YELP Forced to Identify Anonymous Users; Elite to Launch "World Post" Online Publication

This will be short and sweet. This morning I ran across two headlines that I felt were important to share:

1) YELP critics must be identified, court rules in online landscape altering decision

I'll write a longer article at some point about privacy and the Internet, but this ruling is bad news for individuals as well as content providers. It irks me, because most of these judges and politicians who try to write rules for the Internet are clueless about the underlying technology, and I'll bet half of them can barely handle sending out an email.

I also question how YELP Is actually going to identify their anonymous critics, because an IP address isn't a person. Though, more and more, websites are identifying individuals not just on IP address, but by the unique signature created by their browser plug-ins.

Question to you, Turdites: If Internet users are someday required to identify themselves through a federal centralized database, would you stop using the Internet entirely?

2) Arianna Huffington announces launch of World Post news website

As if the world doesn't have enough propaganda benefiting the people on the top, Arianna Huffington is starting a new online publication to give voice to the 1%. Seriously! And let me remind you: This is the woman who made a mint off of the AOL/Huffington Post merger, off the backs of bloggers who wrote for free, and HuffPo still isn't making a profit!

The new "World Post" won't just be for Americans, but will be designed for an international audience. The publication will be launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this month.

Why not just call it the "New World Order Post" and be done with it?

Aren't you super excited about reading blog posts by Bill Gates? I know I am! (sarcasm off)

So what's the reasoning behind providing a platform for the uber-rich? Billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen says: “You have to start somewhere. A lot of these people are knowledgable."

Uh huh.

Oh, and supposedly, the site will have some non-billionaires writing too. Any chance Turd will be invited to contribute?

Stephanie blogs sporadically at a number of websites, including Freeople and Free Thinking Christianity.

54 Comments

Marblesonac's picture

First

My moral has improved, they can stop the beatings!

stephanie's picture

BTW...

I'm not planning on posting here daily. I just saw these headlines and was like...ARRGHHHH...gotta share. :-)

achmachat's picture

your first question...

the day that you are going to need a national internet ID will be the same day some smart kid will have found a way around it :-)

Big L's picture

Yow!

Thanks for the 'reading' on that news Steph! Was wondering what the inside story was and now I know.

I'm pretty confident there will be a work around, somewhere, somehow for contributors and bloggers and communities alike.

The internet is out of the box now, as an unstructured organization it will adapt and survive.

Having had this level of access to the world and each other, the internet communities will never stand for a restriction of truly free speech.

ivars's picture

Stephanie-answer to Your

Stephanie-answer to Your question:

I will not stop using Internet if I am required to identify myself. I am in fact almost identified here, my e-mail submitted contains my full real name,  and totally identified in some other sites.

woofwoof's picture

My company was a victim of Yelp.

My company was a victim of Yelp.  I had bad reviews from people who had never used my services.  A few of them came from the Bay area and my business is located in Seattle and Portland.  I got into an argument with some of the people in the forum and it turned out that one of them was a Yelp plant.  He latter PM me and said he understood my position and if I was to advertise with Yelp they would go away.  I told him to go F himself.  This was all before the lawsuit.  I wish I had kept the message.

AlienEyes's picture

Arianna Huffington....

...should be dipped in sh!t and set on fire !

.

(I don't like her very much)

stephanie's picture

@woofwoof & YELP's alleged bad business practices

I did see on some comments that other businesses have charged that YELP allegedly posts fake negative reviews and extorts advertising money to get rid of them. Note how I wrote "allegedly." What if YELP came to TFMR, saw your post, and then demanded that we provide your personal information because they feel you've defamed them here?

If an online business was extorting users with fake reviews and engaging in racketeering, that would be a different issue (and lawsuit) than requiring online companies to provide the identities and personal information of their members. The precedent of this decision to force the release of personal information is far-reaching and doesn't actually solve the greater problem necessarily. 

woofwoof's picture

@stephanie.

I say bring it.  It don't bad mouth people unless it's true. 

edit:  to think of it I don't even badmouth my competitors.  I always ask the customers to check around for what will work for them.  I spent years to build my business and in one swoop"Mrs. Cravis" tears it down without ever setting foot in my establishment. 

DeaconBenjamin's picture

Let Huffington open her news site

1) I like hearing more viewpoints, including those with whom I do not expect to agree.

2) Let's hear their propaganda direct from the horse's mouth, rather than having been translated by the blow drys.

Wizdum's picture

Thats GOOD!

there is more Co-Intel-Pro anonymous users that will be brought into the light by this...

