The content of this article is a long overdue explanation to my readers about sudden disappearance of posts addressing one particular company, namely ePerks. If you are not familiar with the issue, you probably will be much better off to skip this post, because it is going to be a very long post. If you however interested in Chilling Effects, you might as well stick around. I believe I have a classic example how can a behemoth company silence a blogger.
If you are a regular reader, you may remember several posts on my blog addressing dealings of ePerks. These post have generated over 200+ comments. Majority of those comments were quiet negative to say the least. On February 13, I have received a Cease and Desist (see below) notice from ePerks attorney. The letter contains nothing but untruthful accusations. To write 200+ comments on my own posts would require my presence in 200+ locations across the United States in a span of very short time frame. The accusation that I am financially involved with ePerks competitor(s) is complete lie, because ePerks was the only company that I was financially involved with. In fact they paid me to write a review about their website. The only thing that did not go according to their plan, was the fact that many of my readers are real estate agents. This also taught me a difficult lesson about “paid or sponsored reviews” model of blogging. Needless to say I discourage you to ever write a paid review.
It was not easy decision to take the articles down. It felt like I was betraying all those who commented on my posts. But I simply wanted the issue to go away, because I was also tired of moderating my posts from false testimonies of ePerks fans, who would leave four or more “positive” reviews during just one single visit to my website.
So why am I publishing this post? It appears that many visitors and regular readers are still looking for those posts and I think they deserve an explanation:
Hi! My name is ***** and I am a real estate agent from *******. I have had an absolute horrible time with eperks…disputing unauthorized charges (canceled in Jan but still getting charged) among numerous other complaints! Filed with the BBB also. A link to your blog pops up when I search eperks scam, but I can never actually get to the blog? I was hoping you could help me out…would really like to read it.
I also hope that some of the leading real estate blogs and websites will notice this issue and will stand up for the freedom of speech on the Internet. I also have reasons to be concerned about my and my family’s safety.
So without further ado, here is the letter I received from Ronald J. Cook:
WILLOUGHBY, STUART & BENIN
A Professional Law Corporation
50 West San Fernando, Suite 400
San Jose. CA 85113
Phone 408 289 1972
February 13, 2008
Volodymyr (Vlad) Zablotskyy
City, State Zip
Re: My Client: Eperks.com
Our File: 1805.10806C
Dear Mr. Zablotskyy:
I represent Barbus Ventures Corporation, the parent company for ePERKS.com. You are hereby instructed to terminate your ongoing efforts to unfairly disparage and slander ePERKS.com through the dissemination of false and/or manufactured information. Any resistence to our demands will be met with swift and decisive action.
As you well know, we are referring to your blogs that reference the name ePERKS, including such title as “ePerks- A Scam Or A Gem”; “How Much Does it Take to Take Advantage of a Realtor?”; “ePERKS- Putting The ePerks Saga to Rest”; and “ePerks- Three Critical Mistakes a New Startup Should Avoid”, amongst others. Your blogs create the false impression you are inviting comments from legitimate ePERKS customers, when the truth is your only goal is to cast ePERKS in a negative light for personal gain. In that regard, your blogs deceptively fail to inform the reader that you are motivated by an undisclosed proprietary interest in an ePERKS competitor.
Having researched the content of your blogs, we have come to conclusive proof that a substantial number of your postings are bogus, in that they frequently describe experiences that never happened and people who do not exist. Moreover, you are fully aware of these fals stories, yet posted them anyway. Your complicity of their creation is very serious matter.
Our research also shows that negative remarks are not only invited, but are posted without a challenge. Conversely, favorable remarks are met with hostility and belittlement, including demands that the posting party either prove they are participating agents, or do not work for ePERKS.
We have determined that our damages as a direct result of your activities are in multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars. Such substantial money and brand name damages can no longer be tolerated.
You are hereby instructed to promptly do the following: (1) shutter and prevent access to all blogs with any ePERKS reference or content; (2)remove any record of their existence; (3) terminate any links pointing to any blogs that reference ePERKS; and (4) cease and desist from any and all current and future digital, print, Internet or verbal reference to ePERKS.com or Barbus Venture Corporation. This includes closing down your January 28, 2008 bog that continues to direct readers to your previous remarks and postings. We demand that you complete these actions immediately, and in no event later than five days of this letter. Your failure to comply will result in prompt legal action, including, but not limited to, a claim of money damages and appropriate restraining orders.
We will be closely monitoring your activities. Barbus Ventures Corporation continues to reserve any and all rights under the law, including the right to pursue any and legal remedies against you, your employer, your clients, and/or your web host. Should you have any questions or comments about the contents of this letter, please contact the undersigned.
WILLOUGHBY, STUART & BENING
Ronald J. Cook
I also would like to say thank you to at least two bloggers for offering their support and help. Although if it only meant to take links to my blog down: Paying bloggers to say nice things and Eperks commercial.