"FYI: Faking court orders to take down Google reviews is super illegal"
Unless it's a baseless DMCA.
A New York business owner will be spending the next nine months behind bars after he was convicted of forging court orders to take down unflattering online reviews. Michael Arnstein, who at the time was running a gemstone and jewelry company in Manhattan, was sentenced today after he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy …
Federal sentences of less than 12 months result in the prisoner serving 100% of the time (although any pre-trial detention time counts towards the total. This is per the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984.
For sentences of more than 12 months, "85%" of the sentence must be served, but after that the prisoner can be paroled if their behavior was good. The average is length of stay is, apparently, 88% of the sentence.This is largely because the federal Bureau of Prisons ignores the plain text of the statute -- 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b) -- and uses random percentages instead of the 54-days-per-year in the text. This callous disregard by the BOP was challenged, and upheld, by the Supreme Court, so instead of 54-days-per-year, the actual credit for good behavior is 47 days. (OK, so the rationale is not wholly insane, but the dissent in the case - https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/09-5201.pdf -- is a lot more rationale for people who can both read *and* count!)
So a judge sentencing someone to "a year and a day" may actually be doing the defendant a favor, as a 366 day sentence works out at 319 days in prison, while a 365 day sentence requires 365 days in chokey!
"So a judge sentencing someone to "a year and a day" may actually be doing the defendant a favor, as a 366 day sentence works out at 319 days in prison, while a 365 day sentence requires 365 days in chokey!"
And that's what happens when lawyers are not required to be numerate.
For sentences of more than 12 months, "85%" of the sentence must be served, but after that the prisoner can be paroled if their behavior was good.
Is it really parole? Where the released prisoner is still under court supervision and subject to re-incarceration if certain behavior restrictions are violated?
Or is it just a sentence reduction? Where the sentence is completely served, and the released prisoner is not under court supervision?
Everything I've read refers to it as a sentence reduction.
Remember, anyone searching on his name will find this story from now into eternity.
Not so fast, Einstein. He's going to get Google to take down search result(s) about him and jail time. Not sure if he's going to do it legally or not.
while I agree, in principle, how many people (percentagewise) check the seller? They feel savvy when they check amazon rating, unaware they're mostly fake...
And please remember, the Register readers are a TINY minority of those, who generally question reality, and only some of us, (oh, the Superhumans), go down the "trust, but verify" path...
Some of the most obvious fake reviews seem to be if the reviewer is a 'top 500' or such like reviewer.
See a small amount of reviews with a number of these reviewers being in there and the review is usually based on free goods 'not in any way in return for a favourable' review.
These top x reviewers on Amazon actually make me think fake straight away rather than the intended reaction, I guess.
"Would YOU purchase anything of value from him?"
The trying to scam Google wouldn't phase me.
The negative reviews might not phase me, that would depend on how many vs how many positive reviews, and what caused them to be negative eg the reviewer was an idiot who was in the wrong and couldn't get their way, or a yelper trying to get more than their fair share (see South Park). How a store handles negative reviews can tell you a lot about their character.
The trying to hide negative reviews - that's a totally different story with me. If I catch you hiding one I know you have the will to do it, and now I can't know how often you've done it before.
Val noted, "...which is $30 Million..."
Our hero wrote, "...b/c I spent $30,000 f**kin thousand dollars..."
Perhaps his "court order" was written to the same standard as his other prose, making it rather obvious to anyone reading it that it probably didn't originate from someone with an education.
gave him 6 months
Nine months, according to the article. And as has been pointed out, he'll have to serve them all. Though, frankly, even two months in a prison seem pretty unpleasant to me - probably unpleasant enough to discourage most people from doing something as stupid as continuing to forge court orders just to silence some critics.
After all that's what everyone else does and it's completely legal.
Yep, any modern internet savvy individual knows, best way to deal with bad press is to bury it in made up (just maybe best not to use fake judge references).
...Worked for the FCC in it's net neutrality consultation...
"best way to deal with bad press is to bury it in made up "
"The Big Lie" pinciple. It's what outfits like Reputation.com reply on to "sanitise" your internet records (which brings up the point that when looking someone up, it's worthwhile going to at least page 2 or 3 of the results to see if there's a marked change in what's being said)
It has been very easy, for over 20 years, to electronically sign documents. How long do we have to wait for courts to implement this?
