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Wed Sept 2 2020 19:40:46

Are Marketplaces Surveilling Sellers on Social Media?

By: Ina Steiner

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Are online marketplaces surveilling sellers on social media? Thanks to news stories published this week about gig workers, it appears the concept may not be as paranoid as it sounds.

The Verge reported Wednesday that Amazon covertly monitored private social media groups used by Amazon Flex workers to discuss their working conditions - including closed Facebook groups, public subreddits, and on Twitter. Some posts were then escalated to internal Amazon teams and company leadership, according to the publication.

The information came from Vice, another publication, which published an in-depth report on Tuesday that claimed Amazon had "for years had a sophisticated, secret program and team to spy on its workers in closed Facebook groups."

Online sellers have for years voiced their concerns with me about possible repercussions of reporting problems with sites like eBay, with many sellers choosing to remain anonymous. Whether or not those fears were justified, we could see it impacted seller behavior, particularly for those who depended on marketplace sales for part or all of their income.

Some sellers also feared that private groups could become infested with moles - not direct employees, but other sellers who might report back to marketplace employees about the conversations on "nominally private pages."

Do you think twice before speaking frankly about the challenges you face when posting on "private" boards?



Comments (18) | Permalink

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by: COVID-19 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 2 21:58:21 2020

There are definite eBay shills (moles?  employees?) serving as "moderators" on various eBay Reddit subs, that's for sure.

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 00:35:19 2020

There's a Youtube video by The Hill that discusses AMZ hiring "intelligence analysts" who will spy on their workers.  Esp. those trying to form unions.   I honestly don't think that Bezos knows what's going on with his company.  He's not a hands-on guy.  He likes to build space ships and buy million $ NY properties.  I suspect there's a big lawsuit (again) ready for AMZ.  But, unfortunately, the only companies hiring and paying a decent wage is AMZ & WM.  AMZ is building warehouses left and right and they hire thousands of people.
IMO it's toooo big and needs to breakup.  I don't understand why Congress won't step in.

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by: Flying Childers This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 07:54:59 2020

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Etsy is spying on social media groups including FakeBook where there are many groups (supposedly private, hah) whose members are openly critical of Etsy.  
Etsy then retaliates on these shop owners whose names are easily available because there's no real anonymity on FB,  by shadow banning their shops and hiding their listings.  
There is one FB group in particular that I made the mistake of joining because I recognized some of the same Etsy malcontents I had seen on the forums.   This group currently has over 2,000 members, many of whom I'm sure are Etsy spies.   In the past year or so, things have changed drastically and I have stopped posting, too late it seems.  
Maybe the group admin was a spy all along- who knows?  But the group is now filled with Etsy trolls whose names I don't recognize and who apparently have no stores of their own.

Sellers like myself and others who have been the most vocal in our criticism of Etsy, Josh, the cheerleaders, et al have felt the repercussions in our shops.  No matter how much I spend on advertising and marketing, no matter how much I work on my listings, pricing, etc. it doesn't matter- I've gone from having regular monthly sales of $300-500 to less than half that amount.

All I can say is that for a company like Etsy that is supposed to be this compassionate, tolerant, caring corporation, especially when it comes to women- they are worse than ISIS.

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by: Flying Childers This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 08:29:14 2020

One other thing- if you express a conservative,  libertarian or Trump supporting point of view on Etsy media like forums, your listings will be shadow banned.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Thu Sep 3 08:29:26 2020

I've wondered for a few years if even the ecommercebytes' newsletter itself has been infiltrated by a mole or two.  Nothing surprises me anymore.  A huge swath of the American public have lost their moral compass.  Based on recent events I think that anyone who posts here is under the microscope.

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by: billly This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 09:01:47 2020

@FlyingChilders It would be great if you could substantiate any of your claims, especially ''if you express a conservative,  libertarian or Trump supporting point of view on Etsy media like forums, your listings will be shadow banned.'' That's a whole lotta speculation culminating with typical conservative victimization. I thought ''fake news'' was dangerous.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Life During Wartime

Thu Sep 3 09:55:58 2020

Sellers of Trump/Pence campaign merch are doing okay, and their listings are not shadow banned.  Q Anon merch is also flourishing.  (Dunno if I'd call Q ''conservative'', though.  More like bat stuff crazy.)  Etsy welcomes listings for anti-masks (made from fabric that intentionally fails to protect the wearer or others).  As well as cheapie poly masks with graphics about saying that mask wearing is ineffective and/or tyranny.  Confederate flag items are listed daily, and only SOME of the listings are removed.

