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Inside eBay’s bizarre campaign against a blog critic (wsj.com)
343 points by davidclark22 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 133 comments

Inexcusable. Sad. Horrible.

The two questions in my mind are:

First, how could something this horrible happen at such a high level at such a prominent company? I mean, eBay is not some rinky-dinky business run by fly-by-night operators in a shady part of town. We're talking about a well-known publicly traded company that is a component of the S&P 500 with a market capitalization in the tens of billions of dollars. Auntie Tilly would be delighted to hear her niece got a job offer at eBay after college.

Second, is this kind of horrendous antisocial behavior ("we can do whatever we want this side of legal with impunity") representative of behavioral patterns at the higher levels of large, prominent, powerful companies? Or is eBay just an exception, the proverbial bad apple in a basket of mostly good apples? I would hope it's the latter.

Sad? Horrible? How about batshit insane! C-suits going after nobodies is, well... this. I mean, that must have been some crazy amounts of coke and bad judgements all around, to get SIX seriously unhinged individuals to the top of eBay of all the places. How does it even happen? I mean i've seen some amoral corporate bullshit, and shady shit, strays into "not strictly legal" and "how can legal cover our ass?", but this, this is crazy in literal sense.

Pity the person who takes their work so seriously they'd send a bloody pig mask in the mail for it -- for a faceless, corporate behemoth like ebay, no less.

this is a world where the financial industry repeatedly gets caught doing fraud that causes worldwide recessions, where oil companies spend billions lying to people so they can keep polluting. companies acting badly seems completely normal to me.

True, but typically it's your standard white collar sociopathy, though, not literal horror movie-level obsessive stalking and abuse. Even aside from the obviously horrendous ethics, this sort of behavior is just incomprehensibly outlandish and grotesque. It's not only psychopathic but literally psychotic.

>Angered by items that appeared in a e-commerce newsletter, six former employees of eBay sent the publishers, a couple living in Massachusetts, live cockroaches and spiders, pornography, a bloody pigface mask, a preserved pig fetus and a funeral wreath, and attempted to secretly install a tracking device on the couple's car, federal authorities allege in criminal charges unsealed on Monday. [0]

As the prosecutor said in the NPR article, this is abject psychological terrorism against a random middle-aged blogging couple by eBay's former "senior director of safety and security" and "director of global resilience", among others. You couldn't write this shit.

[0] https://www.npr.org/2020/06/15/877659807/feds-former-ebay-em...

How does it happen?

Someone passes around a blog. Someone else jokes "wouldn't it be funny if we...". Someone else says "Hey, I'm bored, we have loads of cash & free time, sounds like a fun prank!"

Not hard to lose touch with the reality of what one's doing

Article discusses how they were not joking but, instead, paranoid that she was getting funding from Amazon, their competitor.

Yeah, and just add some booze to that. The recipe is simple.

Alcohol and drugs is always behind stuff like this.

> Second, is this kind of horrendous antisocial behavior ("we can do whatever we want this side of legal with impunity") representative of behavioral patterns at the higher levels of large, prominent, powerful companies?

It happens a lot more than you might expect. Usually it's "just" a bit of sexual harrasment. But the combination of power, arrogance, and unacountability can cause all sorts of things to happen. Like the Suisse spying scandal: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51411640

Or Carlos Ghosn being smuggled out of Japan in an instrument case. Or Shkreli. Or Theranos, Enron, etc. Most boardrooms are boring, but there is a big fiasco every year or so.

By the time Carlos Ghosn was smuggled out of Japan, he had been gone from Renault/Nissan for almost a year. So it's not like this was organized by a team at Nissan working under Ghosn.

Though amusingly he continued to squat in a Nissan-owned mansion in Beirut after his escape.


The Ghosn issue is much more complicated though. There are arguments that the judicial system was politicised in a manner. He was a foreigner who fell out of favour in a land that protects their own. See Olympus Camera scandal.

a grain of salt and all of that, there is at least some evidence that Ghosen was set up, or at least allowed to behave badly for the purpose of ousting him later...


In Carlos Ghosn's case, there's an argument to be made. Japan doesn't have a well functioning judicial system (any judicial system with 99.9% conviction rate is by definition completely broken), that forced confessions are common (in Japan you can be detained up to 21 days with little to no cause, interrogations are not done in the presence of a lawyer and there's no law against "facilitating" confessions by prevent you to sleep during those days).

