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  • Geebo 10:01 am on December 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , merger, ,   

    What the Letgo/OfferUp merger story could really mean 

    What the Letgo/OfferUp merger story could really mean

    The online classifieds industry has been abuzz lately with the story of a potential merger between classifieds apps LetGo and OfferUp as reported by Recode. While the talks never went past the approaching stage, Recode seems to think that a merger of the two or an acquisition of OfferUp by LetGo could be inevitable. However, if a merger were to take place, would the emerging business be a successful one?

    According to Recode, the financial situations of either company doesn’t appear to be too rosy. OfferUp has had trouble raising a new round of Funding while LetGo is still focused on building a userbase. If both companies were to merge at present, it seems like it would not benefit either company, leaving the merged company with razor-thin profit shares if any.

    The problem with companies like this are the same ones that many tech start-ups have. Instead of trying to succeed with their own vision, many tech start-ups are simply looking to be bought out by a much larger and successful brand. Since LetGo and OfferUp have had no offers by their bigger competitors they may be looking to consolidate in order to simply keep their heads above water.

     
  • Geebo 10:29 am on December 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ashley Benson, , , , Oregon   

    Backpage being sued in the death of trafficked woman 

    Backpage being sued in the death of trafficked woman

    Recently, it was announced that controversial classifieds site Backpage was being sued again over its alleged role in the sex trafficking trade. Backpage is being sued by the estate of Ashley Benson who was said to have been trafficked on Backpage by an abusive pimp. In 2014, she was strangled to death in a Portland, Oregon, hotel by a john who had been stalking her through Backpage. The lawsuit accuses Backpage of failing to prevent sex trafficking and prostitution on its site and changes user-generated ads in an attempt to downplay the trafficking aspect.

    Historically, Backpage has been successful in court against such lawsuits y hiding behind the antiquated Communications Decency Act of 1996. However, that protection is starting to diminish for Backpage after a Congressional investigative committee found evidence that Backpage was editing the user submitted ads to their legal advantage. After that discovery was made public Backpage settled a major lawsuit in the State of Washington where they were being sued by woman who said they were trafficked on Backpage while being underage.

    With Congress pressing to have the Communications Decency act to be amended to remove protections for websites that traffic women and children, if that legislation is made into law, we could see the floodgates open with lawsuit after lawsuit against Backpage. In the end, that may be the better way to finally put a stop to their hand in sex trafficking as it could potentially take away what Backpage cares about most, the money they make off of the victims of human trafficking.

     
  • Geebo 10:10 am on December 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Is Facebook complicit in ethnic cleansing? 

    Is Facebook complicit in ethnic cleansing?

    If you’re not familiar with the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma, they’ve been called the most persecuted people in the world. The government of Myanmar has been accused of what essentially amounts to ethnic cleansing of trying to remove the minority Muslim Rohingya in the largely Buddhist country. Myanmar even refuses to recognize them as citizens while placing discriminatory restrictions against them.

    So how does Facebook fit into all of this? According to reports by both The Atlantic and The Daily Beast, Facebook is considered the de facto internet in Myanmar. And much like it has in America, Facebook has been used to spread false information about the Rohingya people. To compound matters, Facebook is being accused of deleting the posts of pro-Rohingya activists under the vague terms of their ‘community guidelines’. Not just in Myanamar either as a Canadian activist has said that some of his posts criticizing the Myanmar government have been deleted. In many other cases, entire Facebook accounts have been deactivated. Meanwhile, Facebook’s response to the criticism can be summarized as a dismissive ‘we’re looking into it.’

    This is yet another example of how Facebook’s power and reach has gotten out of their control and probably the most devastating example. Even if it’s not intentional, Facebook gives the impression that they’re largely unsympathetic to the plight of the Rohingya which allows this campaign of hate to continue against them unabated in a country that the Rohingya have lived in for centuries.

     
  • Geebo 10:01 am on December 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Newsweek,   

    Do tech companies foster a culture of human trafficking? 

    Do tech companies foster a culture of human trafficking?

    Before being lambasted by Congress for their alleged roles in the Russian ad scandal, many tech giants like Google opposed an amendment to the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that would allow the prosecution of websites that hosted obvious ads for sex trafficking. After their PR disaster in Congress, many tech firms reversed their position and supported the amendment, but why did they oppose it in the first place?

    A number of arguments against the amendment from tech companies was because they felt they might get caught up unfairly in prosecution. Could another reason be that some of these companies foster a culture where sex trafficking is not only tolerated but encouraged? Now, it’s not being said that the heads of these companies have some kind of unspoken rule where they will look the other way if their employees are caught engaging in sec trafficking, however there does seem to be a belief among the male employees of many of these companies that sex trafficking is not only acceptable but they also allegedly get together to compare notes about it.

