AI Parallel Universe

Ina and David Steiner ran an e-commerce newsletter

In June, authorities in Massachusetts announced they were charging six former eBay employees in connection with the strange harassment campaign of a couple who ran an e-commerce newsletter. They sent the couple, Ina and David Steiner, online threats and abuse, and mailed a bizarre collection of items including live insects and a bloody pig face mask.

One of the six people charged, Veronica Zea, said she plans to plead guilty. The charges include conspiring to commit cyberstalking and tamper with witnesses.

Copies of the September issue of’hustler: barely legal’ arrived at the homes of neighbors with David Steiner’s name on them.

The couple had their home address doxxed, had pizzas delivered at all hours. The plot even called for Zea and her teammates to put a tracking device on their car. The set even called to put the device on the vehicle, which apparently never happened.

Prosecutors say the global security and resiliency team planned to harass the Steiners secretly, then have eBay step in to put a stop to it. They say they aimed to trick the Steiners into more positive coverage of the company. The campaign against the couple was sanctioned by eBay’s then-CEO Devin Wenig, a claim he denies.

It vividly shows how the Internet makes people crazy, often without them ever realizing it. It is a warning about how easily tech companies can feel aggrieved, and the mayhem that can ensue when they do.

Aggrieved tech companies do n’t know when to chill, of course. Companies that do n’t have the right to chill do n’t need to chill.

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