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Dirty Tricks? Look-Alike Websites Lure Congressional Donors 157

Posted by timothy
from the this-way-to-the-egress dept.
First time accepted submitter AdamnSelene writes "Forbes reports on a National Republican Congressional Committee sanctioned campaign worthy of the NSA: fake candidate websites that use identical or similar pictures and color schemes to solicit donations to defeat the Democratic candidate. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the NRCC initially refused to refund the contribution from a Tampa Bay doctor who caught onto the scam, and he had to contact his credit card company to challenge the charges. The National Journal reports that the NRCC-sponsored effort may run afoul of Federal Election Commission regulations, though it expects that the bipartisan FEC will be toothless when it comes to enforcement. However, I have to wonder whether this is finally a good enough reason to use the DMCA and file take-down notices against the faux websites. Perhaps the candidates could solve this themselves, and get a judgement for copyright infringement so absurdly large that it puts the NRCC out of business?" Some sites along these lines might be dirtier than the ones here illustrated, which seem to fit pretty well into the broad world of snarky and cutting political ads; Dr. Ray Bellamy, the Tampa Bay donor mentioned above, intended to give money to candidate Alex Sink, but evidently didn't notice this line in bold print, just above the "Donate" button: "Make a contribution today to help defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her." Note that, as the Tampa Bay Times' article mentions, this kind of site isn't limited to Republicans, either.
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Dirty Tricks? Look-Alike Websites Lure Congressional Donors

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  • by arth1 (260657) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:27AM (#46196125) Homepage Journal

    At least the Slashdot beta site fooled no-one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:30AM (#46196147)

    What do GNOME 3, Windows 8, Firefox and Slashdot all have in common?

    They're all software systems that have been ruined thanks to half-assed, hipster-inspired UI "redesigns" that alienated nearly all of the existing users, without actually bringing in any new users, while at the same time making said software virtually unusable.

    The outcome of these disasters hasn't been a total loss, however. It has actually resulted in a new rule-of-thumb for UI design. A UI designer merely needs to ask himself or herself one simple question when analyzing a design: "Would a hipster approve of this design?"

    If the answer is "Yes", then the design is inherently flawed and should be thrown out immediately, much like should happen to the Slashdot beta site. If the answer is "No", then the UI designer is on the right track. If there's one thing that's guaranteed in the UI design world, it's that the more hipsters hate your UI, the more effective and efficient it is to use for the majority of people.

  • Ah, politics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by verifine (685231) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:49AM (#46196307)

    Another poster points out that there's a sucker born every minute. The ultimate object in politics is to WIN. Stop acting surprised if one party or another engages in devious activity to reach that goal. It's been happening for thousands of years. It's never going to stop. Wash away your political views and you'll see they all do it, to one degree or another. Our perceptions of who's doing it 'more' are a major part of how we see the world, politically.

  • Easy to Follow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Oysterville (2944937) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:53AM (#46196339)
    1. Massively under-fund education 2. Take advantage of the under-educated masses 3. Profit
  • Re:Easy fix (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:57AM (#46196359)

    If it can be shown that was your intent, you are committing fraud too. Enjoy your stay in club-fed.

    Except that the final decision on a charge back is made by the bank issuing the card. They have EVERY reason to keep their customer happy, and NO reason to give a crap about the merchant. The merchant has little recourse unless the card was either physically swiped and a signature provided, or they can show confirmation of delivery of goods at the customer's billing address. In this case, they have neither.

  • Deception? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by toupsie (88295) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:57AM (#46196363) Homepage

    If you are going to whip out the credit card to spend a little money, take a little time to read all the text on the page. It was in large type that it was a donation to defeat the candidate. How many times in the past have we seen cute, cleaver and obscene assaults on congressional candidates on the Internet? Just google Santorum.

    If you like your fake congressional candidate website, you can keep your fake congressional candidate website. Its political speech.

  • NSA? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pseudofrog (570061) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @11:58AM (#46196375)

    Forbes reports on a National Republican Congressional Committee sanctioned campaign worthy of the NSA

    I get that we don't like the NSA around here, but why are we bringing it up when discussing an article that has nothing to do with anything the NSA does? What's the thinking process? "Hrm, this scam is slimy. Oh hey! The NSA is slimy too!"

    Am I missing something?

  • Re:Ah, politics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ItsJustAPseudonym (1259172) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @12:02PM (#46196397)
    Perception is trumped by the facts here. Fraud is fraud, and it's illegal. That both sides have been doing it for a long time does not make it okay for either of them.