I wouldn't trust the Japanese legal system to be fair and uphold justice, even less so in a politicized case like this one.

First, how could something this horrible happen at such a high level at such a prominent company?

In my last job I had an opportunity to work very closely with the executive committee of a Fortune 50 company.

Before I started the work I thought "wow, they must be so smart, I'm going to learn so much!". What I did learn is that the people at the top are really no different than the people at the bottom.

Yes, there are some very smart and productive people. But there are also people that make you wonder how they got there.

The fact the eBay CEO decided to harass the crap out of someone is not surprising in the least.

Usually it’s who you know.

I did consulting work for a few CFOs whom I wouldn’t let near my kids lemonade stand till.

I'd say it's much more willingness to be a bit psychopathic. Most people wouldn't compromise their integrity to move into the C-suite. The competition is fierce, so the people who make it to the top are the people who /are/ willing to do anything to move into the C-suite.

I've also done work at that level, and some people outwardly appeared as sleazeballs, some almost radiated charisma and integrity, but when you got down to it, at the organization i was at, all were evil, backstabbing bastards.

Middle managers saw a lot of that, but tended to be decent people. And line employees never saw that -- middle management shielded them.

Good books to understand these dynamics better:

* Dictator's Handbook.

* Power, by Pfeffer.

Disclaimer, since I got jumped on this before: This refers to big organizations. If you're the CEO of a 5-person startup, this doesn't apply to you.

>First, how could something this horrible happen at such a high level at such a prominent company? I mean, eBay is not some rinky-dinky business run by fly-by-night operators in a shady part of town.

How could something like this happen? Very easily. Also very often.

And this is one of the lightest cases. Huge multinationals have people defamed, killed, politicians bribed and exhorted, and everything in between...

Usually it happens with several layers, where the CEO or some exec gives a message like "Do what you have to do", and several layers of increasingly thuggish associates get the message.

Remember the movie Insider, how the whistleblower got death threats? In real life many people get worse, including actual beatings and deaths.

Especially in huge companies with subsidies, and factories in the developing world, this is par for the course... from Coca Cola to United Fruit Company to the Nike's of this world...

And god forbid someone stands to hurt some multi-billion deal...

Corporations are psychopathic by nature, with few exceptions.

had to vouch for this. there is a lot of truth here in what looks at first sight hyperbolic or inflammatory which isn't maybe immediately obvious.

corporations are legally treated like a person. the problem here is (over and over again) that a person might do insane or criminal things that they are then held accountable for, while a company (not a "natural" person) acts as a collective and hence can be as psychopathic in its acts (on behalf of multiple people who get together for that act). e.g. imagine an individual acting as a company: they would always be considered a psychopath (or at least if not criminally insane would be suffering from a mental illness).

it's the group that is allowed to hide behind the singular entity that allows problematic behavior almost by design.

> we can do whatever we want this side of legal with impunity

The polite term for this is legal realism - “I am rich and you are not, so most of the time fuck you.” Certainly every executive, by the nature of their salary, their incentives, the world built around them, they perpetuate legal realism to the detriment of legalism or whatever you want to call opinions/moral stances like “you should not harass randos on the Internet.”

It is zero sum for sure. You will never be on the wrong side of justice of a targeted harassment campaign, meaning you as a normal person will never conspire with your coworkers to do that - which is to say, of course this was blessed by eBay, in the same way that gang leaders bless the crimes their minions do - so presumably those laws should be as harsh as possible. Conversely you will sometimes be a landlord in your life, sometimes a tenant, so even in the most cynical rationalist reading we can reason about what justice looks like for both sides, even when it’s just about money.

What then is the punishment for a corporation? In a bull market, little legal action has ever sunk a large cap company (pretty much only lying about cash balances). And you wonder, in a world where investors are buying the stocks of bankrupt companies like Hertz, will Wirecard even get its due? The business, not the person. BP made one of the worst environmental disasters in the world, a normal person will never do that. You will never be on the wrong side of spilling oil in the sea. Some DoJ employee decided what to do, in an afternoon, in a 15 minute meeting after maybe a few phone calls with the Louisiana governor and the president, “the outcome will be, BP will not be shut down.” Then 5 years of litigation parallel reconstructing that determination in the legal system, in a world where you have footage of BP spilling the oil, they did it, what is there to talk about? Lawyers will say a lot, but honesty I’m sick of hearing lawyers points of view on whether or not eBay did something wrong, of course it did, what is the punishment?