I do not see it as bad... ALSO if is due to the TOS of the YELP site and not every site altogether

woofwoof's picture

Yelp

This peaked my curiosity so I went to check on my status on yelp.  Nothing left but the negative reviews.  Not a single positive review.

I went to check on other review sites (city search) and guess what? mostly positive reviews.  The only negative ones were polled from from yelp.

Go figure.   

Edit, I also noticed that the Bay Area reviews are also gone. 

Strongsidejedi's picture

@woofwoof - RE: Yelp! yow & @Stephanie - good post

@stephanie - 

this is one of the best postings on TFMR that I've seen in some time.  I am decloaking to answer your question and address woofwoof.

Regarding use of the "internet", you really have to define what the "internet" is.  The "internet" today is a far cry from the "internet" from 20 years ago.  I was on Usenet from prior to the origins of Mosaic and the "internet".  The whole "WWW" thing really comes from CERN.  I'm guessing that some of the old timers on TFMR are guys who know the old University of Illinois stuff and CERN stuff from prior to the Netscape days.

The people under age 40 will not know those days because prior to AOL "you got mail", the only users on the "internet" were guys in graduate school programs and were communicating through Usenet.  You had to use the Sun workstations to really go good stuff because most campuses weren't fully wired with "internet" access from the dorm (we're talking mid-1980's here people).

The internet today is a far cry from the free-wheeling environment that exchanged data for research purposes and for the benefit of all users.

I distinctly recall several cases where government agencies were attempting to silence people from connecting through the internet.  Those agencies ran into the Electronic Frontier Foundation and their complaints regarding behavior.  Organizations like the ACLU were shown to be really weak because they were so far behind the times.  Now, the ACLU is largely irrelevant because the juxtaposition of "civil rights" and "litigation" with the internet is so laughable.  There are no civil rights or court processes that can correct damaging and widespread information that is just plain wrong.

How do you correct such misinformation?

You can't.  The information is propaganda and is no longer in the interest of the user or 'research'.  It's just plain propaganda.  These trends were visible on the internet 20 years ago, but have reached a dramatic proportion in the USA due to the fact that big media companies are controlling key information choke points.

TFMR holds my attention due to the fact that people are given an opportunity post and exchange thoughts freely.  Its very close to the environment in Usenet prior to the "world wide web" coming on scene.

@woofwoof 
I'm sorry for you.  I had a similar experience with not only Yelp, but Angie's List and several other companies.  It turned out that a competitor in my town hired a guy to create those fictitious postings.  Some of that propaganda led to the start of reputation defender.  They're extortionists because I've talked to numerous small businesses that get character attacked on Yelp.  To this day, I have never been able to clear the wrong information off Yelp that is there.  In my opinion, Yelp should be held accountable by small business owners across the nation. 

I have known at least 3 health care professionals who have been called by Yelp regarding paying for advertising.  It is very clear to me that Yelp was having people post bad information on a small business in a town and then calling that small business for money to correct the misinformation.  I had that phone call also.  So, you are not alone.

I'm glad to see that a judge is holding Yelp accountable for their behavior.  Repeating false information is just as bad as the original person saying it.  The judiciary should hold Yelp responsible.  There is real damage done by organizations like that.

@Steph - regarding use of internet in the long-haul.  I have deliberately backed off posting to this site and others in the last year.  It was clear to me by the middle of the year that numerous factions use the internet to gather information on people.  The more I was posting, the more of an investigation target I was becoming.  Therefore, I elected to dramatically slow down my postings.

I will say that the definition of new digital network technologies is a critical one for developing nations.  As those governments dissociate from the control of major media companies on the "internet", the citizens of second world nations (BRICs, etc) will start to use other modes of communication.

By rotating communication modalities (terrestial radio, digital/analog, phone, wireless, etc), the police state surveillance can not possibly contain all data on earth transmitted and received, unless the user chooses to participate by buying a smart phone that allows the agencies to spy.

The only volunteers for such data collection are the people who are posting.

achmachat's picture

woofwoof

what kind of business is that dependent on online reviews?

hotel and restaurant?

edit: thanks to ag1969 and strongsidejedi I think I understand the system. So basically it's yet another thing that small business owners in the US have to FIGHT to be able to survive?!  

ag1969's picture

woofwoof

I have had similar problems with online reviews.  This system is tragicly flawed.  I used to own a business that accumulated several bad online reviews.  It was so obvious that they were written by my competitors because they were using language that actual customers just don't use.  It wasn't a review, it was a sales pitch as to why they should have gone with something else and filled with erroneous claims.  By the same token, I personally know of several review sites where the owner of a business makes a review site and then fills it up with all kinds of fake testimonials from fake customers, and they were written by the business owner himself.

