Trolls and touts

Well, I thought I’d better blog something before people think we’ve vanished. We’ve just been too busy. But recently something happened that tied together two previous blog posts.

Trolls have become an increasing problem in the online space. The whole point of the crowdfunding regs is to give voice to the crowd, to enable retail investors to make informed investment decisions by learning from each other’s comments and questions and the issuers’ responses. They can’t do that when trolls interfere with the communication channels, posting the same content and saying the same things again and again, especially when they do so under several different identities. “Just asking questions” is not actually adding to the debate here. In some cases it’s a bit of a mystery as to what they are trying to achieve.

The objectives of touts, however, is clearer. Money. An SEC case this week involved a “stealth PR” outfit that was paid to place stories about an issuer in order to pump up its stock price. Doing so without disclosing that the tout was being compensated is a clear violation of Section 17(b) of the Securities Act.

So why am I linking these two things? Because crowdfunding investors seeing Annabella and Lance and Fred all making essentially the same comments on a crowdfunding chat function might be well-advised to consider whether these people (a) may be the same person, and (b) may not be “just asking questions” but have a deeper, more sinister motive. And when that happens, I believe that funding portals have the right to remove “Anabella” and all her clones from their communication channels.

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