    A liar is a liar is a liar, and we don't need him/her/it ("it" in the case of an organization or website). There's too much real shit at stake in the world for people to be making bad decisions based on lies. These fuckers are doing a disservice to society.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @12:03PM (#46196409)

    There is a not so small difference between parody and impersonation. The illegal practice here is not to imitate what someone else did. What's illegal about it is the intent. It's not meant as a parody, to showcase some fallacies or shortcomings of the person or organization parodied, or to make fun of them. It's meant as impersonation to make people believe that they are who they are impersonating.

    The "basic" intent may be the same in both, parody and impersonation. The intent may in both cases be to harm the reputation of a person or organization, or to impede their ability to gather supporters. The difference is that the parody tries to convince, the impersonation tries to trick.

    Convincing people with arguments, i.e. a parody, that someone is a "bad person" is a good thing, because it leaves the decision whether they want to believe the parodist to the person being addressed. Impersonating does the same by tricking people who want to support someone into doing the opposite. I guess it ain't hard to see why this is not a "morally ok" (and hopefully not legally ok, either) practice.

  • Doesn't He Read? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tranquilidad (1994300) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @12:04PM (#46196415)

    From the summary: 'Dr. Ray Bellamy, the Tampa Bay donor mentioned above, intended to give money to candidate Alex Sink, but evidently didn't notice this line in bold print, just above the "Donate" button: "Make a contribution today to help defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her."'

    Is this how you want your doctor reading the physicians desk reference?

    If you look at the web site or the photos in the article it's pretty hard to miss that one is contributing to "help defeat Alex Sink."

    Yep, let's start protecting ourselves from more than just the fine print. Let's protect ourselves from the bolded headlines also. A little reading comprehension may have helped the good doctor realize just what he was doing.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @12:26PM (#46196585) Homepage Journal

    For the record i do think what they were doing wrong and should be slapped down for it. I am just disagreeing with using the 'copyright angle' to deal with it, as its a bad direction to take, with long term bad consequences for the concept of free-speech.

    Also i didn't mean to say they were engaging in parody, just that political parody will be one of the casualties if we go down this road. My fault if i didn't make that clear enough.

  • by Fwipp (1473271) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:02PM (#46196875)

    Oh, you poor, poor Christians. Whatever will you do when we win the war on Christmas, and conifers are entirely outlawed, and you can't decorate your pagan trees anymore?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:02PM (#46196883)

    altslashdot.org is where there is some planning going on...

  • by tranquilidad (1994300) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:29PM (#46197073)

    You should read part of the PDR sometime; many medicines are quite toxic and their pages look exactly like the ones that are less toxic. Sometimes, the result of taking a toxin is better than not taking it for a particular patient.

    But, more to your point, you seem to suggest that because someone doesn't take the time to read the FUCKING BOLD PRINT that we should then hold the author accountable for mistakes the reader makes in comprehension. Your "courage to say no" sounds an awful lot like infringing someone's free speech because some idiot reader couldn't comprehend the plain language of the document or simply decided not to read it.

    I'll go ahead and judge who actually did wrong - it was a presumably well-educated man who made a mistake and sought to place the blame elsewhere.

    Perhaps we really do need a take-it-back button. We did this with the airlines who are now required to offer refunds on non-refundable tickets for 24 hours after purchase. If we extend the idea far enough then perhaps all those poor saps who contributed to Obama expecting him to close Gitmo, or who really thought they could keep their health insurance should be entitled to refunds as well.

  • Re:NSA? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 08, 2014 @01:52PM (#46197267)
    Have you even looked at the site people claim is "democrats doing the same thing"? That's rhetorical by the way. It is obvious you haven't. Anyone who has seen it would never say something so stupid.
  • Re:Ah, politics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @03:41PM (#46198015)

    "No. It was founded on the idea that if you couldn't live with it, you could go west and start a new place (or even live by yourself in a cabin somewhere)."

    Not really. When this country was founded "the West" was unexplored, and ungoverned. You "went" there under great peril of life and limb.

    You still have exactly the same option. Go live in the wildlands of Alaska, or Canada's Yukon. All by yourself and (for all practical purposes) ungoverned. Have fun and I wish you luck.

    Seriously: nothing has changed in that respect. You have options. If you don't choose to exercise them, that's your problem. The problem with government today is that it's bigger; it is no worse in other respects.

  • by rickb928 (945187) on Saturday February 08, 2014 @04:07PM (#46198179) Homepage Journal

    What I think is particularly interesting is that people think this is the behavior of just one political party.

  • by dryeo (100693) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @12:14AM (#46200361)

    Here in Canada we seem to be going to the American system of elections and it is the right wing Conservative Party that is leading the way with attack ads, dirty tricks, now gutting the election officials because they feel being called out every time they break the law is partisan even though it is them breaking or skimming the edge of the law.
    So far the center and left have resisted dropping to the same level but as it has been shown that attack ads do work. even if total lies as it seems to be human to pay more attention to bad stuff I'm sure the center and left will be doing the same.

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