So I have witnessed time again over the last decade how bullshit these reviews are.

I have also written some honest reviews at some websites that never get posted because it was a bad review of a product.

As usual, DYODD.

ag1969's picture

Achmachat

In the USA, review sites like Angie's List have become quite popular.  The usual tactic is for a competitor to post an erroneous bad review and then when bidding against that company, direct the customer to that review and then say, "See, they're bad."

It is also common in my line of work for someone to request 3 references.  I usually reply that I will give them 10 if they want but I promise I won't give them a bad one.

stephanie's picture

Thanks, Strongsidejedi

That means a lot coming from you!

You bring up a lot of good points. I'm in my early 40s and started using the Internet in college when all we had was mostly email and gopher. 

I feel for businesses and people who have been slandered online. I have certainly had it happen to me - and once it was because I wrote a negative blog post about a New Age guru/scam artist, and one of her brainwashed followers researched me and did this hit job piece about me to retaliate. It was stupid and I didn't let it get to me, and it's probably still online somewhere.

I also had an early and visible case of online harassment where a guy did not like something I posted and was emailing me threats that he was going to find me and physically hurt me. And while most people on TFMR are truly awesome, there have been some psychos online here that I would be concerned about tracking me down. I often pick up Turd's mail and sometimes worry that someone is going to send HIM something meant to harm him!

And on a more practical note, there are times when I want anonymity when reviewing something. Like for an apartment. I do not want to be retaliated against for posting an honest review that is designed to help others avoid a bad situation.

When push comes to shove, I favor privacy over the right not to be slandered. You can always fight back with your own PR, but if we lose privacy we may lose our right to dissent someday. 

woofwoof's picture

And how do I know yelp was an extortion racket?

And how do I know yelp was an extortion racket?  During the time when all the bad reviews were showing up by total strangers (before the lawsuit)  I had my brother and one of my employees log into Yelp write positive reviews.  Guess what?  These reviews disappeared from the board when I refused to pony up.  To this fact I will swear in court and take a lie detector test if needed.  Will Yelp’s CEO take a lie detector test with me?      

stephanie's picture

bigger picture here

@woofwoof, I get you are pissed off at YELP, but there's a bigger issue here. These rulings set precedent. YELP may be a bad apple, but we can't destroy what makes the Internet free just because of YELP. This is not the solution. If privacy rights are eroded online, then eventually sites like TF Metals will have to interface with an "approved" database of registered, verified users, such as Facebook. No-one will be able to talk about their metals "stash" online without worrying that someone will track down their house and come by and rob them.

On a related note, I noticed a lot of comments on the World Post article I linked above, from people who complained that they were being forced to have a Facebook account to login to HuffPo now. Facebook also wants cellphone verification now. Facebook may be the vehicle being put into place to identify all Internet users. 

PS Kurt Nimmo has a good piece on the World Post launch on InfoWars - http://www.infowars.com/arianna-huffington-courts-global-elite-in-effort-to-undermine-alternative-media/

boomer sooner's picture

Had a call fromYelp this

Had a call fromYelp this morning. The usual pitch of "are you busy, we can increase traffic, ect", told them no thanks, we shall see. I am booked for more than a week and most of the time 2 weeks, no advertising, strictly word of mouth and Angieslist. I have more reviews on Angieslist than anyone else in my profession, 4 years running Super Service Award. I am a one man band competing with major companies. Angieslist has been great for me.
As for yelp, do not know.

dgstage's picture

Just What We Did Not Need

Urban Roman's picture

If I were using Yelp, I might quit doing that.

It seems that Yelp hasn't had useful information for quite a few years. If the reviews are all just written by trolls, why even bother to look at it?

But as for the panopticon, I never considered this silly nom-du-net to be much of a disguise anyway. I keep telling myself I'm going to cancel the facebook account, and start using anonymizing methods, and turn off cookies and whatnot, but never do any of those things.

Strongsidejedi's picture

@woofwoof and @steph (yelp behavior)

@woofwoof - I stand with you and share the identical experience.  One of my favorite healthcare professionals in a town about ten miles north of me is a good friend over nearly 25 years.  He's one of the most honest guys I know.  He got pelted with lying Yelp postings and then tried to call Yelp.  Yelp told him to pay up or the postings were not going away.  So, he paid Yelp.  Yelp then pushed the postings down the posting list or deleted them.  When he refused to "renew" with more $$$, the postings suddenly (like overnight) popped higher in the Yelp discussion section.

