Ina and David Steiner Natick Massachusetts couple sue eBay for cyberstalking and harassment as a result of rebuke upon publishing reviews of the ecommerce site on the couple’s newsletter.
Ina and David Steiner claim eBay employees having ‘tortured’ them for two years after they posted online reviews about the site. Staffers allegedly sent the couple bizarre items, including a pig Halloween mask, insects and a book on losing a spouse.
‘It was just terrifying. We were attacked online, we were doxxed, we were sent intimidating packages, threats,’ Ina Steiner said during a Wednesday press conference. ‘We were really very afraid. . . it is not right.’
In their 93-page complaint filed in Boston federal court on Wednesday the couple accused the Silicon Valley company company of having engaged in a conspiracy to ‘intimidate, threaten to kill, torture, terrorize, stalk and silence them’ in order to ‘stifle their reporting on eBay.’
The Steiners, who run EcommerceBytes, an online newsletter focused on the e-commerce industry, say they found themselves on the receiving end of death threats, bizarre deliveries, and in-person surveillance from eBay workers beginning August, 2019, shortly after having published reviews of the site.
‘Never did we imagine doing our jobs as journalists would lead to this’
The lawsuit alleges conspiracy, stalking, racketeering, intentional infliction of emotional distress, vandalism, trespassing and false imprisonment. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages to be awarded by a jury.
It includes screenshots of text messages exchanges between then-eBay employees discussing plans to target Ina Steiner, saying they needed to ‘burn her to the ground’ and ‘STOP her.’
‘This has been an unbelievably difficult ordeal for my wife and I,’ David Steiner said in a statement Wednesday. ‘Never did we imagine doing our jobs as journalists would lead to this.
‘We want to protect the rights of reporters and their freedom of the press. We have endured enormous cruelty and abuse and feared for our lives. If this behavior can happen to us, it can happen to anyone.’
Several former eBay employees were charged last June for their roles in the harassment campaign. At least five have already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses but have not yet been sentenced WBZ-TV reports.
The Steiners’ lawsuit names more than a dozen defendants, among them eBay and some of its employees, including former Chief Executive Officer Devin Wenig; onetime eBay security executives James Baugh and David Harville; Philip Cooke, a former California police captain and supervisor of security operations for eBay’s European and Asian offices; Stephanie Popp, former senior manager of global intelligence, and Veronica Zea, a contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst.
Wenig has not been criminally charged and has denied knowing about the plot against the Steiners. He departed eBay with a $57million severance package.
‘We are very sorry for what they have endured…’
The campaign against the Steiners involved degrees of intimidation and hostilities, including the sending of unwanted items to their home, eBay employees allegedly taking out an ad on Craigslist inviting ‘singles, couples and swingers’ to come over to the newsletter publisher’s home to party each night.
More involved measures involved eBay employees sending private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the couples newsletter’s content, the posting of their home address, and threats to visit the victims, authorities said.
The campaign of intimidation culminated with the couple being under surveillance which led to police being involved. The defendants allegedly tried to thwart the ensuing police investigation which included deleting digital evidence, prosecutors said.
A representative from eBay told WBZ-TV in a statement that the events ‘should never have happened’ and said the company has told the Steiners that they are ‘very sorry for what they endured’.
‘The misconduct of these former employees was wrong, and we will do what is fair and appropriate to try to address what the Steiners went through. The events from 2019 should never have happened, and as eBay expressed to the Steiners, we are very sorry for what they endured,’ said eBay in their statement.
‘As noted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office when this matter first came to light, eBay cooperated fully with the government’s investigation, noting that ‘eBay was extremely cooperative with the investigation in helping state and federal authorities figure out what had happened and collect evidence of the crime.’’