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Mafia Wars CEO Brags About Scamming Users 251

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
jamie writes with a follow-up to our recent discussion of social gaming scams: "Mark Pincus, CEO of the company that brought us Mafia Wars, says: 'I did every horrible thing in the book just to get revenues right away. I mean, we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this Zwinky toolbar, which was like, I don't know... I downloaded it once and couldn't get rid of it.'" TechCrunch also ran a interesting tell-all from the CEO of a company specializing in Facebook advertisements, who provided some details on similarly shady operations at the popular social networking site.
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Mafia Wars CEO Brags About Scamming Users

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  • Business men (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tibia1 (1615959) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:30AM (#30070548)
    This is just a business man summing up to the obvious things that run this sort of business. If you don't control your product to maximize revenues, you are decreasing your wealth.
  • by Xerfas (1625945) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:43AM (#30070594) Journal
    A friend of mine wrote a program which installed on the users computer even when you clicked "No" on the do you wish to install this application in Internet Explorer. This was to reconnect the users modem to a modempool his boss had which was very hard to get rid off, because he wrote it very viral like. Remove one or 2-3 parts and suddenly you had it again.
    When I spoke to his boss about this and other stuff he had on their rippoff of the hotornot site he just shrugged and said it's in a gray area and not illegal yet so I don't care.
    People like this will always be out there and they don't care how they make money or who gets hurt as long as they have a nice income.
  • by YeeHaW_Jelte (451855) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:48AM (#30070610) Homepage

    ... when people feel they need to get rich. This guy phrases it as 'controlling his destiny' to get profits as soon as possible, which IMHO reeks of addiction to money. And lets face it, some of the really rich people who control or own more or less reputable companies now have probably done some pretty shady things in the beginning of their career just to get to that point. Some probably just get there by chance, because they happen to have a talent that more or less by coincidence generates money, but some start with a real _need_ for money and power, which is a good incentive to not be too picky about morals and ethics. Thinks about real estate e.g., where lots of people are speculating hoping to get rich and ruthlessness can give you a real advantage.

    I read about a research a while ago (years, sorry no source) that states that acquiring large sums of money creates the same kind of euphoria as for instance using cocaine as it causes the same neurotransmitters to be produced in the brain. Irrational need for more and more money is a real addiction I think and should be treated as such.

    The only remarkable thing this guys is doing is being open and forward about it.

  • by Xerfas (1625945) * on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:36AM (#30070806) Journal

    I read about a research a while ago (years, sorry no source) that states that acquiring large sums of money creates the same kind of euphoria as for instance using cocaine as it causes the same neurotransmitters to be produced in the brain. Irrational need for more and more money is a real addiction I think and should be treated as such.

    Did you mean something like this? http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111579154 [npr.org] though it's more related to love according to this article.

    Researcher Xinyue Zhou, of the department of psychology at Sun Yat-Sen University in China, puts it in very human terms. "We think money works as a substitute for another pain buffer -- love."

    And they link to this pdf http://www.csom.umn.edu/assets/127771.pdf [umn.edu]
    Seems like if you handle money you can endure certain amounts of pain a bit more if the study is correct and you feel more strength.

  • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @07:44AM (#30071062)

    Whenever corporate mismanagement causes some calamity, people invariably decry the people responsible as "greedy bastards", "short-sighted morons", and so on. Although these statements are true, stating them is useless: greed, as a part of human nature, is here to stay. And organizations invariably elevate their most greedy and ambitious members because these are people are the ones who will exploit the rules to their advantage. Thus, given that greedy people will inevitably be in positions of power, we need to construct rules which ensure that this greed doesn't harm society. These rules need to make it the greedy party's interest to be a good participant in society.

    We seem to ignore this principle. Over and over again, we fume and demand that companies and individuals be more responsible and respectful. Yet hardly anyone talks about implementing rules that would actually limit the damage.

    A huge number of people believe that if society were just free of constraints, it'd organize itself into an efficient, elegant system and solve all our problems. That's wishful thinking. Greedy people will take advantage of inside connections, of special knowledge, and of outright dishonesty to screw over everyone else. And as much as we'd like to believe that the screwed will respond by researching their own information and leveling the playing field, doesn't actually happen, and won't.

    First of all, even if everyone were equally capable, the screwing party has more time to research a particular type of transaction than the screwed party, so the asymmetry is really built-in. Second, not everyone is equally capable. As Larry Summers famously wrote, "There are idiots. Look around." Sometimes people can't help being idiots. Does that mean they deserve to be exploited? How far does that extend? Do people deserve to be exploited because they haven't studied browser security, or because they're not privy to office gossip, or because they don't have the social skills to network their way out of sticky situations?

    We're going to keep seeing "X screwed over by powerful greedy person Y" stories until we use political channels to create new regulations that makes it in the best interests of the greedy to play nice with society. We can talk about the form these regulations should take. (IMHO, I think it's pretty clear we need far stronger privacy laws in the US.) What won't work is complaining that corporations are greedy. What won't work is trying to make laws while under the delusion that everyone is a rational actor with full access to relevant information. What might work is a determined effort to restore a sense of fair play and balance to our laws and institutions.

    --

    tl;dr: greed is a fact of life, and crying about it won't do any good. We need effective and strong regulation to prevent the greed that invariably appears from hurting the rest of us.

