Monday, January 28, 2008

Nothing Makes You Seem More Interested In The Truth...

... Than threatening your critics with a lawsuit.

The site,, has generated controversy by allowing people to post attacks on pretty much anybody, then charging people a fee if they wish to dispute the attacks. Although the site suggests that responding is free unless you have a significant number of complaints, I know somebody who tried to respond to a single complaint against him. He indicated that he was told that he would have to pay a fee for his rebuttal to be posted. I can't verify what happened - it's second-hand information - and this happened a couple of years ago so perhaps they've softened their policies. But I can verify that a search of the site produces only one complaint under his name.

The site claims to fall under the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA. Thus, a new round of lawsuits attempts to take them outside of the safe harbor by suggesting that they create or modify posts, have engaged in extortion, or are in violation of RICO.

Judging from the number of lawsuits the site has defended, it seems reasonable to infer that their business model generates significant revenue.

One of the site's lawyers, Thomas B. Duffy, has responded to a summary of the allegations and legal claims about the site. Two of the comments suggest that the keyword-stuffed, often repetitive titles of the site's pages are truly user-generated. I run a site where I get a lot of user-generated complaints about people and businesses, so I am only partially willing to accept this explanation. I do get some lousy titles, but there is a strong correlation between the quality of the title and the quality of the post. RipOff Report seems often to have a lousy title followed by a reasonably well-written post. Also, while many of RipOff Reports' titles seem to be lengthy and keyword-stuffed, I get few posts with such rambling titles.

You have to register to post a "Ripoff Report" and I'm not willing to take that step, but I suspect that the title is composed of three different fields - first, the target's business name, second a summary of the complaint, and third the target's location. Those components appear to be strung together into the title for the post and page. Either that, or there is instruction to provide a title composed of those three components in that order. This can't be random.

But none of that inspired this post. What got to me was this:
I do know that on several occasions during the course of the phone call, Duffy informed me that Magedson was upset, talking to his "litigators," and thinking about suing the SEO community for "ganging up" on him. While he did not go into detail, Duffy hinted that Magedson may try and bring some kind of antitrust lawsuit against everyone who has participated in the recent online discussions about RipOff Report.

1 comment:

  1. I was close. As this screen capture indicates, the title is strings together information obtained through four form fields. (I had imagined location as a single field, whereas in fact it's two fields.)


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