USAVOICE Fights Back?

Are the administrators of USAVOICE starting to get nervous? Has their brand of yellow journalism gotten just a bit more yellow lately?

Recently, the USAVOICE website was inundated by a few well-meaning whistle blowers who used the website's comments section to direct readers to the USAVOICE article posted here at the Morgue. As a result of this, our page load activity skyrocketed over the course of a couple of weeks.

Since then, the administrators for the "honest and unfiltered" website that claims to invite its readers to comment, have worked overtime to strip those comments and opinions from the articles where they were posted. Our activity has returned from its spam-fueled flood back down to a truth-uncovering trickle. In the days since the flood, we have received several comments and emails thanking us for compiling the information and rescuing people from being caught up in the scam.

To all those people: You're welcome.

And now, it appears that the administrators of the USAVOICE site have started stooping to even lower tactics, by spamming the journalists who have commented against them. The site has also begun running articles in favor of USAVOICE.

A recent article by "D. Ojewole" posted on the site, now appears to be a rebuttal to the actions of the whistle blowers and attempts to defend the perpetrators of the scam.

Therefore, here is our own reply.

Since Mr. Ojewole saw fit to enlighten us as to what the definition of "obsession" was, we thought we'd play along with this Romper Room mentality and help educate people as well.

So here's the word for the day, boys and girls:
Delusion:(de·lu·sion) (d[schwa]-loo¢zh[schwa]n) [L. delusio, from de from + ludus a game] (psychology) an erroneous belief that is held in the face of evidence to the contrary
a mistaken or unfounded opinion or idea; "he has delusions of competence"; "his dreams of vast wealth are a hallucination"
the act of deluding; deception by creating illusory ideas.

The purpose of the original article about USAVOICE was to call attention to several key indicators that should raise red flags for anyone considering working for the company. Here are a few of those red flags:
    1. More than 1200 separate positions were posted on Yahoo Hotjobs.
    2. CareerBuilder.com suspended their account for suspicious activity that violated their terms of service.
    3. The generic, too-good-to-be-true job offer email people received, mentioning large salaries, benefits, bonuses, etc. This email is word-for-word an exact duplicate of one that was sent to people for toospoiled.com, an email phishing scam created by convicted con artist Alec Defrawy.
    4. The company is owned by a "private company" that, according to requests for further information, "wishes to remain anonymous."
    5. Prior to the website going live, there were several articles posted to the site that were "obtained" from other sources. See the blog post about this titled "USAVOICE Plagiarizes CNN"
    6. Their connection to instanthumanresources.com - a fictitious company that has been identified as being used for email phishing schemes. USAVOICE currently resides on the same server.
    7. The confusingly-worded explanation of how employees were to be paid: "Reporters at USAVoice will receive 40% of income generated by advertising on USAVoice. Each reporter will earn a percentage of that revenue equivalent to the percentage of total page views generated by his/her stories appearing on USAVoice."
    8. Reporters are allegedly paid based on the number of people that click on the individual ads, yet there is no way for a reporter to verify exactly how many people have actually visited their articles or clicked through. They are simply told, "Sorry, you didn't make any money this month. Better luck next time."
    9. Reporters are considered contracted employees of USAVOICE, yet no tax information is collected on the individuals. An "Independent Contractor" without a 10-99? Hmmm [UPDATE: since publishing this article, USAVOICE has started a program to have their employees submit tax information for the purposes of payment.]
    10. The unexplained reason why employees needed to install a business phone line in their homes at their own expense.
    11. The strange coincidence that the conference call each potential employee went through abruptly ended with static once they got to the Q&A portion of the call. (Did they not want you asking too many questions?)
    12. The"reader list" of email addresses each reporter was obliged to compile. They are then instructed to go about spamming their list and various high-profile message forums in an attempt to draw people to the site.
    13. The reader list is kept on the USAVOICE server as part of its internal database, opening up the potential for that database to be easily collected and sold to third-party internet spammers.
    14. The fact that once an email address is added to the list, there is no way to remove the address if later requested. [UPDATE: this too has been "fixed" by the admins and names can now be removed from the spam list if requested]
    15. The total lack of journalistic skills the site required of its reporters. Some people in the conference call mentioned they had absolutely no writing skill whatsoever, yet their recruiting emails said that because of their skills they were presented with the opportunity.
As for not being paid, we questioned "Rick M." the Senior Editor for USAVOICE, who had this to say about it:
"There has been only one pay period pass, and as explained to all of the editors, there was no revenue generated from advertisements for the month, therefore no one was paid. As a start-up operation, our revenues will grow slowly over time, and this too is explained to all participants in our conference calls."