In our country punishing a corporation is actuarial work. That is the problem.

Maybe the law academy has an answer, it would be interesting to see “a official, parallel courtroom where poor litigants have a hope of succeeding.” Maybe law school is just minting new lawyers every year who are in denial of how predictive “what side of capitalism are you on?” is in terms of legal outcomes.

I'm not surprised. Online reputation is making and breaking, shaping people and businesses.

This kind of behaviour is rampant, you even have individual resorting to harassment of people who disagree or said something they don't like. Facebook and twitter revolve around this behaviour, presidents and political figures engage in this behaviour and at least a dictator gained power using it (see duterte in philippines).

Add to this that the larger the corporation and the higher in the hierarchy means the impunity is almost a given (see HSBC laundering scandal, facebook multiple scandals, etc.)

To me the surprise here is that the information got out and that the authorities actually acted on it.


A group of sociopaths decided that their personal gratification was more important than outside factors, and then they got caught.

What amazed me most from the FBI affidavit[0] was the sheer arrogance of these people. Baugh seriously thought he could make up some story on the spot to explain eBay employees being on the opposite side of the country and the police would just drop it.

[0] https://www.scribd.com/document/465728291/FBI-Affidavit-agai...

Another insider threat program gone rogue...

How many insider threat programs at various firms are really being used to implement systemic discrimination?

I thought it was becoming common knowledge many Silicon Valley campuses and other corporations use an IMSI catcher/Stringray to capture personal cellular communications of its employees...




I am pretty sure none of these people used their corporate issued cell phones...

I would not be surprised if ebay hired a firm to park an IMSI catcher machine close enough to the home of these people.

The reason they felt secure enough to deny these accusations implies they have all done this before.

Lots of my coworkers use their corporate phone as their personal phone. There’s a process for porting your phone number over when you get the corp phone. People do it because it’s simpler to have one phone, or just to save money. I would never do this but I understand why someone with a different background and worldview would.

Myself and probably most of my coworkers just use our personal phones as company phones. Not sure if you see that as different. Also don't do activities on them that are... criminal.

Suppose I buy an iPhone from Apple, and load up a work profile on it. I need to trust that Apple doesn’t give my personal data to the employer profile, and my employer doesn’t have a zero-day to circumvent those controls. I also need to trust that the phone company (or my VPN) provider doesn’t give my browsing history to my employer. I’m pretty comfortable with all of those assumptions.

Now instead suppose my employer gives me an iPhone with a cell plan they are paying for. Now there are more questions - is this a vanilla iPhone or is some kind of tracking software installed on it? Perhaps the phone company will freely give up my browsing history to my employer? I’m a lot less comfortable with this. It feels like my employer has legal authority and technical capability to see a lot of what I’m doing on the phone.


> Also don't do activities on them that are... criminal.

I’d not worried that employer would get me in trouble with the government for criminal activity. My behavior is a little more constrained by worries that somebody at company could be analyzing my browsing history for violations of company policy, which in a worst-case scenario could get me terminated or cause me to face civil litigation, especially if I were to do a startup.

I generally agree although you may still be asked to install MDM on that phone to access, say, work email. How obtrusive that MDM is depends on your company’s policies.

This has nothing to do with corporate supplied cellular phones. There are corporate campuses where your personal cellular phones will be tracked with an IMSI catcher/Stingray. All incoming and outgoing texts will get captured by a Stingray for the Insider Threat program to monitor. Voice calls as well. Maybe even data...

I am not saying anything criminal was discussed on these phones...

If you look for higher paying jobs and discuss the matter on your personal phone with a recruiter during lunch time... Insider Threat programs will report you to your boss and HR.

If you are socially active in your private time and receive a text about a meeting, these activities will be reported to your Insider Threat program and hinder your career.

If you are having an affair (not with any coworkers) and receive a text... This will be tracked by Insider Threat program.

If you get called on your personal phone by a VC firm or competitor for a new position, this will be tracked by Insider Threat program...

If there is a full disclosure upfront, then I don't think it's that bad... But if disclosure is only given to favorites allowing some to modify their behavior... That's horrible

Do you have evidence that this is happening? In the moonlighting, IP theft, noncompete etc. stories you posted higher in the thread, I didn’t see any mention of a stingray. I think it would have been mentioned because a company would have to disclose where they got the data during discovery in litigation, and it would be newsworthy if they used a stingray.

