Angered by items that appeared in a e-commerce newsletter, six former employees of eBay sent the publishers, a couple living in Massachusetts, live cockroaches and spiders, pornography, a bloody pigface mask, a preserved pig fetus and a funeral wreath, and attempted to secretly install a tracking device on the couple’s car, federal authorities allege in criminal charges unsealed on Monday.
Authorities do not disclose the name of the newsletter, nor the couple who were the subject of the alleged harassment campaign. But several of the blog posts mentioned by prosecutors can be found on EcommerceBytes, a site and newsletter ran by David and Ina Steiner that often focuses on eBay sellers, highlighting their struggles with the online retailer. The couple have also drawn attention to how much top executives at eBay are paid.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said at a press conference on Monday that the ex-eBay employees exacted revenge in a manner intended to torment and intimidate the couple.
“They were not merely unhappy, they were enraged,” said Lelling said, who called the scheme a “campaign fueled by the resources of a Fortune 500 company to emotionally and psychologically terrorize this middle aged couple,” noting that involvement “goes pretty far up the chain at eBay.”
Lelling added: “It could be that it speaks to a culture in Silicon Valley of dealing aggressively with criticism of a particular brand as fast as you can.”
On Monday, James Baugh, 45, of San Jose, Calif., eBay’s former senior director of safety and security, and David Harville, 48, of New York City, eBay’s former director of global resilience, were both arrested on charges conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses. Four other former eBay officials were also charged.