The Trump Network: Caveat Emptor

A quick look at Trump’s failed new-age pyramid scheme

“At no time in recent history has our economy been in the state that is today. It’s a mess. The economic meltdown, greed, and ineptitude of the financial industry have sabotaged the dreams of millions of people. Americans need a new plan. They need a new dream” – Donald Trump, POTUS

No, that’s not Trump’s election pitch to the American people, but the pitch he gave to participants of The Trump Network, a new-age pyramid scheme that offered “millions of people new hope with an exciting plan to opt-out of the recession” and “develop your own financial independence.”

The Trump Network was born in 2009 when Trump licensed his name to Ideal Health, a multi-level marketing business founded in 1997 by Lou DeCaprio and brothers Scott and Todd Stanwood. Ideal Health invited independent salespeople to do their own marketing to sell a customised vitamin supplement package, which was determined by conducting urine hormone tests using the company’s signature product, the PrivaTest.

In a 2008 review article for Alternative Medicine Review, the test’s inventor, J. Alexander Bralley, claimed that urinary biomarkers “provide insight into diseases possibly caused or complicated by toxin accumulation and detoxification responses.”

But experts questioned the test’s medical value.

“Urine tests do not provide a legitimate basis for recommending that people take dietary supplements,” wrote Quackwatch founder and retired psychiatrist Stephen Barrett in 2003. Barrett later speculated that Ideal Health had acted illegally by falsely claiming that the PrivaTest could “improve” and “support” physical and mental health.

That didn’t stop Trump hawking branded PrivaTests on the now-defunct Trump Network website, where they sold for a whopping $139.95 per box.

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Speaking to STAT in 2016, executive president of The Trump Organization Alan Garten said that Trump “was endorsing the idea behind the business” but that his role “did not amount to an endorsement of the products” themselves.

However, in a “personal letter” published on the Trump Network site, Trump appeared to give his stamp of approval.

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To promote the company’s “cutting-edge,” “revolutionary” products and multi-level marketing concept, Trump even had planned an all-out publicity tour that was set to be “the biggest media campaign in the history of network marketing,” and “the legacy he leaves with all Americans.”

Trump would be seen “on the likes of Oprah, the Tonight Show, Larry King, the Today show, numerous press releases, online news broadcasts, major business magazines, and every daily newspaper in America – as well as newspaper business sections.”

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In reality, the job of promoting the company was largely left to independent marketers via “personal self-replicating” sites and other, more innovative methods.

Results varied.

In one misplaced attempt at viral marketing, a Trump Network recruit used Google Books to issue a press release under items relating to Trump.

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Curiously, the author of the release gave only modest ratings of Trump’s books. One book, Trump: Think Like a Billionaire, received a meagre two stars.

And the fun doesn’t stop there.

In August 2009, Wikipedia deleted a page that was created for The Trump Network after it fell foul of the site’s abuse guidelines. The page, authored by a user named “Trumpwellness” and signed-off by “Donald J. Trump,” was deleted by admins because it contained “obvious advertising or promotional material.”

Rejected Trump Network Wikipedia entry (source)

Another innovative way marketers sought to enlist new recruits was by speaking to them directly using online forums. Going by some of the responses, this approach might have worked. But as the company fell into decline, pending lawsuits and accompanying PR disasters, it too failed to take.

In 2011, Trump’s licencing deal with Ideal Health expired and was not renewed. The assets were then sold to a “health and wellness” company named Bioceutica, which still sells the now-rebranded Trump Network vitamin packages and urine tests.

Last year it was revealed that, between 1999-2004, the Federal Trade Commission received 56 complaints against Ideal Health. According to official documents, marketing recruits complained that the company “made money off of marketers by misrepresenting what their marketing system can do” and placing “pressure on marketers to purchase all the companies tools in order to succeed.”

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Sater the Sockpuppeteer

Did former Trump advisor/Russian-American real estate mogul Felix Sater delete info about his criminal history from Trump’s Wikipedia page using a sockpuppet account? READ UPDATE HERE

When Trump’s Russia connections became a focus for journalists during the 2016 election, Felix Sater, a convicted racketeer and former government informant, was a key figure.

Felix Sater with Trump (source)

The Russian-born real estate mogul collaborated with Trump on a number of high-profile projects, and until recently was one of Trump’s senior advisors.

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In January, Sater even met with Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to discuss a plan to lift sanctions against Russia.

Trump has denied having a close relationship with Sater. In 2013, he testified in a video deposition for a civil lawsuit that “if [Sater] were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.”

Apparently, the feeling is mutual.

In 2016, it appears Sater was banned from Wikipedia for deleting unflattering facts about himself from Trump’s Wikipedia entry using a sockpuppet account.

Here’s the rundown.

In late 2015, a Wikipedia user named “591J” deleted from the site information about “Sater’s mafia and Russian criminal ties, as well as a 1998 racketeering conviction.”

August 25, 2015 edit of Trump’s Wikipedia entry by user 591J (source)

When that information was later restored by a different user, 591J deleted Sater’s name and substituted it for “ex-convict.”

December 6, 2015 edit of Trump’s Wikipedia entry by user 591J (source)

In February 2016, 591J created Sater’s current Wikipedia entry, which was originally flagged by admins because they suspected 591J of having “a close connection” with Sater.

April 2016 draft of Felix Sater Wikipedia entry (source)

In April 2016, 591J was “blocked indefinitely” after an investigation by admins determined 591J had “abusively used” multiple accounts to promote Sater and delete information about which 591J had an undisclosed conflict of interest.