I can believe some companies would use a stringray, but I don’t think the average line manager would be brought into the loop on this. It would be reserved to intelligence operations that never see the light of day, and therefore couldn’t inform low level operations like performance management of the average employee.

I didn’t find any reference to stingrays in any of those articles. Did I miss them?

On April 20, 2019, discussing the Wall Street Journal's coverage of Executive 1, Executive 1 texted to Executive 2, "F[xxx] them. The journal is next on the list after [Victim 1]."


We don't often get to peek behind the courtain, but it is hard not to feel repelled by this.

The arrogance is pretty amazing. That they didn't cut and run at the first whiff of the victims and police being on to them takes a special kind of delusional chutzpah.

One thing I was curious about was how the feds got the data from Apple. I'm guessing because they were eBay-owned phones and eBay gave permission but I don't think it actually says anywhere.

[To say nothing of the fact that, for supposed security people, their operational security was... not good. Just more arrogance I guess.]

Decrypted iCloud backup? Inspecting the WhatsApp sql database file is straightforward if you have the lockscreen pin.

How did they get past the lockscreen? Corp phone has some MDM policy that let's them bypass/reset the lock screen?

I was struck by that too. Somehow the feds obtained WhatsApp messages from Apple. Maybe WhatsApp was getting backed up to iCloud, and that message store isn’t part of the e2e encryption.

It looks from some of the images that the feds had access to the unlocked phone(s). But, yeah, in my admittedly fairly quick read of the affidavit, it wasn't particularly clear--perhaps deliberately--how exactly the feds gained access to all the messages they're using as evidence. (Assuming the defendants challenge how the FBI obtained that info, IANAL but it may make sense to give as few details as possible at this stage.)

If I read the affidavit right, there were confidential witnesses who may have shared their WhatsApp screens with investigators.

I was wondering whether Target Subjects whose names aren't capitalized in the FBI complaint had cooperated. But then, the complaint states that most of them are defendants in the Massachusetts case.

Wow, that was a thrilling read into the mind of a group of psychopaths who all happened to find each other.

I wonder how many times similar things like this have happened (maybe even by the same people) but they covered their tracks successfully.

One final note - I'm very impressed with the professionalism and skill of the NPD(the local police department of the victims).

Also the gall to make up Samoans to frame as cover for their sloppy operations.

They read too much Hunter S Thompson

Not familiar with the reference, can you please elaborate this is fascinating to say the least.

Raoul Duke: I want you to understand that this man at the wheel is my attorney. He's not just some dingbat I found on the strip, man. He's a foreigner. I think he's probably Samoan. But that doesn't matter, though, does it? Are you prejudiced?

Hitchhiker: Hell no.

Raoul Duke: I didn't think so. Because in spite of his race, this man is very valuable to me. Oh, shit. I forgot about the beer. You want one?

Hitchhiker: No.

Raoul Duke: How 'bout some ether?

Hitchhiker: What?

Raoul Duke: Never mind.

-- Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas

Wow. Sheer arrogance, and absolute stupidity. Or at least, horrible OPSEC.

I'm reminded of that 1993 cartoon by Peter Steiner in The New Yorker: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f8/Internet_dog....

What I extracted from that is that corporate security people investigating random members of the public isn't considered weird.

It's not that uncommon. You have people making crazy threats (which they probably don't intend to carry out, but it only takes one..) all the time, and the police won't do anything but take a report because frankly, that's all they can do. So you end up at a certain scale having to investigate some of these things yourself.. by hiring probably somewhat sketchy ex-military types.

Yeah, having a threat intelligence and investigations team is very common for big companies.

If nothing else, it's probably safe to assume that someone like Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page regularly get emails or other messages saying things like "im gunna go to ur house nd kill ur dog and ur hot wife"

Law enforcement doesn't have the resources to investigate every one of these, absent a credible threat of it actually happening, so corporate security / executive protection exists to, well, investigate.

Have you read about Zuckerberg’s personal security? It’s nuts. He’s probably second only to the president in terms of security.

Considering the necessary exposure the president has, he might be even more secure.

I"ve seen Mark's security when he's out and about on campus. They're reasonably discrete about their jobs, given that on any given (pre-Covid) day there were probably hundreds of business and personal visitors on campus.