    Newsweek recently broke a story where they allege that in the Seattle area many employees of both Amazon and Microsoft were caught allegedly engaging in behavior at local illegal brothels where Asian women were being trafficked. Some of these employees were said to have spent anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 a year in these brothels. The employees were even said to have communicated with these brothels while using their company emails.

    While both Amazon and Microsoft condemn these activities, if there is this cavalier attitude towards the trafficking of women in these companies who’s to say there aren’t similar attitudes in other tech companies in other regions of the country? With the slew of accusations of sexual harassment in Silicon Valley recently, could there also be an environment where brothels are frequented where women who can barely speak English are being kept against their wills. If the Seattle allegations are any indication then the answer seems to be yes.

     
  • Geebo 11:30 am on December 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Craigslist ‘prank’ ads lead to vandalism and theft 

    Craigslist 'prank' ads lead to vandalism and theft

    One of the many things wrong with craigslist is that due to their lack of moderation, anyone can post basically an ad saying anything and there will be people who believe it. For example in Roseburg, Oregon, someone posted a craigslist ad stating that local non-profits would be offering free trash drop off. Some of these non-profit organizations included the local Salvation Army chapter and a cancer support center. Luckily the non-profits were made aware of the ads before their properties were strewn with garbage, however, the ad was up for four hours before it was even indicated that it was waiting to be removed.

    Sadly, some of these ‘pranks’ are used as forms of revenge against neighbors. In Kansas City, a disabled woman has lost most of her property and possessions due to a craigslist ad. The victim in this case is a woman whose daughter has spina bifida. To try to make ends meet the woman repairs furniture at home, but the clutter has led some neighbors to complain. One day while the woman and her daughter were at the hospital, someone posted an ad that said ‘Free Stuff’ that listed the woman’s address and pictures of her possessions. When they returned from the hospital, just about everything had been cleared off the property including her daughter’s wheelchair ramp. What little income they had has now disappeared.

    And these are just the most recent examples. In the past such ads have been used to not only harass neighbors, but some have been used to facilitate some of the most brutal of assaults. When a website like that can be weaponized like this on a regular basis, how can they not do any self-policing? To not moderate their ads just seems reckless and lazy. It’s almost as if craigslist doesn’t care about the safety of not its users but its victims.

     
  • Geebo 10:32 am on December 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: age discrimination, , ,   

    Is Facebook serving job ads that discriminate by age? 

    Is Facebook serving job ads that discriminate on age?

    It appears that Facebook is once again in hot water for the way it serves its ads. If you’ve been following the Facebook ad saga, first there was the fact that the social media giant accepted foreign currency for ads allegedly trying to influence the 2016 US Presidential election. Then there were allegations that Facebook was serving housing ads that discriminated by race. Now, through a joint investigation by the New York Times and Pro Publica, Facebook is allegedly serving employment ads that are discriminating by age.

    Communications giant Verizon is the one being singled out the most by supposedly targeting their employment ads to people in the 25 to 36 age range. However, reports say that companies such as Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Target and Facebook itself have used such tactics when it comes to hiring ages. There may be legal investigations forthcoming as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits discriminating against people who are over 40 when it comes to employment.

    Facebook says that it’s not their fault. They say this practice is protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1997. This is the same act that Backpage hides behind to continue making money off of obvious ads for prostitution and human trafficking. Facebook’s problem with this argument is that they’re the ones who are offering this specific age targeting options for ads. The sad truth is that Facebook will continue to flaunt their unchecked power until a rival platform comes along that users would be willing to jump to and that probably won’t happen any time soon.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on December 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bots, Christmas shopping, scalpers   

    The Grinch-bots that are stealing Christmas 

    The Grinch-bots that are stealing Christmas

    By now you should have all your Christmas shopping done since it’s only five days away. However there are many of us who’ve either been too busy or who have just procrastinated to the point of panic. Well, if you’re planning on getting that hard to get gift that children are clambering for this Christmas you’re probably out of luck.

    Even in the days before the internet,when a must have toy hit the market, like Tickle-Me-Elmo or Cabbage Patch Kids, would hit the store shelves, certain entrepreneurial spirits would buy as many of the items as they could then resell them at an extreme markup. Today is no different as scalpers now use bots, or automated scripts, to try to snatch up as many of the season’s hottest items this year from online marketplaces, leaving you to scrape second-hand sites paying exponential prices as to not disappoint someone this Christmas.

    To make matters worse if you are able to get your hands on one of the must have gifts this year and bought it second-hand, you may be introducing a security flaw into someone’s life. If the item you purchased requires internet connectivity, it may contain malware that can be used for several nefarious purposes.

