Two YouTubers About To Learn That Trust Is A Valuable Commodity That You Can Only Lose Once

from the paging-the-FTC dept

While we've had some reservations in the past about the FTC's guidelines on endorsements and testimonials in the online arena, our concerns have tended to be about the grey areas of the law. The way that reviews for books, music and games often work falls into this grey area, with products and media handed out for review, and the disclosure guidelines the FTC laid out seem overly intrusive. Whatever our reservations about those guidelines, however, the goal of preventing the surreptitious pimping of a product or service by a trusted source that has direct connections with it was laudable.

Which brings us to two YouTube personalities, TmarTn and Syndicate Project, whose real names are Trevor Martin and Tom Cassell. These two have spent a great deal of time urging their followers to use the CSGO Lotto website while, at best, barely disclosing the site's sponsorship, and never even coming close to acknowledging that they are executives of the company behind the site.

Trevor Martin and Tom Cassell, known online as TmarTn and Syndicate Project, uploaded videos in which they appeared to win big prizes playing CSGO Lotto. But it has emerged that the pair are presidents of the company, which is incorporated in Florida.

Mr Cassell apologised on Twitter to those who felt misled. In a YouTube video message to his followers, which he later deleted, Mr Martin said that the ownership of CSGO Lotto had "never been a secret".

"I created the site. I wanted to build something awesome for other people to enjoy and I played on it," he said. "Obviously, on my end, me playing on Lotto rather than other sites, gives me an advantage because it promotes my own site, but it is not immoral, there is nothing wrong with it. I am 100% honest."

Yet it's difficult to square that response with the facts. CSGO stands for Counter Strike: Global Offensive, a very popular online shooter. Within that game, players can mod their weapons with "skins", or visual modifications. Whatever that sounds like to you, please understand that there is serious money in the use, trading, and selling of these skins. That in turn has spawned websites that allow you to gamble these skins, wagering them to potentially win more valuable skins at the end of a game, with winners supposedly chosen at random. For this, CSGO Lotto has an 8% rake on the value of the skins given away in a round.

So, what kind of money are we talking about here? Well...

In April, Bloomberg reported that online betting on games such as CSGO was a booming industry worth billions of dollars.

Yeah, it's a big deal. Now, back to our two YouTubers and their claims of total honesty and transparency. Despite what they say, the current outrage has only come about because another YouTuber dug up the ownership details on the company behind CSGO Lotto, finding that the site's president is one Trevor Martin and its vice president is Thomas Cassell. Before those details were published? No controversy. Now that they've been published? Controversy. These two can claim they properly disclosed their associations all they want, but the fact that those disclosures didn't do the job of informing viewers that they owned the site says everything.

Oh, and about those disclosures:

In short, h3h3 was unable to find any instances of Martin or Cassell disclosing affiliation with CSGO Lotto—let alone high level operation of it....

On top of that, in an earlier video about CSGO Lotto that’s since been made private (you can see it in h3h3's video above, however), Martin said things like, “We found this new site called CSGO Lotto, so I’ll link it down in the description if you guys want to check it out. We were betting on it today and I won a pot of like $69 or something like that, so it was a pretty small pot, but it was like the coolest feeling ever. I ended up following them [CSGO Lotto] on Twitter and stuff, and they hit me up and they’re talking to me about potentially doing like a skin sponsorship.” That is, as PC Gamer points out, a pretty strange way to talk about a site you helped found.

Martin has also claimed that CSGO Lotto videos did include disclosures, but if you run videos like “HOW TO WIN $13,000" through the ol’ Wayback Machine, it appears that a very slight disclosure—“video made possible by CSGO Lotto”—was added after the fact.

The wonderful thing about new media outlets like YouTube is that the barriers to gaining a following are lower. The other side of that coin, however, is that trust is the ultimate selling point, and it's the kind of thing you can only lose once. It's hard to imagine that these two will have any kind of loyal following after this episode, not to mention that the FTC is likely to come calling. They've done it before, after all.

Either way, lesson learned, boys?