Personal security for CEOs (never mind billionaire CEOs) is hardly anything new. If I were Mark, received the amount of hate/threat messages he does, and had a young daughter, I'd do everything short of hiring the 82nd Airborne to follow me around.


Taylor Swift once said "I don't have security to look cool. I have security because people want to take me home and chain me to a pipe in their basement."

TSwift isn't even a billionaire.

She wouldn't last five minutes chained in my basement because she'd start singing and I'd throw her out! Next if be looking for the person who put her there because that is not an acceptable practical joke! I'm glad she has security.

Retired police officers & feds of various flavors aren't uncommon in California. Their retired LE status lets them carry concealed without issue, even in downtown San Francisco.


For some positions, the ability to carry concealed was mandatory (e.g. the CEO's driver/bodyguard). Related aside: the CEO I'm thinking of wasn't allowed to drive himself in order to avoid any stock hits if they whapped into a kid running into the street after a ball (or what have you).

I've had some experience at a corporate security team at a fairly large (non-tech) firm, including internal and external investigations, and I can confirm I never saw or heard of anything remotely like this. Any time we did any sort of research into a non-employee (which was very rare), it was because they were explicitly making threats, or because we received reports from employees that someone was directly harassing them.

And typically it was just to gather information to provide to law enforcement, when necessary, and to provide information to our physical security team when we thought there may be some increased risk of a belligerent person trying to come to our premises. Very definitely not to take matters into our own hands and act like a dystopian quasi-paramilitary cabal terrorizing random people with obsessive psychological warfare campaigns. It was the total opposite; we were constantly walking on eggshells to do as little as possible and to defer as much as possible to law enforcement, as we should've been.

Never once did I see the slightest inkling of a desire to go after critics of the company from anyone on our team or from management. We would get some visibility into that from dashboards showing mentions of the company on social media and stuff like that, but we'd just ignore or occasionally chuckle at (or agree with...) any criticism we saw.

I'd like to think this hyper-paranoid, authoritarian, power-tripping attitude (let alone the abject psychopathy and psychosis) isn't too common in corporate security teams, but I have no clue and only have my n = 1 sample to go off of. And maybe the distribution is different for tech companies dedicated to rapid growth/monopolization, compared to more traditional, "boring" companies.

Every part of this is wrong.

What happened to the targets was appalling. But why why why why do people believe the utter fiction that these companies put out after this happened?

If you are the Board, what the hell are you doing here? This guy was clearly not on the level, why didn't this come up? And why is anyone getting paid near $100m to manage EBay into the ground. As an investor, this makes no sense. The issue is that you have this perpetual circle of utter incompetent human beings on Board spending other people's money.

And if you are the CEO, it doesn't matter if you knew it about or not. He is quite clearly lying but what is most amazing here is that his lie doesn't even explain the behaviour. If you are the CEO, THIS IS YOUR JOB! Take responsibility. Also, he quite clearly was directly responsible for this. You have to be an utter degenerate to know the police have texts of you saying to take someone down, and then tell the media it was nothing to do with you.

This is why I truly despair as an investor though. You are surrounded by people who are utterly and totally incompetent. Boards aren't up to it. Executives aren't up to it. And I am trusting my reputation on them. This is like having to ride a donkey in the Kentucky Derby.

(And btw, the EBay Board is apparently "stacked". Omiydar, the ex-CEO of Bain is Chairman, VC/founders, CEO of Lyft, former Chairman of NBC, CEO of Intel...all people who have mostly made their living acting as agents rather than principals...btw, the head of the Compensation Committee was the guy who is known only for driving Gap into the ground...something of an expert in failure then).

I feel at a certain level of leadership in large companies, you just make it into the club and no matter what you do, some other large company will pick you up due to the same mindset of "no one ever got fired for buying IBM".

The last SVP of my working org dropped the ball so hard our client walked away from hundreds of millions of dollars in hardware and infrastructure just to be done with it. He got canned then picked up by a similar company inside two months with the same title.

Correct. There was a post the other day about VC "pattern matching" causing discrimination...this is the same thing.

Most executives are chosen because they look like executives, and have a good CV. If you have failed but have an MBA from Harvard, people will give you a pass.

I don't know how you solve this either btw. Part of the problem is people failing but the obvious connected factor is companies hiring poorly. Hiring is where many companies go wrong imo.

