eBay Execs Thought Sending Dead Pigs, Live Spiders To Small News Website Was A Good Idea
from the utterly-batshit dept
Pop quiz: a couple publishes a relatively small news website critical of your massive and hugely profitable corporation.
Apparently if you’re employed at eBay, the answer is an enthusiastic C. Six (now former) executives and employees of eBay are facing federal charges after they participated in massive, grotesque harassment campaign targeting the publishers of a small news outlet (Ecommercebytes.com, published by David and Ina Steiner) critical of eBay. Said harassment campaign included sending porn to the Steiners’ neighbor under their name, and also sending them live spiders, bloody pig masks, cockroaches, and even a dead pig fetus. Why? They were upset by both the newsletter and anonymous commenters:
“Members of the executive leadership team at eBay followed the newsletter?s posts, often taking issue with its content and the anonymous comments underneath the editor?s stories. It is alleged that in August 2019, after the newsletter published an article about litigation involving eBay, two members of eBay?s executive leadership team sent or forwarded text messages suggesting that it was time to ?take down? the newsletter?s editor.
In response, Baugh, Harville, Popp, Gilbert, Zea, Stockwell, and others allegedly executed a three-part harassment campaign. Among other things, several of the defendants ordered anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims? home, including a preserved fetal pig, a bloody pig Halloween mask, a funeral wreath, a book on surviving the loss of a spouse, and pornography ? the last of these addressed to the newsletter?s publisher but sent to his neighbors? homes.”
These weren’t all low level employees, either. They included eBay?s senior manager of global intelligence, a manager of eBay’s global intelligence center (GIC), a contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst within the GIC, and a senior manager of special operations for eBay?s global security team –and a former cop. In short, all folks who should have known better. And if you spend some time reading the articles at the newsletter in question, it appears to be just a largely polite trade mag. That it set these executives off to such a degree is just bizarre.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling indicated at a press conference that this appeared to be a “one off,” and not part of a broader campaign against those critical of eBay. But he also made it very clear he’d never seen anything quite this grotesque and idiotic:
According to the government complaint (pdf) and press release, the plan was apparently three-phased. First, the executives decided they’d harass the couple, then they’d step in and approach the victims pretending to fix the problem they created. All in a bizarre effort to try and glean some good press for eBay in a newsletter that (no offense to the Steiners) isn’t even that big:
“As part of the second phase of the campaign, some of the defendants allegedly sent private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter?s content and threatening to visit the victims in Natick. The documents allege that Baugh, Gilbert, Popp and another eBay security employee planned these messages to become increasingly disturbing, culminating with ?doxing? the victims (i.e., publishing their home address). It is alleged that the very same group intended then to have Gilbert, a former Santa Clara police captain, approach the victims with an offer to help stop the harassment that the defendants were secretly causing, in an effort to promote good will towards eBay, generate more favorable coverage in the newsletter, and identify the individuals behind the anonymous comments.”
But wait, it gets crazier. After engaging in grotesque harassment, then pretending to help in the belief it would net eBay some good press, the folks involved in the effort decided to engage in surveillance of the couple, at times justified by falsely claiming they had threatened eBay executives. At least some of these efforts may have had the blessing of former eBay CEO Devin Wenig (who urged executives to “take her down,” according to the complaint). Those involved even crafted fake documents to help them lie about the effort should they get questioned by the police:
“The third phase of the campaign allegedly involved covertly surveilling the victims in their home and community. According to the complaint, Harville and Zea registered for a software development conference to explain their trip to Boston on Aug. 15, 2019. Baugh, Harville, and Zea (and later Popp) allegedly drove to the victims? home in Natick several times, with Harville and Baugh intending at one point to break into the victims? garage and install a GPS tracking device on their car. As protection in the event they were stopped by local police, Baugh and Harville allegedly carried false documents purporting to show that they were investigating the victims as ?Persons of Interest? who had threatened eBay executives.”
Those involved then lied to law enforcement and eBay lawyers about what they’d been up to. While Lelling’s office indicates this was a one off and an eBay statement downplays the scandal, it takes a very specific corporate culture to generate executives who thought this was in any way a good idea, and who were able to engage in this behavior without running into any company or institutional guard rails whatsoever (until after the fact). Meanwhile the Steiner’s newsletter will ultimately wind up getting more attention than ever. Bang up job all around.