    If you find yourself in the lurch this holiday season, just go with gift cards. It may seem impersonal, but in the long run your loved ones can buy whatever they want with them and they can save you a lot of headaches in the process.

     
  • Geebo 9:58 am on December 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Santa Barbara,   

    Craigslist used in multi-million dollar real estate scam 

    Craigslist used in multi-million dollar real estate scam

    Real estate scams are nothing new for craigslist. They’ve been going on for almost as long as the website has been around. As we’ve detailed in the past, the way these scams normally work is someone posts an ad for a property for rent at a price often deemed too good to be true. The scammer then usually offers some excuse as to why they can’t show the home and asks for some kind of deposit or application fee. Then it turns out that they don’t even own the property. However, a couple from California were recently indicted in federal court for exploiting people for millions of dollars using a new twist on the old scam.

    49-year-old Michael Davenport and 51-year-old Cynthia Rawlinson of Santa Barbara, California have been indicted in federal court for running a real estate scam that allegedly bilked thousands of people out of close to $27 million. How the scam is said to have worked is that the pair, doing business under several company names such as MDSQ Productions, LLC, Housing Standard, LLC, Anchor House Financial, American Standard, American Standard Online, and Your American Standard, would post ads on craigslist about properties for sale and rent at bargain prices. Once someone would inquire about the property they would be told that they would have to purchase the company’s list of properties. The problem with the list was that many of the properties were not owned by any of the companies and some were even said to be non-existent. This scam is said to have gone on for seven years before any charges were finally brought against the alleged scammers.

    This really should come as no surprise as when one thinks of committing real estate scams the first place they probably think of pulling it off is craigslist. Due to the fact that craigslist never seems to review their ads for potential fraud, nor doesn’t appear to do anything else to dissuade fraudulent ads, it makes craigslist the perfect breeding ground for scams large and small.

     
  • Geebo 11:30 am on December 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Sears: The Ghost of Christmas Past 

    Sears: The Ghost of Christmas Past

    There once was a time, in the days before publicly available internet, that this was a magic time of year. The once powerful retail outlet Sears would release their massive Christmas catalog known as the Wishbook. At the time, this was every kid’s favorite time of the year as the Wishbook allowed the kids of America to see all the new hot toys for that year’s Christmas.

    Fast forward to today and Sears is mostly an afterthought when it comes to holiday shopping. These days most of us will either take to Amazon to avoid the crowds, or will brave the crowds of Walmart to try to get a reasonable deal. So what happened to Sears? For the most part, the internet happened to Sears.

    Every year, we hear about how Sears is on the verge of bankruptcy but have survived another year somehow. This year they made deals with Amazon to sell their Craftsman and Diehard brand of products. However, in the online space, Sears barely has a presence. This was a company that was founded on the premise of easy mail order so you would think that it would have easily pivoted to the online marketplace. Instead, it doubled down on its brick and mortar stores and cancelled its catalogs back in 1993. That was one hundred years after the founding of Sears & Roebuck. Now in yet another attempt to survive, Sears is closing many of their Kmart stores, which they purchased back in 2004, again placing their faith in brick and mortar.

    Sears had the potential to modernize their business and could have been Amazon before Amazon. Instead, they’ll soon be a reminder that no business lasts forever no matter how successful they may have been in the past.

     
  • Geebo 10:06 am on December 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Net Neutrality is dead. Now what? 

    Net Neutrality is dead.  Now what?

    As I’m sure we’re all aware, yesterday the FCC voted to repeal Net Neutrality regulations that were put in place by the Obama administration to treat the internet as a utility ensuring equal internet access for all. So what happens now? The internet hasn’t collapsed overnight, but it definitely has the potential to as internet service providers could potentially start charging consumers for fast lane plans to sites like Netflix and Facebook. So is the end really nigh? Not quite.

    A number of state Attorneys General, led by New York AG Eric Schneiderman, are planning to sue the FCC to reverse the Net Neutrality repeal on the grounds that an investigation into the claims of fraudulent comments in support of Net Neutrality that were submitted to the FCC never happened. The FCC will probably also be sued by consumer watchdog groups and Congressional Democrats will be trying to pass legislation to restore Net Neutrality.

    Unfortunately the courts and Congress are notoriously slow and heavily bureaucratic, so what can the average consumer do? Well, beside waiting around and hoping ISPs don’t start taking advantage of us, you can become active. You can educate your friends and family as to what Net Neutrality is and why it’s important. The most important thing we can do at this point is to vote for politicians who would support the restoration of Net Neutrality. Here’s a list of Congress members who were in support of Net Neutrality. If one of them represents you, you may want to consider voting them out of office when the time comes. In the meantime you can write your representatives in Congress that you support a free and open internet that is available to all and let them know that support for Net Neutrality will not go away any time soon.

     
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