US Chamber Of Commerce: Communicating With Woman Whose Sad Story We Manipulated Is Harassment

from the um-no dept

You may recall that last week we had a post about a new propaganda campaign from the lobbying giant, the US Chamber of Commerce (who thrives off the fact that people falsely assume they're the US Department of Commerce, rather than a private lobbying group). The video, in support of the terrible and dangerous PROTECT IP Act continues the favorite talking points of the dishonest supporters of that bill, which is to conflate the problem of fake (and potentially dangerous) drugs with copyright infringement. The two things are totally and completely different, but by tugging on your heart strings about someone who died from ingesting fake drugs, the US Chamber of Commerce (and other lobbyists and politicians) hopes to ram through the PROTECT IP Act, despite its myriad problems. In this case, the campaign involved a heart-string-pulling video from a woman talking about a friend of hers who had died after taking some counterfeit drugs that had lead in them.

Of course, the folks in the Techdirt community quickly pointed out numerous other problems with the propaganda campaign, including the fact that the "example" in the video took place in Canada, meaning that a US law wouldn't have meant anything at all. Separately, and more importantly, it was pointed out that the Operation in Our Sites effort by ICE, which was the basis for PROTECT IP, has yet to target a single online drug site. They just use the scare factor of fake drugs to go after websites based on questionable reasons and evidence.

One of our regular commenters, Prometheefeu, suggested that the woman in the video might not know that she was being manipulated this way by the US Chamber of Commerce and suggested that the community here team up to draft a letter to explain why her friend's tragic story is being exploited by the US Chamber of Commerce to support a law that's really focused on an entirely different issue. Prometheefeu mentioned that he had found the woman's address and phone number, but he did not give that information out. He just suggested that we write her a letter. He even explicitly told people not to harass (or, as he said, "prank/lulz") the woman, noting (correctly) that this would make you a "counterproductive idiot."

All of this is perfectly reasonable. Unless, of course, you're the US Chamber of Commerce.

They called us and left a voicemail specifically calling out that comment, and saying that our commenter was calling for people to "harass" the woman in their video and asking us to delete the comment. Now, it seems that we're all in agreement that harassing this woman would be idiotic. But, apparently the US Chamber of Commerce feels that writing a reasoned letter to someone to explain why the Chamber of Commerce is manipulating your story counts as "harassment."

Now that strikes me as something of a double standard. After all, the Chamber of Commerce itself runs campaigns asking people to send "20,000 letters in 20 days" in order to flood Congress in support of certain bills. But, someone wants to draft a single letter to someone who appears in a ridiculously misleading US Chamber of Commerce video... and it's harassment?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 12:56pm

    Why would the woman be a LuLz target anyway?

    She isn't asking for US legislation. She's just telling a story. It wouldn't make any sense to "harrass" her at all. The call was to make sure she was informed about how her story was being used.

    Nicely done CoC....

     

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  2.  
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    Matthew Jones, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 1:02pm

    Good Lord

    US Chamber of Commerce (who thrives off the fact that people falsely assume they're the US Department of Commerce, rather than a private lobbying group)...

    I admit I was one of those people. Thanks for clearing that up.

     

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  3.  
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    A Dan (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 1:04pm

    Re: Good Lord

    The local "Chamber of Commerce" is always just a collection of local businesses getting together. Wikipedia calls it "a local organization of businesses whose goal is to further the interests of businesses." The same applies to the national version.

     

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  4.  
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    Matthew Jones, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 1:06pm

    Re: Good Lord

    Whoops, wrong slash in my html. Only the first paragraph should be quoted, as I'm sure all of you could tell.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 1:15pm

    Can we harass the CoC then, instead? I feel like they deserve it.

     

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  6.  
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    JayTee (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 1:18pm

    Let us all send 20,000 letters in 20 days to the US Chamber of Commerce and demand an explanation!

     

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  7.  
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    Zot-Sindi, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 1:20pm

    Re:

    there's ALOT of things that deserve it, the problem is i don't think there is enough trolls on the net to harass all of them

     

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  8.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 1:23pm

    Re:

    Score!

    But no. We shouldn't use our LOICs to greet them. Ooops...

    Now srsly, I'd not only send the letter but also post here on techdirt and make as much noise as possible. That's the second time I say Streisand Effect today lol!

     

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  9.  
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    Nicedoggy, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 1:32pm

    Well people should LuLz the US Chamber Of Commerce, now that I can get behind.

     

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  10.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 1:41pm

    Re: Good Lord

    wait...you actually thought they were legitimate?

    US COC is as credible as imagination. They are something that shouldn't even exist. It's pretty much an embarrassment to the entire country. I wonder how much Murdoch pays them these days?

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

    Re:

    OPCOCBLOCK

    operation chamber of commerce block, everyone pull out your loic, grab your vpns and take aim!

