Category Archives: Unethical Websites

Unethical Website Of The Month: HealthNews NJ.com

One of the most patently dishonest campaign tactics is for a candidate to put up a fake website purporting to report “news” that is really there to attack his or her political opponent. Who would do such a thing? Well, one good bet would be a U.S. Senator who already narrowly escaped conviction on bribery charges because his providing political favors to a “friend” who showered him with gifts could be proven to result from a quid pro quo arrangement.

Sure enough, the new website HealthNewsNJ.com, with the exception of a tiny-print disclosure at the bottom of its home page does all it can to convince readers that it is an independent news site.  In reality, it is a campaign-run hit site put up by the campaign of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) to attack his opponent, Bob Hugin, the former CEO of the pharmaceutical company Celgene. A typical post on the website, which runs below a byline crediting it to “HealthNewsNJ Staff,” is titled: “How greedy drug company CEO Bob Hugin gouged cancer patients and enabled Donald Trump.” On Facebook, the site’s page calls itself  a “news and media website.”  Neither it nor the HealthNewsNJ  Twitter account mentions a tie to Menendez or his campaign.

Putting up a fake website like this is signature significance. Menendez is willing to deceive the public. He’s a liar, by definition. He cannot be trusted.

Luckily for him, he’s running in New Jersey, so it probably won’t matter.

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet, Unethical Websites

Unethical Website Of The Month: The Student Loan Report

Drew Cloud is known as a journalist who specializes in student-loan debt issues.  He has been quoted extensively  in  The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNBC, as well as by blogs and websites that cover student debt developments.  Cloud founded The Student Loan Report, an “independent, authoritative news outlet” covering all things student loans, “after he had difficulty finding the most recent student loan news and information all in one place.”

This week, the Chronicle of Higher Education revealed that there is no such person, and that the website was stealth marketing tool by a loan financing company, LendEDU.

“After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. “Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education,” wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of

After The Chronicle spent more than a week trying to verify Cloud’s existence, the company that owns The Student Loan Report confirmed that Cloud was fake. “Drew Cloud is a pseudonym that a diverse group of authors at Student Loan Report, LLC use to share experiences and information related to the challenges college students face with funding their education,” wrote Nate Matherson, CEO of LendEDU.

Before that admission, however, Cloud had corresponded at length with many journalists, pitching them stories and offering email interviews, many of which were published. When The Chronicle attempted to contact him through the address last week, Cloud said he was traveling and had limited access to his account. He didn’t respond to additional inquiries.

And on Monday, as The Chronicle continued to seek comment, Cloud suddenly evaporated. His once-prominent placement on The Student Loan Report had been removed. His bylines were replaced with “SLR Editor.” Matherson confirmed on Tuesday that Cloud was an invention.

Pressed on whether he regretted deceiving news organizations with a fake source, Matherson said Cloud “was created as a way to connect with our readers (ex. people struggling to repay student debt) and give us the technical ability to post content to the WordPress website.”

Two questions:

>Why would anyone trust a finance company that thinks this kind of dishonesty is acceptable conduct?

>And what does this tell us about the diligence, professionalism and trustworthiness of journalists, who would present as an expert an imaginary person who shills for a loan firm?

(That’s a rhetorical question.)

___________________________

Graphic: My informator

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Finance, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, The Internet, Unethical Websites

Unethical Website Of The Month, “March For Our Lives” Edition: Change.Org

This page, the petition for gun control to “save our children” is what earns the “honor.” I see many Facebook friends, many on whom are genuinely gifted intellectually, surrendering to emotion and signing this junk, as junk it is. The petition neatly encapsulates the serial intellectual dishonestly,  misleading rhetoric and appeal to emotion that we will see bloviated all over the National Mall this weekend: I guess that has some value for historical purposes. Otherwise, it is an engine of ignorance designed to either attract the ignorant, make the less ignorant more so, or deceive.

Let’s look at this mess, shall we?

In the tragic wake of the seventeen lives brutally cut short in Florida, politicians are telling us that now is not the time to talk about guns. March For Our Lives believes the time is now. Created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country, we will no longer risk our lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar.

