eBay Critics Targeted by Old School Silicon Valley Intimidation

eBay bloody pig mask
FBI

Recently Breitbart News reported that six eBay employees were named in federal charges for intimidating critics of the company with a cyberstalking terror campaign, now a recent article from the New York Times outlines how many Silicon Valley companies have been using similar intimidation tactics for years.

In an article titled “EBay’s Critics Faced an Extreme Case of an Old Silicon Valley Habit,” the New York Times outlines how recent allegations that eBay employees intimidated two critics of the company by sending them a bloody mask, live cockroaches, and a funeral wreath are not exactly new tactics in the world of Silicon Valley.

Breitbart News reported earlier this month that six former eBay executives and employees are now facing federal charges over allegations that they led a cyberstalking campaign a couple in Natick, Massachusetts, for publishing an online e-commerce newsletter that was critical of eBay.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling stated that the eBay employees harassed the Massachusetts couple with “disturbing deliveries” which included a bloody pig mask, a box of live cockroaches, and a funeral wreath. Anonymous threatening messages were also allegedly sent to the couple, and the eBay employees have been accused of traveling to Massachusetts to conduct “covert surveillance” of the victims.

Lelling stated: “It was a determined, systematic effort of senior employees of a major company to destroy the lives of a couple in Natick, all because they published content company executives didn’t like.”

The Times states that Silicon Valley companies regularly employ “trust and safety” teams staffed with former police officers and national intelligence analysts. Their work includes protecting executives and intellectual property, preventing blackmail attempts, and watching out for fraud and theft. But, in some cases, Silicon Valley’s intense focus on reputation and brand can lead these teams to take excessive action.

When discussing the Massachusetts couple that was criticizing eBay in their newsletter, Steven Wymer, eBay’s former communications chief, told James Baugh, the company’s former senior director of safety and security:  “I want her DONE. She is a biased troll who needs to get BURNED DOWN.” Wymer added: “I want to see ashes.”

The Times reports that the use of private security teams in Silicon Valley is becoming even more widespread and that the industry is growing rapidly. The Times writes:

Private security teams have long been part of corporate America, among them insurers’ fraud investigators and the “seed police,” as farmers call investigators for the agricultural giant Monsanto who secretly videotape farmers, infiltrate community meetings and recruit informants in their hunt for patent infringement.

These private detective teams, which typically operate under fraud divisions, are projected to grow into a $23.3 billion global industry this year from a $17.3 billion industry in 2018, according to Grand View Research.

Few industries have embraced the notion of private security as much as tech. One Silicon Valley investigator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of nondisclosure agreements, said a start-up executive had paid his firm $50,000 over one weekend to root out employees he believed were plotting his ouster. (They were.) The total tab for the work was as much as half a million dollars.

The Times notes many tech companies have been accused in the past of crossing legal lines, such as Hewlett-Packard. In 2006, HP was accused of having investigators comb through reporters’ trash cans and phone records. One year ago, Elon Musk’s electric car manufacturer Tesla was criticized for its aggressive efforts to root out and punish Martin Tripp, an employee who tipped off reporters to poor working conditions and waste at the company’s Nevada Gigafactory.

Robert Mitchell, Mr. Tripp’s lawyer, said in an interview: “Tesla’s investigators were tailing him, showing up at weird places, and completely spooked him.” Since then, Tripp has reportedly moved to Hungary out of fear for his family’s safety.

The New York Times writes: “When working for tech companies, private investigators have advantages over traditional law enforcement: They have access to more data, deal with far less red tape, and they have the ability to quickly cross jurisdictions and borders.” But this is precisely part of the issue that many have with Silicon Valley tech companies – many believe that they are above the law, Masters of the Universe who can do as they see fit, including threatening and terrorizing those that cross them.

Read more at the New York Times here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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