One of the great non-mysteries of the internet was (kinda, sorta) resolved today when the New York Post's Roddy Boyd revealed that senior executive's of troubled online retailer Overstock.com were connected to a new website attacking the company's critics and shortsellers. Actually, the story behind AntiSocialMedia.net is still a bit conjectural. While Boyd notes that Overstock.com's CEO Patrick Byrne and its new media adviser have been supportive of the website, he stops short of accusing them of actually setting up and running the site. It's been widely suspected that Byrne's soft-hands were all over the AntiSocialMedia, thanks in large part due to the work of Gary Weiss, a frequent critic of Patrick Byrnes and the anti-naked shorting conspiracy theorists.
Today Weiss notes that anonymously attacking critics is not usually a good idea for corporations.
This corporate smear campaign is a kind of clumsy, low-rent version of General Motor's effort to harass, stalk and discredit Ralph Nader in the sixties.
Anonymously harassing people over the Internet is a federal crime -- even when, as in this instance, the anonymous stalkers are cowering behind a sheet of cellophane.
GM wounding up eating crow, apologizing to Nader and paying damages. Given the miserable state of Overstock's business, as reflected in its share price, I doubt that there will be much left of Overstock when the smoke clears -- except the stench.
Update and correction: As a reader pointed out, the correct URL is antisocialmedia.net. An earlier version of this story used a dot com address.
Overstock.com lashes out at its critics on the web [New York Post]