Nobody is saying that “now is not the time to talk about guns.” Who has said that? The statement is straw man. Agreed: now is a good time to talk about anything: guns, pangolins, acne, cabbages and kings. We have a First Amendment as well as a Second, something those Other Civilized Nations that are always being extolled in the gun debate don’t have.

Created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country, we …

Not to be pedantic, but a serious petition should be written by someone  who can speak the language. Signers are created by students? It’s bad enough that they are being led by students, who are after all, students. They do not know enough, either through knowledge or experience, to be seriously participating in a complex policy debate, much less leading it.  “We, the undersigned adults who are duty-bound to be teaching and leading our rising generation, are allowing them to dictate to us.” Good plan. How can anyone sign such a petition and not hide their head under a bag?

…will no longer risk our lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar.

This is pure appeal to emotion rather than reality. The existence of the right to own guns no more “risks lives” than the existence of anything else that is dangerous when misused. There are 10.6 deaths per 100,000 U.S. citizens due to guns according to latest statistics, including those of suicides and those killed by law enforcement. Three times that many die in alcohol-related automobile accidents. Nobody argues that we risk our lives because “someone” hasn’t taken “action” (aka, “do something,” “make it go away” “make us feel safe when nobody in a free society is ever safe”, aka. “ban and confiscate guns.”) regarding that risk we accept as part of living in a free society that includes jackasses, fools and criminals, and that’s just one of many.

There is no “epidemic” of school shootings. Students in school are safe; if they don’t feel safe, it’s because of fear -mongering from activists and the news media.

“We support the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms, as set forth in the United States Constitution.”

No, you obviously don’t. This is a pure lie (or inexcusable stupidity.) A movement called “Never Again” is either lying in its title by implying that any public policy, laws or regulations will guarantee no more gun deaths, in schools or anywhere else, or it is telling us its real purpose in the name, while lying about the movement’s real intent.

Many, many, if not most mass shooters were “law-abiding” until they started shooting. This statement either endorses pre-crime measures, profiling citizens to decide if they are a risk to eventually abuse gun rights—unconstitutional—is magical thinking, or is, again, a lie. The statement—and while it is always a fine time to talk about guns, it is never a fine time to resuscitate this zombie tautology that the NRA has been knocking down for decades—is self-rebutting.  Laws only affect law-abiding people, as long as they obey laws. Restrictive gun laws are violated by criminals, because they don’t obey laws. Nobody has ever explained how a law will not infringe “ the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms” while somehow keeping the same kinds of arms out of the hands of those who are not law-abiding. This is because it’s impossible.

“But with that right comes responsibility.”

As an ethicist, I object to a cynical use of the language of ethics to deceive, which is what this is. If the topic is responsibility, then we are talking about law-abiding citizens again, as well as ethical ones. They usually don’t use guns irresponsibly, or if they do (like killing themselves), such irresponsible use is not addressed by the measures proposed here. If I am a law-abiding citizen, I won’t be more likely to abuse my gun ownership whether I have had a background check or not. Irresponsible gun ownership includes not keeping guns where children—you know, citizens the age of the people “leading” those who sign the petition—can find them and hurt themselves and others. It includes not learning how to use a gun safely and appropriately. This petition isn’t about promoting responsible gun ownership. It’s about replacing the right to own guns responsibly with the right to own sling-shots.

We call on all the adults in Congress elected to represent us, to pass legislation that will protect and save children from gun violence.

There it is: “Think of the children!” A pure, unadulterated, inexcusable appeal to emotion over facts and reason. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Train Wrecks, Facebook, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Research and Scholarship, Rights, U.S. Society, Unethical Websites

The Diggy Fiasco : Pit Bull Bigotry Madness With A Happy Ending. THIS Time.