  • Not Surprising (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zaffir (546764) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @08:34AM (#30071224)

    Considering Zynga shamelessly rips off the games of others (go look at FarmTown, released ~6 months before FarmVille), that he'd be ok with scamming people is not shocking.

  • Re:Business men (Score:3, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @08:48AM (#30071284) Journal

    I don't have a kid but if I did I'm put them on the $5/month. (i.e. The same one I have.) You get 5 dollars each month credited to your phone, and if you run-out, too bad. You should have learned to budget your money more wisely.

    And if a child does charge a credit card or cellphone, per consumer protection law, that charge is illegal and can be charged-back by your credit card company.

  • Re:Business men (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Eivind Eklund (5161) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @09:20AM (#30071500) Journal

    I really, really wish "Kids don't need cell phones" was true. And it may be that it is some places. Unfortunately, it also seems that it is a real need in some places: Lacking a cell phone will totally cut the kid off from their social circle, because very large parts of communication goes by SMS.

    It's the same with net access; I personally believe that kids would mature better if they were all without cell phones and unmonitored net access until they're well into their teens. Alas, when almost all kids get cellphones and net access, denying to just one kid makes that kid an outcast :-(

    Eivind.

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @10:09AM (#30072020)

    Wow, and I had "admin" rights on a computer before I was 10.

    You have the exact opposite remembering of "back in the day" than I do.

    I remember being allowed to walk the street at nights with friends, now I see parents driving their kids everywhere because of the evil pedophiles.

    I remember going camping for a week with three friends when we were 13 - packing our own stuff (food, etc), catching the train for four hours, walking an hour or so to the camp site, and staying there for a week. No cell phones and with no way to be contacted at all. I suspect the parents would be thrown in jail today...

  • by houghi (78078) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @11:31AM (#30073164)

    I would NEVER lie to get sex. Hey wait, perhaps that is why I ain't getting any.

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @02:12PM (#30075938) Homepage

    So most of these scam networks block Northern California, to prevent Facebook HQ from seeing them? So that's why I don't see them. I'm a few miles from Facebook HQ. I've completely missed this phenomenon.

    I'd applied SiteTruth [sitetruth.com] to Google ads, trying to warn users about the "bottom feeders" [sitetruth.com] with no identifiable legitimate business behind the ad. Myspace is mostly Google ads, so that's covered. Google ads in general are about 35% "bottom feeders" (we track this), but on Myspace, the percentage is much higher. From the article, Facebook has a similar problem, but it's mostly in the form of Facebook-specific ads, games, etc. We're not catching those.

    Maybe it's time to do that.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @02:18PM (#30076064) Homepage Journal

    What's the difference between greed and ambition?

    I just kind of wanted to hazard a partially thought out response to this:

    Lack of valuation of the self over valuation of the 'better'

    In other words, greed, by definition, is inherently self-serving. I would not postulate that ambition is inherently self-serving. I can be ambitious in wanting to invent a new launch system that makes space access cheap and affordable for mankind. While this does benefit me, it also benefits my peers as well as the pursuit of exploration and science in general. Thus, ambition can drive me to do something for values that serve many, not only the individual. Also, my ambition may be to make society better by making it freer. Again, it does benefit me, but it also benefits the advancement of the species and, for that matter, philosophy in general (see John Locke). Greed, however, places the value of the individual first and foremost. What helps me? Not, what is 'best?'

    Now of course there will be some objectivists here who want to smack me for use of the 'subjective' term 'better' in my explanation, but I would postulate that 'better' is not a subjective entity. In fact, I would go further to say that the idea of 'better,' the idea of good, of quality, if you will, is actually outside the idea of both objectivity and subjectivity. I could type all day about this subject but will save everyone that eyesore of a post. Instead, if you want to discuss the philosophical implications of the idea of 'best' being the ultimate source of reality (and no, this is neither orthodoxy nor God-theory) I will leave it to the reader to e-mail or contact me by some other means (BJ_Covert_Action@hotmail.com).

  • by DavidTC (10147) <[slas45dxsvadiv. ... ] [neverbox.com]> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @02:51PM (#30076668) Homepage

    And why a capital gains tax at all? If I put money in the bank it earns interest - isn't investing similar?

    If you earn interest in a bank it is taxed, you loon.

    That's what everyone's talking about...the middle class put money in banks, at 2% interest, and pay income taxes on the interest.

    In fact, the tax hurts so much we invented all sorts of tax-deferment stuff like 401K accounts and stuff for the middle class to use.

    These were entirely invented to us pay the income taxes, and interest taxes, on that stuff when we get the money out, instead of every year...and when we getting the money out, we'll be retired, making less money than now, and hopefully be in a lower tax bracket so pay less.

    The rich, however, put their money in stocks, get three times the return, and pay the capital gains tax rate, which is about half the income tax rate. (Or, at least, half the rate for people with enough money to store some.)

    As for having 'no incomes'...losing at gambling, or the stock market (pretending that counted as 'income'), does not mean you do not need to pay taxes.

    Now, if you gamble a lot, and win, you can actually deduce your loses from your winning. If you make $20,000 a year, and purchase $1000 worth of a lottery tickets in a year, and win $5000, you actually had an income of only $24,000, assuming you can actually document your purchases to the IRS.

    But if you purchased $1000 worth of lottery tickets and lost every time, you had an income of $20,000. If you won $100, you had an income of $20,000, because you can only count $100 worth of tickets. Gambling losses only count towards canceling out the actual income you made gambling.

It is better to give than to lend, and it costs about the same.

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