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After conducting a mini investigation of my own I found this promotional photo of Sater that 591J had uploaded to Wikipedia:

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Under the now-deleted photo I found the following copyright information:

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Note that:

1. The source information says that the photo of Sater is their “Own work”;
2. The author of the photo is “591J.”

Brittain Gets Streisanded

Popehat and techdirt publish articles based on my blog post about “revenge pornster” and Dryvyng CEO Craig R. Brittain re: DMCA takedown requests

Via “As A Dog Returns To His Vomit, Lunatic Revenge Porn Extortionist and Dryvyng CEO Craig Brittain Returns To Censorious Threatsby Ken White, Popehat, April 6, 2017:

Thanks to Dean Sterling Jones at Shooting The Messenger, I see that the demented and easily enraged Craig Brittain has returned to his habit of ineffectual gestures at censorship.

You remember Craigbo. He ran a revenge porn site called “Is Anyone Down,” posing as a lawyer named David Blade in order to extort victims into paying money to have their pictures taken down.

…More recently, Craig has embarked on two simultaneous paths: the path of a social critic and aspiring pseudo-journalist seeking investors to back his anarcho-capitalist critique of society, and aspiring CEO of Uber competitor “Dryvyng,” a business devoted to the proposition that if you’d like a ride you ought to order one from a pathological revenge porn extortionist with a searing hatred of women and humanity in general.

on behalf of Dryvyng [Brittain recently issued a DMCA copyright complaint against] a Wikipedia page on his revenge porn site “Is Anybody Down?” The DMCA process, as you know, addresses intellectual property rights, but with characteristic legal acumen Craigbo has demanded that Wikipedia remove the page based on “Slanderous [sic], libelous and deliberately misleading Wikipedia entry designed to defame and libel me and my company . . . Please permanently remove this page (and all of Wikipedia itself, which is a left-wing hive for slander and libel) from Google.” Craigbo has also attempted to target Business Insider, Fusion, Reddit, and others.

Craig will be Craig. But will he be Craig, free and in the wild forever? The wheels of justice grind slowly — but remember that they do grind, my friends. To the extent that Craig’s continued existence as Craig is not the most brutal consequence a cold universe can inflict upon him, Craig will encounter justice sooner or later.

Via “Revenge Pornster Craig Brittain Issues DMCA Notices Demanding Google Delist Entire Websites, Including Wikipedia” by Tim Cushing, techdirt, April 7, 2017:

Former revenge porn site operator/lawyer impersonator Craig Brittain is once again engaged in some DMCA abuse. A couple of years ago, Brittain issued bogus DMCA notices in hopes of whitewashing his past. Along with posts at Popehat, Vice, Huffington Post, Ars Technica, and Reddit, Brittain asked Google to delist the FTC’s press release about its settlement with Brittainover his revenge porn misdeeds.

It didn’t work, obviously. A new set of stories highlighting Brittain’s sordid past swiftly filled up any gaps in the revenge porn purveyor’s vanity Google searches.

Popehat reports Brittain has apparently learned nothing from his last Streisanding. Brittain is once again issuing bogus takedown notices — this time on behalf of his alt-right ride-sharing pipe dream, Dryvyng. (Pronounced “dryheaving.”)

…It’s this “company” that Craig has issued the DMCA notices for. Apparently, he’s none too thrilled at the lack of positive press for his hypothetical ride-sharing startup and has once again asked Google to delist all sorts of things he has no business asking to be delisted. Dean Jones of Shooting the Messenger is the person who originally discovered a handful of notices sent by “Dryvyng,” all of which feature petulant commentary not normally found in legal paperwork.

…In every case, the accusation is internet libelslander, which can’t be touched by DMCA notices. The reason is in the name of the notice itself: Digital Millennium COPYRIGHT Act. But when you’re angry at the internet, any fill-in-the-blank form will do. Even if Brittain had used the proper paperwork, Google would be under no obligation to delist the alleged slander, thanks to Section 230 of the CDA.

It’s no surprise Brittain’s attempt to pass himself off as David Blade, Esq. went so badly. He obviously has zero legal acumen. If you’re going to beclown yourself with bogus notices, at least try to do so somewhat competently. Sure, the outcome won’t change, but at least you won’t look like even more of an idiot than you already do.

You can read my April 6, 2017 blog post about Brittain by clicking here.

The Return of Craig R. Brittain

Did Dryvyng CEO Craig R. Brittain demand the removal of “fake, slanderous, libelous” articles about his sleazy revenge porn past?

In February, an anonymous representative for Scottsdale, Arizona ridesharing company Dryvyng sent Google a number of takedown requests asking the search engine to delist articles about notorious revenge porn website, IsAnybodyDown?

Citing US copyright law, the complainant asked Google to “permanently remove” articles by Business Insider, Fusion, and Wikipedia, on the basis that they allegedly include “slanderous, libelous and deliberately misleading” information “designed to defame and libel me and my company.”

The complainant also requested that Google remove “all of Wikipedia itself,” describing the online encyclopedia as “a left-wing hive for slander and libel.”

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IsAnybodyDown? was founded in 2011 by Dryvyng’s CEO Craig R. Brittain. The controversial site encouraged users to anonymously submit non-consensual nude photos along with identifying information about the person in the photos, including their full name, home address, and Facebook screenshots.

In 2013, the site shut down after an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission determined Brittain had hosted fake lawyer advertisements on the site in order to trick victims into paying hundreds of dollars to have their photos removed.

I wasn’t able to confirm Brittain filed the takedown requests as he didn’t reply to my request for comment, however I did get a reply from criminal defence/First Amendment attorney Ken White, co-founder of the Popehat blog.

White has written extensively about Brittain’s revenge porn antics (click here to read), and in 2012 and 2015, his blog was even the target of two takedown requests by Brittain.

White said the complainant’s defamation claim “appears to be complete nonsense.”

This item has been revised to emphasise I was unable to get a reply from Brittain to confirm he sent the takedown requests.