Tuesday, October 9, 2012
The truth about "Matthew Desmond" and "Being Liberal".
Again, let me stress that this is NOT about individuals who share images from pages via mobile where you are basically forced to download and then re-upload the image to your personal page. This is about plagiarism, for profit. Plain and simple.
Rather than admit to the truth, the folks behind "Being Liberal" are portraying these warnings from Facebook as being the work of "paid conservative trolls" when in fact, if you look at the image that they posted on their site, it is very clear that the warning is not for an objectionable picture. It is for an image being removed because Facebook received a report of copyright infringement, reviewed it and the evidence presented by the submitter, decided in the plaintiff's favor, removed the image and issued a warning. The time and trouble that it takes to file a copyright complaint to Facebook where you have to give them your name and contact email, links to the offending material and the original content, and then do an electronic signature is not worth it to trolls. It is easier for them to report an image as "nudity" or "spam" which takes just a few seconds before they march on to their next victim.
My first dealings with Matthew Desmond Kerry, AKA "Matthew Desmond" AKA "Matthew Hanson" was in the fall of 2010, shortly after his domain was registered. On every news page, progressive page, you name it, was his profile spamming links to Addictinginfo.org. This was something you could see literally hundreds of times a day. I would occasionally comment and mention how annoying it was, sometimes I would report it as spam. One day he commented back in a really nasty manner so I reported him again as a spammer and blocked him. This was all before I had a page of my own. After my page got started, he started spamming my page with links to his tabloid-esque articles so I banned him from the page as well. Around the beginning of 2012, I started getting into making my own images and that's when the content theft from our page really began. In all fairness, I've seen our work with watermarks and tags removed on a number of sites but never with the frequency as I have seen on pages run by "Matthew Desmond".
I've had a number of confused and indignant people ask me "why should it matter, so long as the message is getting out?" or tell me "we don't need to be airing our internal squabbles". So, let me go ahead and address that once and for all.
First off, I love that our original content, and that of other pages is getting out there. Every time we see a meme, a blog, a quote or whatever, get passed around on social media, we rejoice. We've seen some photos go viral and show up 10 or 20 times in one day on our personal newsfeeds. That's a good thing. What isn't a good thing is when that work is repeatedly taken by another page and passed off as their own work (often after altering the image to remove references to the original creator) or credited to one of their satellite pages which are controlled or owned by the same person doing the theft. This drives "likes" on Facebook to their pages, not the original author. "But they're not making any money off it" you might say and you would be VERY, VERY wrong.
The site "Being Liberal" and their satellite pages like "Addictinginfo", "Americans Against The Republican Party", "I Acknowledge Classwarfare Exists" and others have collectively at least 2.5 millions fans as a conservative estimate. By his own admission "Matthew Desmond" admits in this article on Addictinginfo.org that he controls 50+ pages on Facebook. These pages, and many other pages that they have coerced or manipulated in some way into co-operating with them then post controversially titled "news" articles by Addictinginfo, Reverbpress.com and others, often dozens of times a day.
Why does this matter? Because by drawing in as many hundreds of thousands of fans as they can and then driving them to a non-Facebook site, they make money. Websites have advertising and the more people who see those ads, the more the website owner makes. Simple math, and that's the new model for media.
This isn't some small time blogging operation either. We're talking about 100's of thousands of visitors (sometimes millions) a day to their respective websites to where they get paid for traffic. This is a case of taking other people's work, without credit or compensation (monetarily or otherwise) and making money off it, a lot of money. This isn't about a good cause using somebody else's work, using it to promote their page and in return, promoting/acknowledging the original creator. This isn't about someone making money off writing and jealousy of someone else's success. This is about a lot of money being made perhaps not illegally, but certainly through unethical and dirty methods that the people we are supposed to be united against use daily. If you don't think plagiarism is a big deal, ask Fareed Zakaria who was suspended from CNN for lifting quotes from other people without attribution. Try doing that with a term paper or thesis in college and see what happens.