My post of two years ago about the horrible anti-pit bull website dogsbite.org continues to attract comments from dog breed bigots who have either been deceived by dogsbite, or who go there to confirm their own ignorance. What is remarkable about these posts is that they are almost identical. They repeat the same falsehoods and the same debunked arguments, as if every one of their points hadn’t been thoroughly discredited by experts, dog breeders, researchers, and rational sites like Ethics Alarms. Pit bull hysterics simply will not yield to reality, and they don’t appear to care how many families their disinformation harms and how many loving dogs they kill with the “dangerous breed” legislation they extract from lazy lawmakers.

Here is a recent story showing  how deranged these laws are, their cruelty, and the kind of scenarios dogsbite.org and its fans encourage.

In June 2016, Waterford Township, Michigan, resident Dan Tillery and his girlfriend Megan  purchased their first home. The couple wanted to adopt a dog, and eventually found Sir Wiggleton, a big, white, happy canine nearing the end of his stay at a shelter after 100 days. Dan posted a photo of him with his new companions, with the caption,   “We know this photo is going to break the internet and we apologize, but we had to share…Sir Wiggleton and his new Dad are celebrating adoption day with huge smiles all around!”

Damned if the photo almost did “break the internet.”  But the viral picture of Sir Wiggleton, now renamed “Diggy,” inspired nightmares in some local pit bull phobic, so he or she reported Dan, Megan, and Diggy to the police.

The officers knocked on the door and informed Dan that he had violated Waterford’s ban on owning pit bulls. According to the township, pit bulls and pit bull mixes are considered to be “dangerous dogs.” Obviously Digby was a killer…

This possessing a vicious canine like Digby…

was a punishable crime. The dog police told Dana and Megan that Diggy would have to be returned to the Detroit Dog Rescue or else there would be consequences, even though Diggy’s adoption papers stated that he was an American bulldog. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Animals, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Unethical Websites

From “The Progressive War On Free Speech” Files, The Unethical Website Of The Month: “Leave Your Dog Poop On Crissy Field”

I’d like to take a national poll, a California state poll and a San Francisco poll asking who thinks deliberately littering the site of a planned far-right demonstration with dog shit is an ethical thing to do. I think it would tell us a lot.

Patriot Prayer, a far right group that has held several  “free speech” events in the Pacific Northwest, applied for and was awarded a permit to hold a demonstration today on San Francisco’s Crissy Field.  San Francisco’s officials, being totalitarians at heart and like their increasingly senile but steadily anti-speech member of Congress, Nancy Pelosi, hostile to the concept of free speech, tried to pressure the National Park Service to deny the group a permit. The Service, foolishly hewing to the Constitution, demurred. The city’s police department  planned for a riot.

To foil the demonstrators, an artist named (yes, I checked this one for being a hoax) “Tuffy Tuffington,” had a brainstorm, or perhaps shit-storm is the better description:  to make the beach uninhabitable for Patriot Prayer First Amendment protected proceedings, he urged San Franciscans to plan to festoon Crissy Field, which is normally a lovely beach by the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, with piles of their various dogs’ droppings

“I just had this image of alt-right people stomping around in the poop,” said Tuffy, a self-righteous asshole. He is convinced that this is the best way to respond to right wing extremists in the wake of Charlottesville.  Presumably, President Trump will be required under threat of impeachment to declare that there is nothing wrong with defiling a public place and breaking the law to make it impossible for a group to demonstrate, because it is a false moral equivalency to insist that all Americans have equal access to Constitutional speech. Do I have that correct, Tuffy? Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Animals, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Facebook, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Literature, Rights, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society, Unethical Websites

Ethics Dunce: Ann Althouse

I like Ann and admire her, as readers here know. She’s quirky and smart; she’s either political moderate or apolitical; she tries very hard to stay objective; she’s an iconoclast and a contrarian, and best of all, she agrees with me about 75% of the time. Thus it pains me no end to designate her an Ethics Dunce, but I have no choice. She posted this:

“New Clinton Memoir: ‘We All Made Mistakes But You Made Most Of Them.'”