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

    Ask these participating members to drop out or you will boycott their services.

     

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  13.  
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    STJ, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 1:45pm

    20,000 letters in 20 days

    No, No, you have it all wrong. The 20,000 letters is to help the post office stay open, not push through IP propaganda. If they just wanted a bill pushed through, they would have people call/email their senators. They want to keep the Post Office going.

     

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  14.  
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    jack (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 1:49pm

    20,000 emails in 20 minutes to the chamber seems more appropriate.

    J.

     

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  15.  
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    DogBreath, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 2:00pm

    Re: Re: Good Lord

    They even have the Ferengi Trading Company LLC as a member. The Ferengi have rules and everything, so I'm sure we can trust them.

     

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  16.  
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    aperson (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 2:13pm

    hehe, here's what antisec looks like in it's less radical forms. Find the lies, expose the lies, tell people about it.

     

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  17.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 2:32pm

    Hypocrites

    "...apparently the US Chamber of Commerce feels that writing a reasoned letter to someone to explain why the Chamber of Commerce is manipulating your story counts as "harassment."

    Apparently, the US Chamber of Commerce, at some point, reached out themselves, and contacted this woman. The also sent a film crew.

    Why did they harass her so??!!!

     

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  18.  
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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 2:36pm

    The US Chamber of Commerce is a vast sea of putrescent lies

    Anyone who thinks that the USCoC has the public's interest at heart is a deluded fool. They are all about lobbying for lower taxes, less regulation, and the freedom to commit whatever corporate crimes their members please, without retribution.

     

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  19.  
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    Jay (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 2:41pm

    Re: Re: Good Lord

    He doesn't. What's worse is how much they pay to alter and change legislation and judicial branches of government.

    I'm not being conspiratorial when I say that "tort reform" is a hot button issue with them along with copyright law favored to industry interests.

    Consumers aren't even an issue.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Bor, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 2:51pm

    So the Chamber, who were going to pay HB Gary to spy on, harass and intimidate people, is worried about potential harassment?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    6, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 3:10pm

    Re: The US Chamber of Commerce is a vast sea of putrescent lies

    Aren't all of those goals in the public's interest?

     

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  22.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 3:31pm

    You wish to forcibly enlighten her.

    Assumes she doesn't know, and wouldn't agree with COC if did know. She's a private person, regardless of what COC is, so that DOES verge on harassment. I advise against it. -- So that should spur you dolts to inflict your opinions on someone whom, it can't be argued, DOES NOT WANT TO HEAR YOUR OPINION, if only because no one wishes a bunch of strangers to suddenly pop up and say what a fool and tool you are.

    You people are really arrogant to even discuss it.

     

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  23.  
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    Rowan (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 3:43pm

    She put her story on a political ad that was released across the internet for all to see. They didn't coerce her into the video, whether she realized what she was doing or not she became a public figure when she tried to use her sob story to get legislation passed.

    She has already given up some measure of privacy, and a few snail mail letters that are considered and articulate snail mail would violate what she's got left.

     

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  24.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 3:54pm

    Re: You wish to forcibly enlighten her.

    So the CoC can contact her, record her, and abuse her story.

    But Techdirt can't contact her cuz that would be wrong?

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 3:56pm

    Re: You wish to forcibly enlighten her.

    When you allow yourself and your story to be used in an advocacy video, you are no longer a "private person."

     

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  26.  
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    el_segfaulto (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 4:08pm

    Re: You wish to forcibly enlighten her.

    Techdirt could release a story on how cigarettes cause health problems and OOTB would rail on about its healthful attributes and links to sunshine and rainbows.

     

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  27.  
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    Jay (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 4:58pm

    Re: Re: You wish to forcibly enlighten her.

    Take it one step further. This lady is a government advocate. In Canada. What she says, and her sphere of influence is elevated. She is a public figure in government who is part of a propaganda video based on flawed reasoning. We should have a right to contact her about this video and follow up with her!

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 7:53pm

    Re: Re: The US Chamber of Commerce is a vast sea of putrescent lies

    No

     

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  29.  
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    abc gum, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 7:56pm

    Re: You wish to forcibly enlighten her.

    "you dolts"
    "You people are really arrogant"

    When all else fails - ad hominem

     

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  30.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 8:10pm

    Re: You wish to forcibly enlighten her.

    If she doesn't know then she has a legal right to know that she is being used by the CoC, and if any person has a reasonable expectation that she doesn't know then they have an ethical duty to inform her of this.

    This is NOT harassment, next time look up the actual legal definition of harassment before you spout off and annoy my reading sense please.

    Also note that intent plays a big part in harassment.

     

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  31.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 8:14pm

    I'd be quite willing to send any correspondence that the TD community created under my name to this woman, as long as it is verified that the addressee is the woman in question.

