December 21, 2015

Arstechnica has an interesting piece this morning. As you know if you've been reading C&L for a while, tasers are dangerously misused as "non-lethal" compliance weapons, and hundreds are dead as a result. Taser International is infamous for threatening coroners who want to list Tasers as a cause of death, so I hope this documentary gets this company the kind of attention they deserve:

I know I'll be watching it this week!

Some one-star reviews posted on Amazon and iTunes for Killing Them Safely, a documentary film looking at the Taser stun guns and the safety issues around them, appear to have been posted by Taser International employees, using their own names. The dangers of Tasers are contested by the manufacturer and law enforcement agencies deploying the weapons, and the employees seem to be taking to the user reviews to express their dissatisfaction with the film.

The film's director, Nick Berardini, spotted one dubious review on iTunes, purporting to come from one Uriel Halioua. The review complains that the film is "poorly narrated"—in true user review form, Halioua appears not to have even watched the film, as Berardini says it has no narration—and concludes that it's "swill." The name Uriel Halioua is an uncommon one, but one person who does appear to be blessed with it just happens to work as a pre-sales systems engineer at Taser International.

Peculiarly, that review seems now to have been deleted and reposted by a different user, "BobRossRocks."

The article goes on to list other employee reviews found by Twitter users.

[...] The Guardian lists another review, this time on Amazon, from a Robert Lovering calling the film a "Waste of time" and "extremely boring." As luck would have it, a Bob Lovering is "Director of Inside Sales" at Taser International.

Some companies have been apologetic when such behavior was uncovered. Harmonix staff were found to have posted positive reviews for Rock Band 4, actions that led the company to apologize, and the reviews were deleted or edited to note the employment relationship.

Taser's approach seems to be a little different. The Guardian asked Steve Tuttle, Taser's vice-president for strategic communications, if he felt that staff should disclose their employment when reviewing reviews of the documentary. He told the newspaper, "Are you fucking joking? It's a free country and they can do what they want."

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