I feel this is the MBA “journey”: Endless corporate striving to get seats as a way of blotting out the vanity of existence.

I’ll try for an honest existence, thanks much.

I wonder if part of it is that corporate culture run amok. It does seem significant that they had a really great board that should've never allowed this. They should do some serious soul-searching. How could it reach this point?

This is just a guess, but I've worked at companies where I worried the leadership took the analogy of 'going to war' a little too seriously. Like they didn't get that it was supposed to motivate us to make a better product and win the customer. Not literally go to war.

Does an executive have a killer instinct? Will they go for the jugular? The answer is supposed to be yes - metaphorically. Many executives don't get the 'metaphorical' part, which is one reason to drop that language.

Just work super hard and make a better product. Maneuver in the market to outsmart your competitor. Don't literally try to kill them with a heart attack, or send pig heads to critics writing negatively about your company.

Yep, there is some point between building a product that customers like and sending pig heads to people who have wronged you...before the "pig head" phase is probably best.

Being serious, some people aren't meant to lead. It is why police need oversight, it is why politicians need oversight...95% of people will fold instantly when put in leadership (that this was triggered by the CEO's wife suggests true fragility). Some can't make decisions, some ego hard...but most people shouldn't be there. It is that simple.

Btw though, I wouldn't call the board great. Again, the Compensation Committee Chair is well-known as one of the worst retail executives of all time (up there with Ron Johnson of JC Penney fame). The board is largely composed of people like the CEO whose only proven ability is being able to bullshit other people about their failure. That is what being a CEO/director usually optimises for.

Everyone fails but these guys don't learn and are delusional about their failure. They are agents. Make the directors invest 50% of their net worth and take all their pay as variable compensation. See how many Wenigs they hire? Zero. Very easy to make bad decisions when you are making $400k/year base (add a bonus) for twenty hours work.

Put a spike in the middle of the steering wheel, you won't get many speeders.

That seems pretty convincing. I hope they clean house.

Here's a non-paywalled version:


Just insane.

That's from 9 days ago and the story at that point was discussed here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23529035.

Not sure what's new in the current article.

Similar to the Wirecard harassment story, just recently.

This story is so wild, imagine being this couple and trying to tell the police ebay execs are harassing me because I wrote mean things about them on the internet. This is a widespread thing that's going on in our culture right now, organized bullying and targetted harassment by those in power and it's having devastating consequences on the public discourse. This case is unique because the overconfidence and carelessness of the execs led to them being caught but in most cases people aren't reckless enough to leave easily tracked evidence of their misdeeds.

I can think of multiple examples of agriculture/pharma companies and game publishers engaging in this type of retaliatory harassment, most cases they're not careless enough to get caught.

It makes me wonder how often things like this might be happening in cases that typically get written off as somebody having paranoid persecution delusions about being "gangstalked." If this couple had told me their story, I have little doubt that I wouldn't have believed them.

Happens all the time, it’s just that the bad actors are usually more competent and better at distancing themselves than the people at eBay.

A good example is what Chevron is doing right now to Steven Donziger, an attorney who won a settlement against them for their polluting in Ecuador:


Also Weinstein’s use of Black Cube:


This happens even by the police. The NYPD harassed the man who filmed Eric Garner being choked to death in 2014.

> Orta has filed one lawsuit and plans to file another, alleging that the NYPD has arrested him several times in retaliation for filming the Garner video. Another lawsuit claims that Rikers Island guards put rat poison in Orta’s food.


> "...in our culture right now..."

no, this has happened throughout time and everywhere, and will, far into the future. it's not just right now, or unique to the web. being perceived a threat (like writing mean things) typically elicits a negative response. it's literally how escalation happens.

that shouldn't be surprising. but what's unacceptable is the unethical, criminal, and grossly disproportionate response.

I am in agreement with you as a general principle. In this particular case though, one of the ideas that executive came up with were straight of a spy fiction 'Body of lies'. I guess what I am saying is we should not dismiss cultural impact.

> This is a widespread thing that's going on in our culture right now

Is it? I never see stories about it. Can you elaborate?

There have been other cases like this, right? I can't think of them right now but powerful people get obsessed with anonymous message board commenters and then go on a rampage. Musk has called people at home and where they work. Back in the day Yahoo message board posters used to drive companies crazy. It's a weird phenomenon because literally the only people who care are the executives themselves. Nobody else, not even their spouses or competitors, cares. I'll call it Fishbowl Syndrome because the executives think they're in a fishbowl under constant scrutiny and literally nobody else cares what's going on with the fish.