Every judge should have a signing key and so should every court. Every document produced by the judge should be signed with both keys. All other documents involved in a case should be signed by the court (and probably also the submitting lawyer). It should be trivially easy for someone to check the electronic signature is valid (a website to do it for individuals and small companies; large companies could build it into their own systems).
I know it involves changes to court systems, but why wasn't the work started over 10 years ago and completed 5 years ago?
How long? Well, consider that I personally know many lawyers (and a couple sitting judges) that call email a "twix". Also consider that a couple of the above still have (and USE!) TELEX machines ... and I don't think I've ever stepped into a law office that didn't have a standing order for bulk FAX paper. So I'd say maybe around the turn of the next century. Note the "maybe".
I am not sure if this is still true, but for a long time (at least I was lead to believe this), fax was considered a legally-admissible format for a document but other electronic means such as email were not due to the possibility (however small) of being compromised in-flight.
"fax was considered a legally-admissible format for a document"
Supposedly on "interception" grounds.
However when faxes start going to wrong numbers, things can get "interesting".
If you think the scam of emailing to a target to change the bank account number they're paying their builder on is new, then you haven't been around long (It goes back at least as long as the Spanish Prisoner scam). The first 419 scam I ever saw was hammered out one character at a time in ALL CAPS on a telex in the early 1980s and we'd already seen fax fraud by then.
If you think the scam of emailing to a target to change the bank account number they're paying their builder on is new, then you haven't been around long
Yes. What electronic communication has done is lower the unit cost of sending malicious messages, and the cost of discovering potential recipients.
Of course this fits a broader trend of decreasing cost of communication, benign or otherwise, that goes back centuries. Eisenstein's The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe is a good, if dry, survey of the process in Europe for the early modern era (as you may have guessed), and Yates's Control Through Communication is an engaging look at it in the US from 1850 to 1920, when many key innovations happened.
fax was considered a legally-admissible format for a document but other electronic means such as email were not due to the possibility (however small) of being compromised in-flight
IANAL, certainly, but in the US the 1997 UETA (adopted by 47 states and DC) applies to "business, commercial ... and governmental matters", and the 2000 ESIGN Act establishes the validity of electronic signatures for interstate commerce, including things like contracts.
I have in recent years electronically signed numerous legally-binding documents, such as real-estate contracts. No faxing was involved.
There is a good reason that lawyers still use Telex. Telex machines have an identification code, known as an answerback, programmed into them that is exchanged with the far end at both the beginning of a message and at the message's end as a sign-off. The sender of a telex message can reasonably assume that if the exchange of answerbacks successfully completes at the end of the message, then the message has been successfully received by the recipient. There is a fair amount of legal precedent in the law of England & Wales, and the USA, dealing with this and related issues. As a result of the legal precedents, telex documents have certain legal advantages over faxes and emails. In common parlance, telex messages are 'legal documents' in a way that faxes and emails are not.
Obviously, organisations can use emails and public key cryptography to authenticate messages and demonstrate delivery and acceptance, but AFAIK the international legal framework around such practices is still being constructed. For example, here is El Reg reporting on the service of a writ by email: The Register: High Court approves service of a lawsuit by email in 2006.
Telex???? It must mean something else where you're from.
In the USofA, it was an antiquated 5-level teleprinter service, last offered, I think, by Western Union (who is now solely a money moving company, I believe)
Funny thing it, the Telex system *did* have answerback. I used to repair 8-level teleprinters and that super-secure answerback you refer to is merely a string of characters, spit out from a primitive PROM (a rotating drum with 5 or 8 levels of tabs; break off the tab for a "1", leave it on for a "0") in response to receipt of a "WRU" character. NOT hard to spoof.
In college, I had a KSR-33 in my dorm room, the answerback drum was coded with my "username, CR. password, CR", so to log on, all I had to do was hit the HERE IS key.
Now, getting yourself ON a Telex network (if they still exist) might be well-nigh impossible. But, once you're on, you could spoof to your heart's content with a microprocessor and a UART (if you can find one that still does 5-level characters)
CR CR LF LF LTRS LTRS
Not telex-proper (subscriber telex lines are no longer available in the United States). Rather I typed "telex machines" ... look up telex over IP for more. Last time I checked, iTelegram still offered the service.
Radiotelex is still a thing.
I know it involves changes to court systems, but why wasn't the work started over 10 years ago and completed 5 years ago?