Filed Under: disclosure, endorsements, ftc, syndicate project, tmartn, tom cassell, trevor martin, trust, youtube
Companies: csgo lotto


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  • icon
    Bri (profile), 7 Jul 2016 @ 4:09pm

    Well, according to Polygon, they are also about to be sued. This looks like it will be a very hard lesson learned.

    http://www.polygon.com/2016/7/7/12116902/csgo-lotto-and-owners-sued-over-illegal-gambling-allegation s

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

  • icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 7 Jul 2016 @ 4:29pm

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    I'm sorry, but YouTuber sounds like some kind of mutant potato.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2016 @ 4:32pm

    So not true

    it's the kind of thing you can only lose once. It's hard to imagine that these two will have any kind of loyal following after this episode

    This is so not true, just look at Hillary. She will most likely be the next President of the US.

    Also, I know of at least one YouTuber who is a scammer and his loyal following has only grown. Trust and honesty are not valued commodities these days.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2016 @ 4:46pm

      Re: So not true

      It depends on how easy it is to fool someone and how well they remember being fooled.

      Why do you think the two major party front runners keep issuing propaganda?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2016 @ 4:50pm

        Re: Re: So not true

        My point is, you don't have to fool them. The voters will vote for her knowing full well she is as dishonest as the day is long. They would vote for her if she shot their dog right in front of them. People somehow will overlook dishonesty these days.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2016 @ 5:25pm

          Re: Re: Re: So not true

          Don't forget that Bill was selling influence while Hillary was in the State Dept and made $150 million in the last 7 years. Dems don't care. She is for the little guy, the poor guy. She will tax the rich. But wait, she is rich. Got rich selling favors in office. They will completely disregard these things come November.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2016 @ 7:14pm

          Re: Re: Re: So not true

          There's nothing "these days" about it; people have often been willing to vote for a blatant crook when the only alternative is even worse. See the '91 Louisiana Governor's race for a close parallel.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2016 @ 10:33pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: So not true

            The alternative doesn't even have to be worse. The candidate just needs to make good enough promises that people believe are real.

            Really makes me wonder what the clintons have on so many other people that leaders, pundits, politicians, and CEOs fawn all over them.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 8 Jul 2016 @ 12:09am

          Re: Re: Re: So not true

          If people are voting Hillary but don't like/trust her, there's usually 2 reasons:

          1 - There's been so many attempts at a "scandal" involving her for years that it's become white noise at this point, even if the most recent one happens to be true.

          2 - The only other option in your defacto 2 party system is so much worse on every level that people would rather vote for her than risk a Trump presidency.

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

        • icon
          Padpaw (profile), 8 Jul 2016 @ 4:32am

          Re: Re: Re: So not true

          sheep following the herd right into the slaughterhouse, patiently waiting for their turn to have their throat cut.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2016 @ 4:39pm

    Who is the developer of the game? Are they also taking a cut of the lotto?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2016 @ 4:56pm

    "trust is the ultimate selling point, and it's the kind of thing you can only lose once"

    Not if right to be forgotten advocates get their way.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2016 @ 7:13pm

    Florida DOS, Div of Corp

    Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations

    CSGOLOTTO INC at http://search.sunbiz.org/Inquiry/CorporationSearch/ByOfficerOrRegisteredAgent

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

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 8 Jul 2016 @ 3:37am

    What they did is called fraud. I am looking forward to seeing them charged with it as a lesson to all the other would be get rich quick people that think ignorance of the law is a valid defence.

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

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 8 Jul 2016 @ 4:35am

      Re:

      The definition is as follows

      wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.

      They pretended they were in no way associated with the gambling site, to get people to use it. They get a cut of all the bets made on that site.

      Those are actual crimes, just have to wait for someone that wants to add another notch on their belt to have these 2 prosecuted for breaking the law.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2016 @ 3:49am

    ...You Can Only Lose Once

    You must mean "once per identity."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jul 2016 @ 5:11am

    With 1000,s of people on youtube it,s not suprising if some people use it to promote websites ,
    Its worse that they promoted a gambling website owned by them when most of their audience is younger than 21 .
    the existence of websites outside valves control which
    are used for gambling on csgo skins is dubious
    When those skins can be sold for real money .

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


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