Because of the lack of accountability on places like Yelp, Craig's List, and others (Angies List included), I began having to call those companies to request that they not use my business name on their website (our business name was copyrighted and trademarked).  Two refused and one complied.  Yelp refused to stop using our trademark on their website.  I never sued Yelp but contemplated doing so for trademark infringement.  Unfortunately, that legal theory has never been proven.  Such litigation would be very costly for any small or even medium sized company.

And, this my friends, is the primary reason that I can not agree with the behavior of those companies.

@Steph the juxtaposition of privacy rights and accountability is not exactly correct.  Accountability in an anonymous online profile still exists.  It's just that there is no accountability in websites like craigslist or yelp.  Unless you can track and see the MAC or IP address, then you can not really provide verification from where the party is posting.  Even if you can see the IP, you don't know what's really going on because IP can be spoofed.

Privacy is not guaranteed when you are having a discussion in a public forum.  But, privacy is needed in order to bring out the best facts.  The internet in this current state lacks privacy.  For this reason, I am convinced that fora like TFMR will eventually move off the internet to other futuristic digital networks (when such network is built or created).
            

oneagleswings's picture

angies list

I too was in a business for 20 years and worked for a company with a ten major midwest city market place.  There are always when dealing with the public a few folks who will never be happy.  I agree with ag1969 if a customer asks for a reference you give him your barber,  mother in law and golf buddy.  Come on already.  I used to just put a customer in my car and drive around until we saw one of my companies yard signs and went and knocked on the door and asked them about my company and their experience.  These were not my personal customers in most cases.  That act by itself,  having that kind of confidence in our work closed more sales than anything I ever did.  People can post anything they want on the internet and often do.  In sales or business you need to be able to relay to potential customers your product fixes their problem, it is fairly priced and you will deliver on time and do the work as promised.  Biggest thing in a sales situation is trust,  period.  I have a dentist who knew I was downsized from a twenty year position and looking for work and he did a 2100 dollar three tooth bridge without charge.  He has been my dentist for 9 years.  I didn't ask for it but I didn't say no either.  We need to share the good news but I wouldn't blab that all over the internet with his name because he would be mobbed.  People who will lie and slander to make money will never be happy,  never have enough and most likely be found out in the end anyway.  I didn't start off to be this wordy so apologies ahead of time.

Strongsidejedi's picture

@Urban Roman

I have so many contacts and so many "friends" that communicate via FB, that I need to periodically check the account.  The issue is the linking of smart phones to FB or other digital tracking systems like google also.

I've basically concluded that I need a cheap digital cell that is only useful for phone calls.  I need a separate digital communications system to handle email and digital traffic.  Since the digital traffic is trackable by address, IP blocking and spoofing would be required if I really want to scramble the competitors trackers.

stephanie's picture

there are better ways to stop online extortion

@SSI wrote: "the juxtaposition of privacy rights and accountability is not exactly correct." You're probably right, but the losers in the end here will be individual users who need privacy for a variety of reasons:

1) voicing dissent over bad government policy
2) needing online support for an addiction and requiring anonymity 
3) having health issues that are private and personal

etc. etc.

The solution to any business, such as YELP, extorting customers, is to use the Internet against them. It is very easy to start an online boycott and launch petitions. If YELP gets in the news about bad business practices, and starts losing customers because of it, it will change.

But filing lawsuits to require anonymous user data to be handed over to a private company, simply because they did not like a bad review (and it could actually be a legit review)...bad bad BAD precedent.

However, I wholeheartedly agree that alternative networks need to be created and had been thinking of writing something about that soon! :-)

stephanie's picture

PS @dgstage

I'm not seeing any quakes listed for Japan on the quake map?

Green Lantern's picture

@strongsidejedi

Nice to see you!

I would love to hear more about alternative digital networks.   If you can provide any links/articles on the subject, how far in the future etc... I'd be interesting in learning more.

Thanks,

GL

Turd Ferguson's picture

SSJ Lives!

MODERATOR

How are you doing, my friend. Seeing you back on this board hopefully means that your health issues are behind you.

Nice to have you back.

Strongsidejedi's picture

@TF

I am very honored that you would send me a special message.  I've been unable to check the board as often as I would like due to so many medical appointments.  No matter what happens, the free discourse that you created through TFMR is a necessary and frankly vital service.

There are those who would like to confuse and confound in order to reap an ill-gotten gain.

But, it is equally clear that there are growing numbers of information rich individuals who are willing to share information that can help others survive.

Such is the nature of the American spirit that rises again and again like the spring grains.  No matter the weather, there is a thaw.  No matter the hammer and sickle to suppress, there are the stars to aim for and the stripes to show it.

Red, white, and blue my friend.

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