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October 2019
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New York Police Union: Lying And Violating Rights Is Just Part Of Everyday Police Work

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On very rare occasions, the front mouths for law enforcement -- police unions -- will surprise you with inadvertent truthiness. Such a rarity occurred recently. It was -- as almost every union outburst is -- provoked by the introduction of the tiniest sliver of accountability.The Bronx District Attorney decided to release its list of cops even it can't trust. What the New York Post refers to as a "naughty list" bears some resemblance to the Brady lists compiled (but rarely released) by other city prosecutors. These lists contain cops who have been caught lying in reports or in court or have had evidence tossed (usually more than once) for Constitutional violations.These lists are supposed to make their way to criminal defendants. This rarely happens either. No prosecutor wants their star witness impeached, even if the prosecutor knows what we know: cops lie. Some more than others.The list released to the New York Post contains some redactions (thanks to sealed cases), but at least a few officers' names were made public. Here's one snippet from the "naughty list."

Two… cops named were Sabrina Alicea and Waikiria Velez — whose statements in a June 2015 crash, which killed one and left another brain-dead — were contradicted by surveillance video, the DA’s records say.Detective Winston McDonald made the list for lying about being robbed at knife point in early 2016 — and Capt. David Dent landed on the list after he was caught fudging transit crime numbers.
Here's where it gets fun. The Sergeants Benevolent Association, one of New York's law enforcement unions, reacted very badly to the release of the naughty list. Bear in mind this list only includes officers who've "given questionable testimony" or "had evidence tossed for unconstitutional policing."This is how the SBA responded, cloaked in stupidity it mistook for righteous anger.
The city’s police union responded to the release by slamming the Bronx DA’s prosecution record and attacking the “anti-cop activists” who requested the lists to smear “honest, hard-working police officers.”
So, if we're to take the SBA at its word, the release of "naughty" list "smeared" "honest, hard-working" officers who… lied in court or committed Constitutional violations. Any straight reading of this assertion results in the assumption the SBA considers lying and Constitutional violations to just be part of the honest, hard work officers perform. That's a bit disturbing.And let's be clear on something else: it's impossible to "smear" someone with a factual record of their wrongdoing. "Honest" cops don't lie. "Hard-working police officers" don't cut Constitutional corners. This is the SBA whining because some of its members have been exposed as lousy cops who do lousy things.But if you're expecting incisive, thoughtful reactions to news of police misconduct, you don't ask police unions for input. All they've done over the past several decades is make it easier for bad cops to stay employed for pretty much forever, and attack anyone who dares to suggest not all police officers are saints or heroes. At least in this case, the SBA has made it clear hard-working officers engage in misconduct. And that appears to be just fine with the SBA.

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posted at: 12:00am on 26-Oct-2019
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Skin Care Company, Sunday Riley, Somehow Gets No Consequences In Fake Reviews FTC Settlement

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We've long discussed the problem that is astroturfing and companies that abuse website reviews sections by inputting fake positive reviews for their own products. These fake reviews break the ecosystem of sites like Yelp and many others, where a big part of the draw to the sites are the communities that provide helpful, honest reviews. It's also been the case, however, that such fake review campaigns have occasionally come with fines or lawsuits with limited clarity on precisely what laws were being broken.Still, the FTC is a thing and it would seem to be in that organization's purview to mete out some kind of punishment for the truly bad actors out there. In the case of skincare company Sunday Riley, however, it seems that FTC settlements for truly egregious fake review campaigns are entirely without teeth.Let's start with the scheme itself. According to the FTC, for two years, spearheaded by founder Sunday Riley herself, employees and interns were tasked with both voting down real negative reviews on Sephora.com, as well as setting up fake accounts for Sephora and inputting fake positive reviews. This, again, was directly communicated by Riley herself.

The FTC shared snippets of multiple emails sent by the CEO. In these emails, Riley urged her employees to always use a "virtual private network", or VPN, before writing fake reviews so they aren't traced back to the company."If you see a negative review -- DISLIKE it," Riley said in one of her emails to employees. "After enough dislikes, it is removed. This directly translates to sales!!"Most recently in April 2018, interns of the company were also asked to make fake Sephora accounts and write reviews of Sunday Riley skincare products.
So, yeah, really blatant, really fake, and really shady. This was a coordinated attempt to falsely manipulate the review system of Sephora for the purposes of fooling the public into buying more product. That certainly feels like about as blatant a case requiring FTC involvement as the fake review subject is going to get.And the FTC did get involved. It pushed Sunday Riley into settling with the agency. And boy, what a settlement it was.
As part of the settlement, Sunday Riley agreed not to write fake reviews. The company did not admit wrongdoing or receive any form of punishment.  FTC commissioners Chopra and Slaughter disagreed with the settlement, arguing that the company should have paid a higher price."Going forward, the FTC should seek monetary consequences for fake review fraud, even if the exact level of ill-gotten gains is difficult to measure," Chopra and Slaughter said in their letter."Today's proposed settlement includes no redress, no disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, no notice to consumers, and no admission of wrongdoing. Sunday Riley and its CEO have clearly broken the law, and the Commission has ordered that they not break the law again."
Yeah, that's basically right. The FTC settled with Sunday Riley by simply asking that they please not break the law and act so shitty again. Meanwhile, the company has admitted no wrong doing, paid no fine, or suffered any other consequence. Honestly, what the point of this FTC settlement is, is beyond me. Are we to reach settlements with thieves that consist of a request that they not steal any longer?

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