The next pay period for USAVOICE employees is scheduled for November 10th. Any bets on if it will be the same song and dance?

As "D. Ojewole" pointed out, there are nearly 3,000 articles posted on the USAVOICE website. That tells me that a number of dedicated, hard-working individuals, using their own free time and resources have worked very hard to provide the adminstrators of the website with enough credible-looking fodder to give the illusion of the site being a legitimate news-gathering source. However, digging a little deeper and reading through some of those articles posted one begins to see the level of quality that is associated with the type of individual that writes for the website.

Mr. Ojewole also claims that USAVOICE is helping to provide a viable outlet for African Americans and Latinos opinions about political issues. Apparently, Mr. Ojewole has never heard of blackballot.com - a LEGITIMATE journalism site that does exactly that. By continuing to write articles on USAVOICE, Mr. Ojewole is helping only to feed the monster that this scam has become.

For journalists that have argued that they don't care about the income and are only writing their articles for the exposure, we'd like to point out that there are several other ways one can write content that will help someone both get seen and will actually pay them for their effort.

One of those sites is Associated Content. The website has been around far longer than USAVOICE and authors can choose to have their individual articles submitted on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis, paid or unpaid. All submissions are reviewed within five business days and an offer of payment is made. Not all content is accepted, but if the submitter is over 18, they can be paid anywere from $3 to $20 for each article. Payment is made via PayPal usually within 3 or 4 days of receiving the offer. I've personally used the site to re-publish a few of the articles I've written here at Media Morgue and I have been paid for each one that was submitted. That money is currently in my hands. How many people at USAVOICE can say that? I'm still not rich, but it's at least filled my gas tank.

The point behind all of this is that I'm happy to give a startup company the benefit of the doubt when it comes to generating income and working out the obvious bugs of their system. But the shady way that USAVOICE has decided to divvy out the payments, combined with what we already know about the company and its alleged association with a convicted internet scammer...Sorry, but it's just WAY too fishy to be taken seriously.

Bottom line: Based on the information collected through a variety of sources (just Google "USAVOICE and SCAM" to get some idea) there is enough evidence to suggest that this company is far from reputable. Writing articles on USAVOICE will only help to create a false sense of legitimacy to the organization. In the meantime, hundreds of people are being taken advantage of; suckered into thinking they are going to make money and get noticed. Sadly, that dream may never happen and the people that have submitted those articles under the false pretense of being a "reporter" have unwittingly helped to propagate the business even further.



On a side note, Mr. Ojewole gave a reference to being a part of the "Atlanta Coalition of Reporters." As of this writing, we were unable to find any information on a group by that name. Not through Google, Yahoo, Alta Vista, Ask.com, Answers.com or MSN. Not one result. Now, this is not to imply that the ACR exists solely in the mind of its author. Perhaps the group is so new that the search engines have not had a chance to catalog this information yet. But it does seem peculiar that an organization that sounds so encompassing as to be a statewide "coalition" - which, by definition is an organization usually consisting of more than one person - does not return a single search result. Not even from the article Mr. Ojewole posted on USAVOICE.

Just because I might choose to call myself "The Texas Chapter of the United Fellowship of Go Fuck Yourself" doesn't mean that I am part of a legitimate organization any more than calling yourself a "reporter" for USAVOICE bestows journalistic credibility.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is there anything someone can do to prevent info already submitted to the bastards from being used? They have my name, address and phone number as well as my e-mail. Do I need to contact my local social security office and bank? What options do I have to protect myself other than the obvious "don't give anyone any information whatsoever"?

TeeTee said...

If you did not provide SSN / bank data, don't worry about that. You are unreversably on their suckerlist though, so expect an increase of scam spam (education, jobs etc). If you still have the initiating spam mail, forward it to uce@ftc.com

Anonymous said...

hehe. Well written!

Anonymous said...

I think they are not doing damage yet but when they do it will be big! They will change how all sites do business on the internet. You will see this on the nightly news for days. I highly suggest canceling ALL your credit cards and changing all online accounts AOL, MSN, etc etc, all all your passwords since most people chane their password on the usa voice site to the one they use for regular email, these guys have been in your online email, your online banking, do not fool these people into a sense of false security.

TeeTee said...

If used password is the same or very similar to the one you regularly use, I agree it's better to be safe than sorry.