Maybe the key is to just list your items, and don't discuss them in Forums?

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by: Flying Childers This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 10:28:19 2020

LDW- your comment is  typical of liberals everywhere:  if you disagree with the conversation then the answer is to shut it down.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: David Steiner

Thu Sep 3 12:41:55 2020

Keep discussion on topic

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This user has validated their user name. by: Life During Wartime

Thu Sep 3 13:02:40 2020

Okay, back to the topic of the post, I can only speak from my experience with discussing problems of sellers at various venues using off-site forums BEFORE the availability of social media.  All of the forums I used were infested with ''ringers'' who were stooges for the owners of various online antiques malls, or even the owners themselves (who according to the forums guidelines weren't supposed to be there at all).  Even if a discussion group or forum claims to be anonymous and private (not seen by search engines, and not accessible to the general non-registered public) you can NEVER be sure.  

It might seem odd that venues with millions of sellers -- and lots of deceptive listings and dishonesty in their marketplaces -- have no time to address all these issues.  While they seem to make time to monitor postings with content unflattering to the venue, even if factual.

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by: postbuster This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 14:18:35 2020

It wouldn't surprise me in the least if they are looking into our lives.
Like peeping toms, but as 'people' they are much worse.

They are worse than cancer cells taking all the nourishment for themselves rather than pass it along for the whole system.  
Absolutely no moral substance in their souls, they are parasites.
Now they hire other people to turn against each other, well I guess that's typical of their character.

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if their holidays are spent alone.
For the way they treat others, they deserve it.

For the most part, I stay civil when talking to others.
However, when it comes to corporations and executives, I won't hold back any punches.  They have this misconception that they can just kick around anybody.  The more time goes on, the more they prove to me how worthless they really are.  How many millions, or billions of dollars are wasted on all of their salaries?  Yet somehow they think that it's the sellers responsibility to make up for that.

To some degree I hope they do read what is written about them because we here are the only ones with the backbone to tell them how they are wrong.

But I also believe that Life During Wartime is spot on about what they ''do''.

By LDW-
''It might seem odd that venues with millions of sellers -- and lots of deceptive listings and dishonesty in their marketplaces -- have no time to address all these issues.  While they seem to make time to monitor postings with content unflattering to the venue, even if factual. ''

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Thu Sep 3 14:19:56 2020

I think everyone knows that someone(s) from eBay read the posts here. And I think PayPal is also monitoring ECB's posts due to an issue I had years ago which was immediately corrected after I posted about it.  

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by: Shanna This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 14:29:03 2020

@David Steiner did you not yourself out someone on these boards that was posting from an eBay IP address?

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by: Flying Childers This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 17:05:33 2020

David Steiner- sorry for going off topic, and many thanks for the work that you and Ina do for our community.   You guys really go above and beyond the "call of duty" and I hope things are going well in your lives after all that has transpired.
Best wishes.

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by: Vigilant Eye On eBay This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 3 19:22:22 2020

Given that many employers engage in similar practices, checking up on the social media accounts of sellers would seem quite plausible.

Once you've posted something online, anyone with the will and the means is privy to your content.

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by: Disgusted This user has validated their user name.

Mon Sep 7 00:12:42 2020

Amazon will not be broken up.  They have congress in their pocket.  Same goes for eBay.

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by: EvilCorpBay This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 9 10:49:58 2020

I can think of a few moles that post comments on this site...funny how the main one who comments on almost every post with a mostly "that's not happening to me so it must not be true" Pro ebay view is absent from this conversation so far? Hmm

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This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Fri Sep 11 13:45:23 2020

Would you expect anything less?

If you offer free info about yourself be prepared to have that data looked at and saved.

If eBay weren't doing it I would be more concerned. . . . . .



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