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March 25, 2006

WorldBlogCenter Scam Update

Posted in: Pro Blogging News

Just a short update on the Pixel Ad Site Scam that I wrote about yesterday. On the page in question there have been a few changes. Some logos have been removed including Engadget’s, Boing Boing’s and Gizmodo’s. They’ve also added a note to that says ‘pre-approved - awaiting response’ to what pops up when you put your cursor over the logos of those who have not paid for listings (the majority of logos).

What concerns me is that some do seem to have paid for listings (a few don’t have the ‘pre-approved’ bit showing) and have probably signed up thinking they were a part of something legitimate. Also of concern is that the ‘pre-approved’ logos still give the impression that some very well known blogs are involved at a glance.

Jason Calacanis and Boing Boing have both written about it and have officially said that they were not a part of things. If I were them I’d be pretty peeved - especially Boing Boing who were featured in press releases that went out on some pretty big news services. I’m advised by friends who are in the legal business that they’d have a very good case for action against WBC for using their name in this way.

update: A few words of update….

Firstly - I’ve had emails and a comment or two from others who were targeted by this site. All were thankful for being alerted to it and some were close to signing up and paying money to be involved.

Secondly - the site in question has made some changes. They say they are not accepting applications…. that they are not charging any more for the service… (not sure how that fits with not taking applications) and that they did make some ‘mistakes’ along the way. I’m not sure how long the ‘no charge’ thing will last as they say they might start selling space again later but it seems that they’ve listened to the criticism.

Thirdly - I can’t believe the amount of criticism that this whole saga has brought. As I just commented on a site that was critical of my actions because it brought publicity to the site as some others linked to it (something I did not do):

‘Firstly - I couldn’t believe the site’s that linked to the scammer - stupid move in my opinion. I never did this in my posts.

Secondly - The reason I posted the post in the first place was that I saw what I considered to be unethical behavior that was targeting bloggers. The conundrum that I found myself in was that on one hand I didn’t want to give them any publicity that might make them bigger and on the other hand I wasn’t willing to let them rip people off by ignoring it.

What’s wrong with what they are doing?

1. They are getting cash out of bloggers by deceiving them (I’ve had emails from people who got sucked in and others who would have been sucked in if they hadn’t seen something about it on one of the sites that mentioned it). I don’t know how many people they were spamming with the offers to join but they claimed to be sending the offer to 5000 bloggers. From what I can see - what they were doing was at best ‘deceptive’ and at worst some have said it’s ‘fraudulent’. Look at the size of the page that they want to fill and you’ll see how much they stood to gain from it.

2. They were explicitly using the names and logos of companies for their own personal gain and implying that these blogs were a part of their system when they were not. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the press releases (that went out on all the major wires) but the headline of them was that Boing Boing had signed up to be a part of the network. I saw these releases on some pretty major networks.

So what’s a guy to do?

I had a few options. I guess I could have ignored it and let people get ripped off. I could have politely emailed the people behind it and complained (and gotten ignored myself), I could have emailed all the bloggers being featured and sucked in (but what could people do after the fact?) or I could use the fact that I have a blog that people read to warn them of it.

I took the last option - knowing that in doing so I risked others linking to the offending site - but at least knowing that some people would be protected.

The reaction to my post has been mixed. I’ve been thanked by some of those whose logos were being featured, thanked by some who were ripped off and by those who saw the story before signing up. On the other hand I’ve been attacked by some who see nothing wrong with the site and say I should encourage their entrepreneurial spirit and have been ridiculed for giving them publicity.

I still don’t really know what I should have done - perhaps it would have been ‘easier’ to ignore it and hope it went away - but sometimes in life you have to name things for what they are.

Lastly - all I’ll say is that the site in question has made some changes. I don’t know how long they’ll last or what it all means but they say they’ve closed applications, that they’ve made some mistakes, that they are now not going to charge for the program.

Perhaps…and I don’t know … the whole saga was worthwhile.’


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