Easily one of the most bizarre stories of corporate malfeasance I've ever heard about. The blog/newsletter in question is likely the top in its niche, but it wasn't even in the top 200,000 of sites ranked by SimilarWeb – the WSJ, which according to the affidavit the executive mused as being the next of their targets – is ranked in the top 900.

In fact, most of this blog's coverage was linking to and discussing eBay-related stories from mainstream press like the WSJ. The pure malice of the alleged actions is unfathomable, but how did these senior managers and contractors have the time to even give a shit?

They are paid too much for the supposed labor they give out, so they have the finances and time to ruin the lives of people they deem to be below them.

Which just happens to be everyone who is paid less than them.

The solution is to gut executive pay several thousand percent so it is back in line with the rest of the world.

Agree with you 100%. Funny how we have the thread next door here on HN full of people explaining how billionaires worked hard to get their money and deserve to create their little dynasties with it.

What was this couple writing about Ebay that made the execs so angry that they would risk committing crime? I would imagine a company the size of Ebay has many people writing bad things about it. What was different in this case? I have been searching but cant find anything. I found the news letter was called EcommerceBytes.

Yeah, it's odd. You can understand security types with no ethics or considerations of negative publicity might feel inclined to harass people they think are giving away corporate secrets or exposing misdeeds or wrecking their acquisition plans, but a massive b2c platform company with the inevitable amount of criticism going after trade bloggers for some uncomplimentary articles some of their sellers might read is just bizarre. It doesn't look like their coverage of ebay is particularly negative, and it's not like there's a lack of actual scammers for bored security types to pursue.

I checked EcommerceBytes close to when the story broke. There were some stories about eBay selling off business units, and some speculation they may sell more of their core business.

Pure speculation on my part: EcommerceBytes stories were hitting too close to home. Ebay isn't doing well and they decided EcommerceBytes was a front for another company (maybe Amazon) that was trying to hurt eBay's chance of survival.

This doesn't work.

It is sad that my comment got down voted because I stated a fact. As others have mentioned, it doesn't work for Cloudflare.

Worked for me

What specifically doesn't work?

Same for me. I do get an DNS_PROBE_FINISHED_NXDOMAIN in Chrome, but other archive domains like https://archive.vn/f7HSw works.

Their domain doesn't work with Cloudflare DNS because they use non-standard records.

They don't use non-standard records; if your resolver protects your privacy by not sending them your IP, they will intentionally return bad records specifically to fuck with you.

It's odd that every other website I've ever tried works with Cloudflare, but not archive.is. Does anyone have an idea what's so special about them?

archive.is _intentionally_ is blocking Cloudflare for not letting them track users.

See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21308564 and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23316085

This is the correct comment, they purposefully block Cloudflare traffic due to them not forwarding user data.

They stated they need it to stay in line with the law but they can do that with things like the user's IP. To go that far to insist on getting a specific type of user data is sketchy.

They do quite a bit worse on top of that, ctrl-f pixel.archive.is in view source when you visit any archived page.

I use Googles dns, so this must be something else.

Google may have issues too, I don't know. It's a DNS problem that has existed for a while.

The character "Hoover" in HBO's silicon valley is not extremely far off the mark, as a parody of ex-law-enforcement/intelligence types who end up working for big corporate america.


That entire show is just a 5% exaggeration of the real Silicon Valley.

In a lot of ways that shows has to play down how fucked the culture is in tech/ SV.

Disgusting. Never shopping from eBay again, though I can’t remember the last time I did if I’m being honest.

How do current employees feel about this?

I just finished reading and all I can say is kudos to NPD ( polite, professional and effective ). It still speaks volumes about the arrogance od the executives since it is clear that they thought it could have easily become ' we dont know; we cant track em'.

From the bottom up in an organization you only see the Peter Principle at work. From top down you realize this is just a matter of perspective because from the top you witness an additional layer of narcissism and then piramide is called the Gervais principle. This is actually the default mode many companies end up in.


Tangential-ish to the story, but if in reaction someone wanst tp boycott ebay, where would one sell small, one-off lots? Old hardware, used books, etc? Facebook is a no-go. Gumtree is owned by ebay. Amazon is also a nasty company.

