Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Amway Exposed, Part Four: Amway and Free Speech

The right to free speech is one of our society's most basic values, and one of the many reasons why I'm proud to call myself an American. When groups or individuals act to keep people from speaking their mind, they undermine one of the fundamental values that we all hold dear.

So what does this have to do with Amway?

A Michlib diarist recently explained that Alticor lawyers used ethically questionable legal tactics in an attempt to bully a critic about the way that he discussed a recent lawsuit.

Regrettably, this is not the first time that Amway/Quixtar/Alticor has used these heavy-handed tactics to silence critics. Amway has a long history harassing its critics and taking other extreme measures to keep negative information about themselves from reaching the public.

Let's take a look at a few examples:

Free Speech and Internet Criticism
  • Amway politely requested that a website owner remove negative information about Amway from his site. When this website operator refused to change anything on his website, they came back and threatened him with trademark infringement. These threats had no basis, and appeared to be aimed scaring the website owner into taking down his website (so that this negative information about Amway would no longer be available to the general public). This happened under Dick DeVos' watch at Amway.

  • Another website owner critical of Amway was served an illogical subpoena by Amway to determine whether he had a relationship to Proctor and Gamble, who Amway was engaged in a legal battle with. In a similar case, a District Court judge ruled that Amway's search of a critic's hard drive was a "burden" and "irrelevant" to Amway vs. Proctor and Gamble.

    The site operator was forced to choose between giving over his hard drive or paying over an estimated $3,000 in legal fees. In the end, he felt that it was easiest to just give his hard drive to Amway. It turned out that there was no link between the website owner and Proctor and Gamble, contrary to what Amway accused. This ordeal, which lasted over two years, is detailed in full here. It seemed to be little more than Amway's attempt to harass one of its online critics, and happened under Dick DeVos' watch at Amway.

  • Amway openly slandered another online critic on its website.

  • MLMSurvivor.com explains how, in the face of increasing criticism on the internet, Amway changed its policies to allow its distributors to talk about Amway on their own web pages. The rules about what could be discussed on these pages were strict, and their aim was to drown out the negative information regarding Amway available on the 'net. It also details how Amway attempted to secure information off of the hard drive of another critic to look for possible causes of action against that critic. In other words, they wanted the critic's hard drive so that they could punish him for speaking out about Amway. This happened under Dick DeVos' watch at Amway.

  • As mentioned previously, Amway used unfair arbitration agreements to unfairly silence their critics. This happened under Dick DeVos' watch at Amway.

  • An overzealous Amway Diamond made a death threat to a potential critic. While Amway didn't do this itself, it is astounding that they created an environment that could lead to this kind of behavior.
"Google Bombing"

This is related to suppression of Internet criticism in particular. Amway made a concerted effort to push websites critical of Amway very low on the Google PageRank, so that they would show up much later in search results.

From USC Annenberg's Online Journalism Review, "Companies subvert search results to squelch criticism":
To put it simply, Quixtar enlisted various people to help create dozens of Weblogs that linked to each other and were filled with positive stories and key words. The idea is to help put these newer blogs at the top of search results for phrases such as "Quixtar success" and "Quixtar opportunity," while more critical sites such as Quixtar Blog and Amquix.info would drop down.
From Juicee News Daily, "What Is Google Bombing?":
Amway Quixtar leaders told members that the company had "hired geekoids who were spending their time Google bombing positive info about Quixtar so that the negative sites would be buried way down at the bottom of the Google list when a prospect types in Quixtar [in a search engine]. Nobody will even be able to find the negative sites anymore."
Other coverups
  • A former Amway distributor tells us about how Amway refused to put a warning label on its dangerous Amway metal cleaner product. Amway's representatives attempted to bully the victim into not going forward with his case and refused to put appropriations warning labels on their products. This happened under Dick DeVos' watch at Amway.

  • Amway acted to prohibit its distributors from selling their old motivational tapes. Interestingly, Amway did this despite the fact that they neither manufacture nor endorse these tapes. Given that the tapes are an essential aspect of the Amway system and have cheated Amway's distributors out of millions of dollars, it is no surprise that Amway would want to prevent their circulation. It is unfortunate that Amway distributors were deprived of their right to sell their own property in the process. This happened under Dick DeVos' watch at Amway.
Finally, you may be interested in an article on MLMsurvivor.com entitled "Amway's Vendetta Against Critics." It has a great summary of some of the things that Amway has done to keep negative information about themselves from getting out to the public. Here's an excerpt:
Has it never occurred to Amway that there is a reason, found in its own behavior and business conduct, which opens the door for all the criticism? Even a cursory examination of the lawsuits, past and present, filed by distributors against Amway and their upline shows an obvious pattern of impropriety, deception, outright fraud or illegalities perpetrated by "big pin" distributors and ignored by Amway Corp.


Neither would Amway's critics -- myself included -- have any reason to maintain these sites if Amway would clean up its own Augean stable and stop trying to blame us for being the messengers.
I agree. The only reason that anyone would engage in this kind of unethical behavior is if they had a history that they wanted to hide. Regardless of the legality or illegality of Amway's behavior, their actions say a lot about Dick DeVos' sense of ethics and his respect for free speech.

(cross-posted on Michigan Liberal... front paged!)


At 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally Ja Rule you right agen!


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