    I'd love then the CoC, or USG to charge me with harassment then. especially since I live in another country from both the USA and Canada.

    I'll even place my full details with Mike with the order that he can release these to the CoC whenever they so request. I'm willing to state that their legal department would not like that scenario though.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 8:52pm

    "who thrives off the fact that people falsely assume they're the US Department of Commerce, rather than a private lobbying group"

    And this, my friend, is the problem with U.S.A. How can we expect to elect reasonable politicians, that act in the public interest, when the public is so clueless.

    While I disagree with overzealous trademark law, I think this is something IP trolls can somewhat reasonably use to argue in favor of stricter trademark law (something I oppose, btw).

     

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  33.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 9:17pm

    Re: You wish to forcibly enlighten her.

    I don't think you read my comment and the link I gave on the original post. It pointed to the official website of her city where she is a member of the "Mayor Council". To say that she is a private citizen is wrong if only just because of that.

    Then there is the part where she shares her story with the whole world as propaganda for a bill in the house of representative. She has joined the public debate and is definitely fair game for a polite letter trying to explain to her that she is making a mistake. If she does not want to be part of the public debate, she shouldn't go on the record telling her story to the world and pushing legislation.

    As for forcible enlightenment, I don't see how that is. Sending a letter to someone does not force them to read it or pay any attention to its content or reasoning. There is nothing arrogant about trying to converse with those on the other side of the aisle.

    As it turns out no letter was sent by me. Nobody responded to my offer and I didn't feel like sending a letter coming from me alone would have the effect I was hoping for.

     

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  34.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Jul 27th, 2011 @ 9:45pm

    I must say that I am really glad this is happening on Techdirt. I trust Mike not to just hand over my info if the CoC rolls its muscles a bit.

    I didn't really expect better from the CoC. (Though I didn't expect them to pay any attention to my comment.) I merely recommended we try to open dialog with someone whose tragic story they are abusing. As Mike pointed out, I specifically discouraged harassing that woman because I know that some people (mostly under 16) will wrongly think it's a good idea. The CoC's response was to try to get such reasonable speech censored. Nothing more consistent than using censorship in the promotion of a censorship bill I suppose.

    Surely if the CoC has its way with PROTECT IP, sites like Techdirt will be taken down for commenters advocating open dialog instead of blind allegiance to the tenets of IP. I suppose Adam Smith was right, business organizations are always out to screw the public and their competitors.

     

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  35.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 28th, 2011 @ 1:01am

    Re: Re: You wish to forcibly enlighten her.

    Then there is the part where she shares her story with the whole world as propaganda for a bill in the house of representative.

    Agreed with your overall post, just wanted to make a minor clarification. The bill is currently in the Senate, not the House. The House version (which I'm hearing will be even worse) has not yet been introduced.

     

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  36.  
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    techflaws.org (profile), Jul 28th, 2011 @ 2:57am

    Re: You wish to forcibly enlighten her.

    I advise against it.

    And you really, actually believe that someone here cares about your advise? Stunning!

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Nicedoggy, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 6:19am

    The lesson to take from the US Chamber Of Commerce is this.

    Draft the bills and sent it to congress, if you are not able to do so, you are not a player in the game of politics anymore and nobody cares about what you think.

    That is how people counteract special interest groups like the US Chamber Of Commerce by doing exactly what they are doing but in a national scale.

    There are no special interest groups that have national support from a majority of the population yet, the one that comes close to it, it is the Tea Party which is a loose group of smaller groups that is doing something similar collecting pledges from politicians and in return giving them financial and human resources, but they don't make bills, they leave it to others to do the work and probably will be sorry for it.

     

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  38.  
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    Michael (profile), Jul 28th, 2011 @ 9:27am

    Get the stamp out!

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    sarah, Jul 28th, 2011 @ 10:33am

    But this part is false...

    "it was pointed out that the Operation in Our Sites effort by ICE, which was the basis for PROTECT IP, has yet to target a single online drug site. "

    That's just not true:
    http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1107/110726washingtondc.htm

    "One of ICE HSI's most significant cases involved Houston resident Kevin Xu. Xu's company sold counterfeit drugs online and distributed them throughout the United States and United Kingdom, primarily through the mail and courier services. Legitimate wholesalers began selling these counterfeit drugs, not realizing that the products weren't the real thing. "

     

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  40.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 29th, 2011 @ 12:04am

    Re: But this part is false...


    That's just not true:
    http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1107/110726washingtondc.htm

    "One of ICE HSI's most significant cases involved Houston resident Kevin Xu. Xu's company sold counterfeit drugs online and distributed them throughout the United States and United Kingdom, primarily through the mail and courier services. Legitimate wholesalers began selling these counterfeit drugs, not realizing that the products weren't the real thing. "


    Was that part of Operation In Our Sites? Doesn't look like it...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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