In the US presumably it's complicated by the number of different state systems plus whatever the Feds use?
In the UK the answer is a lot easier: Because the Ministry of Justice & Home Office couldn't find their own arse without assistance, and every IT related project they touch turns to (expensive) ash.
But why bother with (a separate system for) electronic signatures in this case? The court orders are nearly always public, so just put them on the court's web site with a static URL that people can send to Google (or anyone else) instead of sending them scanned documents.
Same argument applies to other situations in which the document to be authenticated is public and the recipient can be expected to have an Internet connection.
I presume the court orders would be marked as not to be indexed by search engines. And if any search engine did index them, the Court could apply to itself for an order to...
Lets say I'm looking at reviews for something. I search for that something with review then search for that something on the review site.
How is removing the reviews from google going to help anyway? The moment you click through to any review you see them all anyway.
I also take review sites with a huge pinch of salt and like Wikipedia I research a lot before forming an opinion or judgement.
To be fair, it's not clear from the article if, like the court orders, the reviews themselves were fake. Slagging off your competitors, as well as planting fake positive reviews of your own business, is now standard practice in the raw sewage that is the Internet.
> I've noticed that some Amazon reviews are now annotated with a Verified Purchase tag,
Which they've had for about a decade.
> which offer me slightly more confidence in them.
The simple way of ditching bad reviews from genuine purchasers is to change the product code or phoenix the company in extreme cases. Lampalous being one example which got away with this for quite a while.
Plus you can game "genuine purchaser" tags with about 2 minutes thought.
"Slagging off your competitors, as well as planting fake positive reviews of your own business, is now standard practice in the raw sewage that is the Internet."
If he got genuine court orders to take down reviews, then he probably knew where they were coming from and there are a number of defences one can legally use against that kind of targetting.
Again, this kind of slimeflinging attack isn't new. The Internet merely makes it a little easier to perpetrate - but as we've seen from skiddies SWATing people, noone is untraceable and a competitor or other harrasser is unlikely to take many steps to cover their tracks.
That said, forging a Beak's signature is a pretty good indication that perhaps the reviews might have been deserved and the original orders might need going over to see if the targets were ever actually validly served.
There's no indication that his business is crap or that the derogatory reviews were real and genuine. That may all be true, but based on the information given, they are just assumptions. For all we know he's a just a small honest trader being victimised by competitors or some keyboard warrior with a grudge. On the other hand, he could be a slimy shit trying to rip off customers and hire their honest and genuine complaints.
> "For all we know he's a just a small honest trader being victimised by competitors or some keyboard warrior with a grudge. "
But few honest businesspeople think it's a good idea to forge a judge's order.
Fair and honest people stop there -- it's obviously unethical and illegal. They don't even get into the trade-off between the benefit and the chance of being caught.
"But few honest businesspeople think it's a good idea to forge a judge's order."
He did it legally the first time and it cost him $30k in legal fees and 2 years in court, then after they got taken down new reviews were made.
"blatant criminal scheme to exploit the authority of the federal judiciary for his company’s benefit was outrageous,"
Yep , because that would absolutely NEVER happen in the U.S criminal or otherwise. Their Juridical is, of course, what every other Democratic system aspires. Completely clean and above board, not even the hint of corruption or justice for the rich and privileged few . Absolutely no chance of an individual or a corporation trying to use the system to benefit themselves or their business Other inferior nations maybe, but don't think that about the U.S.
The worship of paper is kinda dumb: not least because it makes forgery easier, not harder. I had to acquire Power of Attorney when my mum became unable to manage her own affairs, and have been perpetually amazed by the insistence of so many organisations on seeing the original documents ("wet signed", one of them called it, I think).
Repeatedly I ask: what's wrong with a copy, or even just the Ref Code? Surely no one would trust a supposed original (given the power of photoshopping, these days) when they ought to phone the Office of the Public Guardian to verify that a document Ref so-and-so, really does name me as having PoA for one D Trump, when I ask for his tax returns?*¹
But they don't. They trust the eminently forgeable "original paperwork" instead of just picking up the telephone. It's a lamentable example of "we've always done it this way" stupidity.
Every corporate greedmonger on the planet is busy trying to shoehorn the word "blockchain" into his company's name and/or his CV and yet we're not using the technology for exactly the purposes it would be ideal for. Baffling.
