on accuracy of the content posted. The opportunity for dissemination of information, including inaccurate information, is seemingly limitless and readily available. Information concerning the Company may be posted on such platforms and devices at any time. Information posted may be adverse to our interests, it may be inaccurate, and may harm our performance, prospects or business. The harm may be immediate without affording us an opportunity for redress or correction. Such platforms also could be used for dissemination of trade secret information, compromise of valuable company assets all of which could harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.

What Overstock really should have said was that its own use of social media has already adversely affected its reputation.

Overstock and its wacky CEO, Patrick Byrne, have gone to great lengths to use social media venues to stalk and defame their critics, myself included. That, of course, accomplished nothing but to focus attention on Overstock, and to give Byrne and his hideous chief stalker, Judd Bagley, gobs of negative attention. Byrne responded by ratcheting up his smear campaign even further, such as by spreading lies about the divorce proceedings of Sam Antar, the Crazy Eddie scammer turned white collar crime crusader.

Byrne's last venture, early in 2010, was to stalk his critics and members of their families (my wife, Sam Antar's son, etc. etc.) on Facebook. All that accomplished was to get him still more horrid publicity from people like Barry Ritholttz, who otherwise would have no interest in this third-rate Internet retailer and its goofy boss.

That was pretty much the last hurrah for Byrne as far as his social media initiative was concerned. He moved his full-time stalker Judd Bagley to the Overstock payroll last year, after paying for him out of his own pocket, and his "Deep Capture" blog has been moribund since then. All that's left is an ongoing SEC investigation, a lawsuit by California prosecutors because of his anti-consumer practices, and this latest whining in his 10-K.

© 2011 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.s

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