Anonymous said...

Usavoice has now provided a download W-9 to the back office! I have changed my profile information and erased all of my e-mail contacts, articles, and I have now been able to erase my contact list, I'm sure they have that information but it felt good to delete them. There is still no way to remove my credit card info, but as I told "Rick", I have filed a credit fraud alert with my credit card company.

I haven't posted an article since I read this site last month and many others as well, but I can still access the back office even after I told "Rick" I quit!

It seems odd to me that the stories just stopped when all of this came out and now they have all of these new features and new writers. I too noticed the comments are just flooding almost every story, well at least the front page stories. All I have to say, is that it is more ridiculous now than ever before.

Anonymous said...

Rick is a pawn in all this he is a kid bearly 24. He makes his money when people fill out the information on the insurence scam!

Anonymous said...

At present there are 1,847 articles posted on USA Voice dating from Aug. 15 (advanced search feature with all fields blank) - a far cry from the 3,000 mentioned by D. Ojewole of the Atlanta Coalition of Reporters in his article on the site. While a few articles have been deleted since the site started, surely not 1,200 or so. Honest mistake or an attempt to make the site look more "successful" than it is? I would point out this fact in his article comment section but the feature doesn't work when I enter my email address.

The Judge said...

I believe the comment section doesnt work because they have either screwed it up with their recent "bug fixes" or have set comments to be moderated and approved before being posted to the site.

So much for "Honest and Unfiltered", eh?

Anonymous said...

Could be. None of people who have been persistent in trying to get Rick to respond to emails about payment and other issues seem to be able to post a comment. I have tried my corporate as well as personal email address and can't even get a comment page to appear. So I think my address specifically has been blocked. I have never made any comment on a reader's page - yet someone sent me a nasty email accusing me of "dissing" an article. Where are all the positive comments coming from? In-House? A select group of approved readers? Anyone who has never complained? What if I wanted to comment in a positive/complimentary way about something on the site - after all there are some good articles being posted. Isn't that censorship at its most reprehensible - ban something before it even has a chance to take form.

Anonymous said...

Just registered to that site under a fake name, and I noticed, there is no Privacy Policy statement ANYWHERE. No big surprise really.

Anonymous said...

You know it is great you put the information out there but the only problem I have with what you did is the way you did it. You posted rude comments on the reporters' stories and that wasn't right. The reporters were the ones wronged and they didn't deserve to have their stories ridiculed because you wanted the link to your blog out there. Yes, I was a reporter, but I don't write anymore. It was hurtful to read some of the comments that linked to this site. If you have a problem with Rick, take it up with him. But, you shouldn't have made the reporters look bad. The only thing we did was try to report on what we thought was a legitimate online forum.

The Judge said...

Media Morgue has said from the beginning that this is not about the reporters. They are merely the ones that were tricked into thinking they were working for a legitimate news site. The problem lies with the site admins and the creators of the website.

I dont visit the USAVOICE site, so I wasnt aware that there were rude comments directed towards the individual journalists. I dont condone the actions of the individuals that spammed the comments. If rude comments were posted towards the individual journalists, We sincerely appologize.

Anonymous said...

I tried to buy cards from them and nothing happened when i put my card info in, then last night they charged my CC like 20 times for 3.95 and I dont have alot of money and that was supposed to go towards Thanksgiving dinner for my family, so now I have to goto the police to file a report and hope and prey I can get the bank to put the money back. For those of you that care please prey for me so my family can eat tomorrow.

So Is this a SCAM. YES IT IS, USAVOICE STOLE MY MONEY!!!

The Judge said...

So its now January 22 and so far no "reporters" for the site have been paid. Thats now FOUR pay periods that have come and gone and the administrators still try to dangle the carrot of making money in front of the noses of the reporters.

This is really just sad.

raccoonradio said...

They are now known as WorldVoice and have an article on their front page debunking "lies" about them. A friend of mine submits articles to them and told me about them; I tried to get in but had to wade through a bunch of offers I didn't want, and usually there was NO "no thanks" button.
Guess what: I got tons of spam
immediately as a result.

I don't know if my friend will see
dime one from these people; I hate the spam generated by them, and if you have a great site that has no contact info and is tough to get in without ad after ad, why bother?

Anonymous said...

"For journalists that have argued that they don't care about the income and are only writing their articles for the exposure..."

I would like to add that, for those journalists, credibility is the only true "currency", and that they should look for credibility in their associates, for the sake fo their careers.

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