I'm in the uk, so no craigslist.

Is there still any overlap between PayPal and eBay? We often hear stories about PayPal’s toxic behavior. Maybe PayPal’s and eBay’s toxic culture is shared.

Anyone know how they got deleted and decrypted WhatsApp chat messages between the individual?? I thought WhatsApp was end to end encrypted? iCloud backups?

FBI got access to the phones in question. And you can do quite a lot with physical access to a device, including restoring messages from local cache. I don't know the technical details, but googling for "forensics whats app deletes messages" yields several interesting articles.

I’m reminding of the “stay-behind” teams from the Cold War.

NATO was afraid of a Soviet invasion. They knew in a ground war, the Soviets would take several countries.

So countries created “stay-behind” teams to coordinate resistance in the aftermath of an occupation.

The problem is these teams had nothing to do. So they “made themselves busy” by bothering domestic groups they thought were pro-communist.

It was a big problem in Italy.

These guys have titles like “Director of Global Resilience.” Their job is to keep operations up and running in a catastrophe.

But there was no catastrophe (yet). So they kept themselves busy.

Stories like this makes me wonder if episodes such as this one are much more prevalent than we hear.

“director of global resiliency” is one heck of an interesting job title

Yeah this whole thing is playing out really strange.

Is there any non-paywalled variant of this story at another news site?

title is missing [paywall]

The footer Guidelines do not specify that usage, and arbitrary tags other than [video] [pdf] (year) are historically unacceptable to the mods here. If you think that this should be added to the guidelines, consider emailing the site mods using the footer Contact link.

[audio] and [slides] are also ok! I forget if there are others.

Excellent! You should add those to the guidelines :)

This is the fear of many people with mental illness: gangstalking.

"The CEO of EBay has people following me!" it sounds so ridiculous that I would immediately think the person telling me that has paranoid delusions but it was true.

Thats the thing. "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they aren't out to get you." - Joseph Heller. Thanks to graton for the correction below.

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.” ― Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Published (1961) before Kurt Cobain (and myself) was born.

Thanks for the correction. I roughly knew the quote and when I googled it Kurt Cobain came back all over the place.

While it definitely predates Nirvana, it doesn't appear in Catch-22.

That's a bold claim considering how many webpages there are claiming that it comes from Catch 22: https://www.google.com/search?q=heller+catch+22+%22paranoid.

On the other hand, my attempts to search for the word "paranoid" in the book on Amazon turn up nothing. And there is a semi-authoritative page that makes the same claim that you do, saying that the closest he found is a quote about a "persecution complex": https://quoteinvestigator.com/2016/07/09/paranoid/

Do you have more info?

The previous user is correct, that quote isn't in Catch-22. Nor is any similar sentence.

If multiple sources are saying it is, they must be getting the idea from each other.

nit - this is not a Cobain quote, rather Heller from Catch-22.

Its amazing every time I come across one of these people on youtube that believe they are being gang stalked or e harassed. Even though I am pretty sure they are not being stalked to them it IS real. That must be a terrible existence. If I were to try to convince them otherwise they would assume I am in on it.

It's unfortunate when most people who think they are victims of a conspiracy are mistaken or delusional, but sometimes people actually are.

We can't just disregard all of the claims, we also can't just credulously believe every claim, but they also are numerous enough -- and difficult enough to investigate -- that we also can't feasibly do a thorough investigation of each.

I suspect it's probably the case that most are crazy, but I'm not confident. Youtube, reddit, etc are where I get this impression from, but these sites optimize for views and therefore have a tendency to amplify the more sensational examples of anything.

As a survivor of e-stalking/harassment...

I can say that in my case there's a decent chance that the goal was to drive me to paranoia and/or some form of public display that would get me labeled as a kook.

Essentially, drive someone to the point they go full 'space lizard rant'

Not just a fear either. There are a couple of sites that do exactly this and target people explicitly with mental illness to watch them deteriorate for their own amusement. Stalking them, doxing them, making public archives of their entire lives, and so on. It's especially sadistic.


I really don't want to give them any attention, but for the most notable example, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16244350

Note that there are many more such sites if you choose to go down that particular rabbit hole.


This reply has a non-paywalled version: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23629916. Don't know if it's identical, but the gist seems to be the same.


Like they care. The CEO got a golden parachute with 57MM even after this.

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