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Monday September 28, 2020 |Notes

eBay execs' abhorrent harassment gains publicity

Back in June, Techdirt published a story about how ebay executives harassed a blogger that was critical of the company by sending live roaches, fake death notices, and directly ordered vandalizing her Massachusetts home. The New York Times has followed up on that report with an in-depth story on the details of the harassment by ebay.

While further details aren't needed to judge the abhorrent actions of the eBay executives, this a story that deserves to be heard by a much larger audience. The piece is over 4500 words and includes some choice details on the harassment levied by the ebay execs:

According to prosecutors, Mr. Baugh and members of the security team devised a convoluted and improbable strategy: to secretly harass the Steiners, and then offer eBay’s assistance in stopping the attacks — winning the Steiners’ confidence and manipulating them into favorable coverage of eBay. They called it “the White Knight strategy.” Inevitably, there was a movie screening: “Body of Lies,” a C.I.A. thriller about a fake plot that draws out a real terrorist.

Prosecutors say that on Aug. 7, Ms. Popp — the “Mom” to Mr. Baugh’s “Dad” — began sending Twitter messages to Ms. Steiner via a fake account, @TuiElei. The profile picture was a skull, and he seemed to be an eBay user from Samoa who believed that EcommerceBytes had harmed his sales. Ms. Steiner ignored the messages, even as the tone got angrier and more abusive. @TuiElei wrote: “I guess im goin to have to get ur attention another way bitch…”

A parade of disturbing deliveries began at 4 p.m. on Aug. 10, when a package containing a bloody pig mask arrived at the Steiners’ home. Fourteen minutes later, @Tui_Elei wrote: “DO I HAVE UR ATTENTION NOW????”

The Steiners received a book titled “Grief Diaries: Surviving the Loss of a Spouse” and a funeral wreath. They got fly larvae and live spiders and a box of cockroaches. Copies of the September issue of “Hustler: Barely Legal” touting “eye-popping 18-year-olds” arrived at the homes of neighbors with David Steiner’s name on them.

The Twitter bombardment continued, as @Tui_Elei began to hint at violence: “wen u hurt our bizness u hurt our familys… Ppl will do ANYTHING 2 protect family!!!!”

On his own Twitter account, Mr. Wymer evoked Fred Rogers — he said a movie about the inspirational TV personality made him cry, and he once retweeted Mr. Rogers’ line that “If there’s anything that bothers me, it’s one person demeaning another.” But inside eBay, Mr. Wymer was goading the harassment on.

“I want to see ashes,” he told Mr. Baugh on Aug. 11. “As long as it takes. Whatever it takes.”

Mr. Baugh shared the message with his deputy, David Harville, adding: “I’ve been ordered to find and destroy.”

The harassment by ebay made some headlines back in May when covered by Techdirt and a handful of other news sites. It seemingly did nothing to tarnish the reputation of those executives who work with General Motors and the Boys & Girls Club of Silicon Valley.

Mr. Wenig and Mr. Wymer have no such worries. In June, Mr. Wenig was re-elected to the board of General Motors, a position that pays $317,000 a year. Mary Barra, GM’s chief executive, called the cyberstalking scandal “regrettable” but noted “it didn’t involve any GM business.”

Mr. Wymer has a new job, as the chief executive of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley. The chair of the board said the nonprofit was “aware” of what happened at eBay, but believes Mr. Wymer is “a leader with integrity” and was the unanimous choice for the job.

A tweet from the organization announcing his hiring included as a hashtag Mr. Wymer’s signature phrase: Whatever It Takes. For the children of Silicon Valley in the bleak year 2020, that’s the new Golden Rule.

If it seems like a joke that a Boys and Girls Club would both acknowledge & condone these abhorrent actions by one its board members, it's likely not 2020 in America. Money is the only value that matters in Silicon Valley. Tech will be leveraged against the most vulnerable. And the world will go on looking the other way, until it's too late to matter.