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EBay fined $3m over ‘prison’ harassment of bloggers

On-line market eBay has agreed to pay $3 million to settle a prison investigation in America after a married couple have been subjected to a “petrifying” cyberstalking and harassment marketing campaign in retaliation for perceived criticism of the location on their weblog.

Federal prosecutors in Boston mentioned that eBay had entered right into a deferred prosecution settlement to resolve the case through which David and Ina Steiner have been despatched dwell cockroaches, a bloody Halloween pig masks, a funeral wreath and a e-book on surviving the loss of life of a partner.

Faux adverts have been additionally posted on Craigslist inviting members of the general public to attend sexual encounters on the couple’s house.

Joshua S Levy, the performing US lawyer for the District of Massachusetts, mentioned that senior executives at eBay turned annoyed with the tone and content material of the EcommerceBytes on-line publication, including: “eBay engaged in completely horrific, prison conduct. The corporate’s workers and contractors put the victims by way of pure hell in a petrifying marketing campaign aimed toward silencing their reporting and defending the eBay model.”

In accordance with eBay’s admissions, in August 2019 Jim Baugh, eBay’s former senior director of security and safety and different members of its safety staff “executed a harassment marketing campaign meant to intimidate the victims and to vary the content material of the publication’s reporting”.

They travelled to the couple’s house in Natick, Massachusetts, to hold out surveillance, and put a GPS monitoring machine on their automobile. The Steiners noticed the surveillance staff and contacted the police.

After studying of the police investigation, Baugh and his staff “deleted digital proof associated to the cyberstalking marketing campaign and falsified information meant to throw the police off the path”, the assertion mentioned.

Baugh was sentenced to 57 months in jail in September 2022, three former members of his staff have been jailed for between one and two years, and two others have been sentenced to a 12 months of house confinement. Brian Gilbert, a former senior supervisor of safety operations, has pleaded responsible and is awaiting sentencing.

The Steiners mentioned: “We launched our information website in 1999 to assist common folks and small companies achieve promoting on-line. We have been focused as a result of we gave eBay sellers a voice and since we reported info that prime executives didn’t like publicly laid naked.”

They added: “For the reason that authorities first arrested among the perpetrators and filed expenses in June 2020, we’ve heard from sellers who’re terrified of speaking legit issues to us (or to eBay and different marketplaces) as a result of they concern retaliation. Not solely is that devastating to listen to, however when sellers are afraid to talk up, it undermines our reporting.”

Jodi Cohen, the particular agent answerable for Boston’s FBI division, mentioned the settlement “holds eBay criminally and financially chargeable for emotionally, psychologically, and bodily terrorising the publishers of an internet publication out of concern that unhealthy publicity would adversely impression their Fortune 500 firm”.

Jamie Iannone, eBay’s chief govt, mentioned in an announcement that the corporate’s behaviour was “flawed and reprehensible”, and that eBay was “dedicated to upholding excessive requirements of conduct and ethics and to creating issues proper with the Steiners”.

The California-based firm has agreed to retain an unbiased company compliance monitor for 3 years and should make adjustments to its compliance programme. Expenses can be dropped after three years if it complies with the deal beneath the phrases of the settlement.