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  • Shelly Albaum

Geoff the Troll Strikes Again


Yesterday, the same day that Geoff the Troll returned to the Yahoo Finance message board after a few week's absence, Yahoo sent me this notice alerting me that "it has come to their attention" that I "may have violated Yahoo's Terms of Service":

Yahoo's warning does not indicate what I might have done wrong -- which term(s) of service might have been violated in "letter or spirit" -- or how it came to their attention.

Yahoo unhelpfully adds, "Please do not reply to this email."

I'd like to improve my behavior, but I do not believe that I have violated any of the terms of service, which include things like prohibitions against:

"impersonat[ing] any person or entity, including, but not limited to, a Yahoo official, forum leader, guide or host, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person or entity;"

although I know someone who might have.

Why do I think that Geoff is the one who reported me to Yahoo? Because Geoff is the only one on the board who attacks me and my posts.

So what can we conclude?

Elysium

First, Elysium is apparently still really bugged by our message board and would like to disrupt it. I still can't grasp why.

Karl Rove

Second, I would describe Geoff's conduct as "Rovian." Lots of different political dirty tricks are attributed to Karl Rove -- you can read about them here -- but the one that I always think of is #3 on the linked list:

Accuse your opponent of what they are going to accuse you of.

We saw this last month when someone -- presumably Geoff -- had my post deleted, and then Geoff aggressively and falsely accused me of deleting my own post:

Geoff was first to accuse me of having done what I believe he had himself done.

[UPDATE March 28:] Here is a second example. Geoff called me a "paid troll" when in fact he is the only paid troll we are aware of:

This morning I woke up not only to the notice from Yahoo, but also this non-sequitur comment from Geoff:

Of course I do not "love to censor content" -- that's defamatory about my character, and Geoff would not be able to support that assertion with a single factual instance when I even HAVE "censored content" -- let alone that I "love" doing it.*

But the bigger more important question is, How did censoring content get into this discussion? There is nothing else in that thread about anyone censoring anything. I propose that censorship was on Geoff's mind in a Rovian way: He had just completed an attempt to have me censored, and so it occurred to him to accuse me of it before I could accuse him.

DISAPPEARED!

Third, I could get banned from this discussion board -- Disappeared! -- at any time without notice or explanation. Yahoo obviously does not put a lot of resources into monitoring its boards -- I believe that Yahoo's moderation is handled by a combination of automated processes, overseas outsourced service providers, and low-level employees who don't mind irrevocably destroying legitimate content.

My evidence in support of this belief that Yahoo basically runs these boards on autopilot includes (1) past personal experience involving a different Yahoo property, (2) the fact that the Terms of Service link that Yahoo sent me in the email above is dead, and (3) that their terms of service disclaim any liability for anything, especially on the finance boards, where the rules apply double, although the disclaimer might actually not apply at all -- double or nothing? -- which strikes me as no disclaimer at all. But really, that's what it says:

  1. LIMITATION OF LIABILITY YOU EXPRESSLY UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT YAHOO AND ITS SUBSIDIARIES, AFFILIATES, OFFICERS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, PARTNERS AND LICENSORS SHALL NOT BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR ANY PUNITIVE, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL OR EXEMPLARY DAMAGES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, DAMAGES FOR LOSS OF PROFITS, GOODWILL, USE, DATA OR OTHER INTANGIBLE LOSSES (EVEN IF YAHOO HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES), RESULTING FROM: (a) THE USE OR THE INABILITY TO USE THE YAHOO SERVICE; (b) THE COST OF PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS AND SERVICES; (c) UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS TO OR ALTERATION OF YOUR TRANSMISSIONS OR DATA; (d) STATEMENTS OR CONDUCT OF ANY THIRD PARTY ON THE YAHOO SERVICE; OR (e) ANY OTHER MATTER RELATING TO THE YAHOO SERVICE.

  2. EXCLUSIONS AND LIMITATIONS SOME JURISDICTIONS DO NOT ALLOW THE EXCLUSION OF CERTAIN WARRANTIES OR THE LIMITATION OR EXCLUSION OF LIABILITY FOR INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES. ACCORDINGLY, SOME OF THE ABOVE LIMITATIONS OF SECTIONS 19 AND 20 MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU.

  3. SPECIAL ADMONITION FOR YAHOO SERVICES RELATING TO FINANCIAL MATTERS If you intend to create or join any service, receive or request any news, messages, alerts or other information from the Yahoo Services concerning companies, stock quotes, investments or securities, please read the above Sections 19 and 20 again. They go doubly for you.

So...It wouldn't be a bad thing for there to be a contingency plan for anyone who wants to keep up my litigation coverage should I be banned from Yahoo. You can contact me easily on the ABOUT page of my blog, in case anybody wants me to alert them when I post (RSS is not currently available on Wix, strangely), and I will still continue to post alerts at Investors Hub.

In addition to the risk that Yahoo might improperly delete my account and my content through negligence, because they think they have disclaimed the legal risk...

...I note that Yahoo and Elysium both have the same law firm -- Skadden Arps. Skadden advised Yahoo not only in Yahoo's sale of Alibaba, but also in Yahoo's acquisition by Verizon.

It seems like it would be pretty easy for Elysium's counsel to pick up the phone and call Yahoo's general counsel and ask them to take a special look at this annoyance on Yahoo's CDXC investment board, and if Skadden incurs a tortious interference claim in the process, what's that in the big scheme of a multi-million dollar litigation?

Duty of Honesty And All That Crap

Fourth, Geoff's handlers have apparently decided that the various ABA Professional Conduct Rules, especially Rule 8.4(c), do not apply to lawyers who misrepresent themselves or defame others on anonymous Internet message boards. Here are a few of the rules that seem potentially relevant:

Rule 4.1: No false statements of material facts to third persons.

Rule 4.3: In dealing on behalf of a client with a person who is not represented by counsel, a lawyer shall not state or imply that the lawyer is disinterested.

Rule 4.4: In representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person, or use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person.

Rule 8.4(c) It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to...(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation

So then maybe I am not bound by Rule 8.3(a):

(a) A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate professional authority.

Or perhaps they don't care whether it applies or not.

As we know from Robert Mueller's indictment of Skadden associate Alex Van der Zwaan, at least one Skadden associate is capable of looking the bigger strategic picture when making tactical decisions. Skadden reportedly says that “The conduct to which Alex has pled guilty is contrary to our values, policies and expectations." That's carefully worded. I'd like to hear more about Skadden's values, policies, and expectations.

_______________________

* One of the things that I find strangely reassuring about Geoff's referring to me as "her" in this post -- presumably because my first name is "Shelly" -- is that it shows what an incompetent liar Geoff is. Geoff has no doubt been all over my website, so he's seen my photo on the About page, he's probably seen my photo on my LinkedIn page. He might even have visited me on Facebook. Geoff likely knows full well that I am a "he," not a "she," but feigns unfamiliarity, perhaps to suggest a lower level of professional engagement than most likely exists. At least in law school they don't teach us how to lie. It's a learned behavior, and some are better learners than others.

#CDXC #GeofftheTroll

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