“‘I’m not suggesting it’s entirely your fault, but, let’s be frank, 99 percent of it is,’ read one passage from the chapter entitled ‘Seriously, What Were You Thinking?’ in which the former candidate conceded missteps she had made over the course of her campaign while also clarifying that none of them should have produced the final election outcome, which she characterized as ‘squarely on you fucking people.'”
It’s fake news. It’s from “The Onion,” and while that may seem obvious to some, the fact that Ann Althouse’s blog is not a satire, or fake news site means that this unmarked  gag post once removed is a lie.I have been seeing this with more frequency of late—among other, Glenn Reynolds has posted fake stories on Instapundit, assuming that readers will immediately get the joke with him having to flag it. Or maybe he was fooled: the point is that there is no way to be sure. The Althouse post above, coming on the heels of the Clinton excerpt from the book of yesterday, seemed just a step or two farther along on The Road to Lunacy. I believed it might be true, which is the only reason I clicked on the link. As I learn from commenters here every day, most people do not click on links.  Many people will repeat as fact to a third party what they read in a headline without reading the rest.

This  headline is New Clinton Memoir: “We All Made Mistakes But You Made Most Of Them.” Is that really so inherently hilarious and nonsensical that Althouse can be certain no readers with a functioning brain will believe it? Is it harder to believe she would write this in her book than say, during last year’s campaign, “I was surprised that he used personal email account if he is at State.”? Or remember when Hillary was asked about the stunned responses of viewers when she said, in her first debate with Bernie Sanders, that the reason she was getting getting millions in widespread Wall Street firm support, that “So, I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.” ?

During that same  debate,  CBS passed a tweet along from a fellow head-explodee.. “And Secretary Clinton, one of the tweets we saw said this,” said CBS’s tweet-mistress Nancy Cordes. “I’ve never seen a candidate invoke 9/11 to justify millions of Wall Street donations until now.” The idea being, yes, you were a champion of the community after 9/11, but what does that have to do with taking big donations?”

Hillary answered—“Well, I’m sorry that whoever tweeted that had that impression.” HAD THAT IMPRESSION??? That’s what she had literally just said! How hard is to believe that a woman who would claim, on live, coast-to-caost TV,  that a voter is mistaken to interpret as what she just said as what she just said, wouldn’t also write in her post-election  botch memoir that We all made mistakes but you made most of them”? Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Unethical Websites

If Snopes Is Trying To Claw Its Way Back To Credibility And Respect, This Is Certainly A Good Start…

One of the most trafficked posts on Ethics Alarms in 2016 was this one, almost exactly one year ago, in which I described the deterioration of the Snopes “urban legend” website into a partisan, social justice mouthpiece that was spinning for the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton.  It recieved so many shares that Ethics Alarms was a target of Hillary’s paid online trolls, who wrote almost identical comments with the same talking points. Few posts here have ever resulted in so many banned commenters. Since that post designating Snopes as an Unethical Website, I stopped using the site, as I said I would until it repented and reformed…

With all the misinformation on the web, a trustworthy web site like Snopes used to be is essential. Unfortunately, a site that is the purveyor of falsity cannot also be the antidote for it. I’ll miss Snopes, but until it acknowledges its ethics breach and convinces me that the site’s days of spinning and lying were a short-lived aberration, I won’t be using it again.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Snopes’ reputation is thoroughly tarnished. Thus I can’t tell whether today’s sudden counter-partisan effort is born of sincerity or a survival instinct, but it is certainly welcome, and a shock.

The new post is titled,

The Lies of Donald Trump’s Critics, and How They Shape His Many Personas: An in-depth analysis of the false allegations and misleading claims made against the 45th President since his inauguration

I find the article somewhat meandering and scattershot, but it still constitutes an important effort to splash cold water on the anti-Trump fever. That splash should be especially effective because Snopes had established itself as such a reliable ally to those doing the lying Snopes condemns.

To my knowledge, none of the other alleged fact-checking columns have been this direct and this thorough in pointing out the phenomenon that Ethics Alarms has been discussing for more than a year. We shall see if the new entry was just a ruse so Snopes could recover lost readers and start spinning for the Left again with renewed influence. I recommend wariness. Nevertheless, this essay is much needed, and we should give credit where credit is due.

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, The Internet, Unethical Websites