Second, the whole "we shouldn't be airing our dirty laundry and internal squabbles for all to see" bit...I get it. However, after you and many others have tried repeatedly through private channels to address the issue and after having been attacked with a slew of rightwing trolls and abuse reports after calling them out publicly on their page (and being instantly banned), it is obvious that the polite method doesn't work. I have the emails from the original owner of Being Liberal (Wojtek Wacowski, who also works for Upworthy) where he demanded either an apology or proof of the work taken from my page by his co-admin "Matthew Desmond". After I provided proof, Wojtek Wacowski got angry and rude before breaking off contact. Within a few days, my page suddenly experienced massive attack after attack from right-wing trolls, an image I made mocking the KKK was reported and removed and I got a 3 day suspension. The timing was very uncanny although it cannot be proven that they were behind it.
We shouldn't be covering up the sins of our own because it corrupts what we're supposed to be about. We can't go around saying that we have a moral high ground when members of our own ranks are engaging in the same behavior of corporate greed and bullying that we're supposed to be fighting against. They like to say they have nothing to hide but they hide their business information behind a proxy offshore domain registration where DMCA and other US copyright laws don't apply and have the business registered to a UPS store in Santa Rosa, CA.
Business listing with CA Sec of State:
Entity Name: ADDICTING INFO LLC Entity Number: 201129410004 Date Filed: 10/12/2011 Status: ACTIVE Jurisdiction: CALIFORNIA Entity Address: 1007 W COLLEGE AVE #433 (UPS Store box#) Entity City, State, Zip: SANTA ROSA CA 95401 Agent for Service of Process: LEGALZOOM.COM, INC. (C2967349)
Domain registry results through whois.org:
Domain ID:D160073684-LROR Domain Name:ADDICTINGINFO.ORG Created On:05-Sep-2010 20:33:25 UTC Last Updated On:07-Aug-2012 22:47:05 UTC Expiration Date:05-Sep-2014 20:33:25 UTC Sponsoring Registrar:eNom, Inc. (R39-LROR) Status:CLIENT TRANSFER PROHIBITED Registrant ID:2fe87cb4afe1ee62 Registrant Name:Privacy Advocate Registrant Organization:Domains.com Ltd Registrant Street1:Lupins Business Centre Registrant Street2: Registrant Street3: Registrant City:Weymouth Registrant State/Province:Dorset Registrant Postal Code:DT4 7SP Registrant Country:GB Registrant Phone:+44.130582275 Registrant FAX:+44.130582275 Registrant FAX Ext.: Registrant Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Admin ID:2fe87cb4afe1ee62 Admin Name:Privacy Advocate Admin Organization:Domains.com Ltd Admin Street1:Lupins Business Centre Admin Street2: Admin Street3: Admin City:Weymouth Admin State/Province:Dorset Admin Postal Code:DT4 7SP Admin Country:GB Admin Phone:+44.130582275 Admin FAX:+44.130582275 Admin FAX Ext.: Admin Email:email@example.com Tech ID:2fe87cb4afe1ee62 Tech Name:Privacy Advocate Tech Organization:Domains.com Ltd Tech Street1:Lupins Business Centre Tech Street2: Tech Street3: Tech City:Weymouth Tech State/Province:Dorset Tech Postal Code:DT4 7SP Tech Country:GB Tech Phone:+44.130582275 Tech FAX:+44.130582275 Tech FAX Ext.: Tech Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Name Server:NS1.ADDICTINGINFO.ORG Name Server:NS2.ADDICTINGINFO.ORG
Now you can write this off as "protecting one's identity" but that's not what it is about. It is about protecting themselves against civil suits for infringement of intellectual property. It isn't just images they've taken, it's news articles they've lifted from other journalists and have copied nearly word for word. In every case they've been confronted, they've first tried to bully their accuser and then when threatened with legal action, have hidden behind the offshore accounts.
If this passes for "acceptable behavior" or something we should look the other way on for the better good of the progressive/liberal/moderate coalition, then I want no part of that movement. Just ask the Catholic Church how well that "not airing dirty laundry" thing worked out for them.
*EDIT* By popular request, I have compiled a list of pages that are owned or partially controlled by Matthew Desmond Kerry as well as some of his close friends and associates like Justin Rosario, Daniel Gouldmann, Tiffany Willis, Egberto Willies, Omar Rivero, Rafael Rivero, Elisabeth Parker, Sean Conners, Leah Farley, Wendy Gittleson, Stephen D Foster and others.
Known Facebook pages:
"Friendly" Facebook pages: (Pages that frequently use Addictinginfo links but not necessarily owned by Matthew Desmond).
https://www.facebook.com/WSBYWSO (not to be confused w/ the other site)