from the tragic-ending dept
Paul Alan Levy from Public Citizen has a detailed (and somewhat tragic) story of why the site InfomercialScams is no longer in existence, and the domains of the site are now owned by Video Professor, a company notorious for threatening online critics, such as those commenting on sites like InfomercialScams. The full story is rather involved, but the short version is that the original owner of InfomercialScams sold the site. The new owner instituted something it called its “Consumer Protection Program,” where it tried to get those critiqued on the site to pay. What was gained by paying is somewhat in dispute, but one can see how it could be seen as extortion. The new owners of InfomercialScams apparently (alleged by Video Professor, but denied by Infomercial Scams) offered to sell companies “immunity” from criticism, and also would drive more traffic to criticism of companies that didn’t pay up. If true, this is certainly distasteful and potentially illegal.
Video Professor sued, claiming that it also took away any Section 230 protections that had previously protected the site. As Levy notes, that would make for an interesting legal discussion, but could be troubling if it were found to be true. Either way, it’s not an issue any more, as the owner of the site eventually settled, and appears to have handed over the site as a part of that settlement. However, what’s still troubling is that Video Professor also sued InfomercialScams’ original owner, Justin Leonard, despite him having absolutely nothing to do with the new policies on the site (or anything to do with the site at all since selling it). As part of the settlement with the new owners, Video Professor also presented a settlement to Leonard, which would have made him “promise not to disparage Video Professor — or to host disparaging comments on any web site.”
Considering he shouldn’t have been a part of the lawsuit in the first place and the troubling implications of such a settlement on Leonard’s ability to post what could be a perfectly legal site that could potentially host such comments, Leonard has refused to settle and is fighting his inclusion. This is a sad story all around. The original site, which raised some important questions about Video Professor’s infomercial practices, is now gone due, in part, to what appears to be poor decisions by its new owners. But, at the same time, the attack on Leonard, the original owner, and the settlement demands just seem totally out of place. Especially given that Video Professor now has taken control over InformercialScams and all its related websites, it seems that the market is ripe for a new site that fairly discusses what infomercial vendors are pitching.