*¹ I needed to know if it was true that he'd actually be bankrupt for a fifth time if the Moscow Narodny Bank hadn't made him a zero-interest loan of $700m just before the election. Sadly, I cannot tell you because I'd have to kill myself ...
I ... have been perpetually amazed by the insistence of so many organisations on seeing the original documents ("wet signed", one of them called it, I think).
Repeatedly I ask: what's wrong with a copy, or even just the Ref Code? Surely no one would trust a supposed original (given the power of photoshopping, these days)
Forging originals is harder work that you might suppose. Anyone who is used to handling such things can easily determine the difference between even a good colour photocopy (or 'shopped image printed out) and an original signed document: wet ink, whether it be from a fountain pen, a gel ink pen, or BIC/Biro is easily determinable as different to inkjet, laser or even dye sublimation printer output. It is made even easier if a BIC/Biro is used, as the indentation in the paper made by the ball can be seen - which, of course, won't be there in a copy.
For 'official' print outs (such as birth certificates and driving licences), the originals can be unusual size papers that don't fit onto photocopiers or scanners easily, and contain watermarks, microprinting* (for examples, look at Pound Sterling banknotes), or use special papers with embedded fibres (again banknotes, before they became plastic, had this). Many official documents are embossed, which is again, not easily reproducible. Really old documents could be sealed with an impression from a seal on a molten wax glob dripped onto the document (hence 'sealing wax' used to be sold by stationers, looking like a odd brittle red candle - you lit the wick and dropped wax onto the document in question).
Obviously, these days, with bank statements and utility bills being sent as downloadable pdfs, asking for originals of those might be a bit pointless**, but many official documents are still made difficult to reproduce by the methods I have outlined above. There are other methods.
*Headed notepaper or other special stationery can incorporate features that are not easily reproducible on common printers - microprinting is obvious, but using special inks is another possibility that is also used: e.g. some forms will have features only visible when viewed with ultra-violet light; or portions of the form can be made in ferromagnetic ink; or ink in colours known not to register well with scanners can be used. Adding a serial number that is recorded in a separate register can also be used to validate originals - while the serial number can easily be copied or modified in a forgery, you can't easily add a new entry to a central register, or know what details are recorded separately and can be cross referenced with your supposed original.
**There are also techniques that allow one to detect if a pdf of a bank statement has different information on it than the original, as the content can be encoded in non-obvious ways as a type of digital watermark***.
***You may not know, but a large proportion, if not most commercially available colour inkjet printers embed a unique identifier in documents they print by using a pattern of yellow dots. Organisations using inkjet printers for important documents could know those identifiers for it's own printers, and therefore be able to state that a document with a different identifier was not an original. See:
Note that it is this technique that helped the America authorities track down Reality Winner.
"Note that it is this technique that helped the America authorities track down Reality Winner."
Not wishing to take away from the gist of your post, but there's no evidence that dot tracking was a technique used to track down Reality Winner. The court filings simply say 'sources' without elaborating.
"Forging originals is harder work that you might suppose. Anyone who is used to handling such things can easily determine the difference between even a good colour photocopy (or 'shopped image printed out) and an original signed document"
While true, the big problem with humans is most people get stuck in a "he has a trustworthy face" or "I can't be bothered going to all the hassle of proper checking, he looks legit" and don't check further.
Microprinting requires a powerful enough magnifier to examine. Ferrous inks require testing. Things that show up under a black light should be easier - make the light part of the official's desk lighting so the flaw should show up. But the old biddy might be too busy oogling the handsome young man, and if she questions it he can become rather distraught, triggering her mothering instincts and she lets him get away with it (helpful hint, put nasty old officious busy bodies into these roles to prevent that problem).
I used to do some war-driving or even war-walking around my neighbourhood. If you look like you belong, no one bothers you even if you're up to no good. If you look like you're dodgy, everyone bothers you even when you're legit. An innocent-looking boyish 20-something can have a field day with presenting dodgy documents to most older ladies, especially if he looks like he's about to break down and cry in public because there's something wrong with the papers 'his mum' sent him off to get sorted.
I was about to say something about the volume making checking everything tricky, but then I remembered PACER exists.
It wouldn't be that expensive for Google to get a subscription to court document services and make sure that the court order exists, is of the right time-frame, and names something vaguely like the right people. The documents have very controlled formatting, at least for naming the parties, so that's probably not even hard to parse, even from a scanned image.
Or hell, given the photoshopping involved here, just check if this is the same file.
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