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“Making A Murderer” viewers flock to Yelp to blast prosecutor Kratz

After watching the Netflix documentary series, “Making A Murderer,” people have flocked to the web to voice their outrage at the convictions of two Wisconsin natives.

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“Making A Murderer” documentary enrages America

The first places that many consumers visit for feedback on the quality of service for a local business is typically Yelp, Google Reviews, or other review sites — but what about how justice has been served?

That’s how viewers of Netflix’s explosive true-crime documentary, “Making A Murderer” are voicing their opinion about several people and their businesses portrayed in the ten-part series. The documentary focuses on the controversial murder investigation and subsequent trials surrounding the homicide of Teresa Halbach.

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While most online debates are typically held in forums such as Reddit or on Twitter, it has been reported that many viewers who are displeased with the outcome of the trial as represented in “Making a Murderer” are taking instead to Yelp to express their outrage in a more direct manner.

More specifically, viewers are posting negative reviews on the legal firm pages for one of the defense attorneys as well as Ken Kratz, the former prosecuting attorney who now uses the case to promote his private law firm.

Note from the Editor: The same has happened, but to a lesser extent at Len Kachinsky’s firm, Sisson Law, formerly Sisson & Kachinsky Law. According to Inquisitr, the firm has hidden the bio of Brendan Dassey’s court-appointed representation, and Kachinsky has been posting on his own Facebook page about anxiety over his cancer.

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Yelp alerts users to nature of reviews

Because of the amount and nature of recent reviews, Yelp has placed an active cleanup alert on Kratz’s law firm page and directs posters to use the Yelp Talk forum to voice their opinion on the news.

From the alert — “While we don’t take a stand one way or the other when it comes to these news events, we do work to remove both positive and negative posts that appear to be motivated more by the news coverage itself than the reviewer’s personal consumer experience with the business.”

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According to its Content Guidelines page, the intent of Yelp is for users to contribute reviews, and make sure that contributions are relevant and appropriate. As stated in the Relevance section, “…reviews aren’t the place for rants about a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience.”

Makes sense, but then Yelp indirectly calls viewers “vigilantes”

While Yelp itself may not take a public stand on these news events, someone at Yelp has enough of an opinion of these negative reviews. While attempting to capture an image of the alert, we noticed that the web page source code references this alert as “vigilante” as shown in this screen capture.

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Note from the Editor: While it remains Yelp’s goal to keep a pure ratings and review environment, calling users “vigilante” appears to be a new tactic we cannot find elsewhere on the site. Further, as a news organization, we believe strongly in the First Amendment right to free speech, and labeling people who disagree with a controversial outcome of a series of cases “vigilante” is questionable at best.

We have documented all reviews as of publication (see links above), as another case led to a scrubbing of a Yelp account long after the fact. In 2014, an Oklahoma bar owner said “no faggots” in his bar, and Yelp users created a parody site to call his business the “Best Gay Club” in the city with hundreds of “reviews”. That Yelp page now has no more than four “real” looking reviews, marking an alternative path Yelp has taken.

The controversy and debate over “Making A Murderer” continues long after the cameras have stopped rolling. Filmmaker Moira Demos stated in this December 30th CBS News article that “our question going in was never about guilt or innocence or about trying to solve this crime. It was really an exploration into the system.”

Kratz told CBS News that the Netflix series “leaves out key DNA and other evidence.”

Is hacker collective, Anonymous involved now?

In an interesting twist, a Twitter account allegedly associated to hacker collective Anonymous and a related group, Ghost Security, stated that the groups would be releasing hacked data that would expose wrongdoing in the murder case. Media sites and discussion forums had picked up that story, but it has now been reported as false.

According to the Ghost Security Twitter account, “#GhostSec is not at all affiliated with #MakingAMurderer” and directs media inquiries to the original poster. Whether this claim is merely someone trolling under the hacktivist moniker, or actually has relevant information remains to be seen.

The complications of public perception

A key observation of these events represented by and surrounding the documentary “Making a Murderer” is of the many facets and influences of public perception (which is ironically a continuing theme throughout the documentary). The perception created and presented by the news media as well as the television and film industry has always existed and been a profound influence of public opinion, but now there is the perception that can be created and propagated on social media and review sites by armchair vigilantes and judges.

Viewers may erroneously apply Occam’s razor for their own verdict despite not having all the evidence presented to the court. On the other hand, drawing attention to a controversial matter through documentary filmmaking and social media can be paramount in addressing an injustice. Errol Morris’ 1988 documentary film, THE THIN BLUE LINE, is a prime example of a film and its surrounding publicity influencing the outcome of a conviction, with the exoneration of its main subject Randall Dale Adams. A year after the film’s release, Adams’ case was reviewed and he was released after thirteen years of a life sentence for a crime that he did not commit.

On a less somber note, a simple lesson to be learned from the public use of review sites for expressing opinion is that as a business owner you should have some control and oversight of your online presence. While having the time and resources required to manage your content can be taxing and time-consuming, it’s important to be aware and be responsive of feedback on any crowd-sourced review site. Devoting time to online engagement beyond damage control is a way to ensure client acquisition and retention.

#MakingAMurderer

Story update, January 3: We were able to locate another instance of Yelp using the term “vigilante” and have removed the reference to Yelp in the title of this story.

Debbie Cerda is a seasoned writer and consultant, running Debra Cerda Consulting as well as handling business development at data-driven app development company, Blue Treble Solutions. She's a proud and active member of Austin Film Critics Association and the American Homebrewers Association, and Outreach Director for science fiction film festival, Other Worlds Austin. She has been very involved in the tech scene in Austin for over 15 years, so whether you meet her at Sundance Film Festival, SXSWi, Austin Women in Technology, or BASHH, she'll have a connection or idea to help you achieve business success. At the very least, she can recommend a film to watch and a great local craft beer to drink.

Social Media

Why Trump’s lawsuit against social media still matters

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Former President Trump snagged headlines for suing every large social media platform, and it has gone quiet, but it still deeply matters.

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It was splashed across headlines everywhere in July: Former President Trump filed a lawsuit against social media platforms that he claims unrightfully banned him during and after the fallout of the January 6th capitol riots. The headlines ran for about a week or so and then fell off the radar as other, fresher, just-as-juicy news headlines captured the media’s eye.

Many of us were left wondering what that was all about and if anything ever became of it. For even more of us, it probably passed out of our minds completely. Lack of public awareness for these things is common after the initial media blitz fades.

Lawsuits like these in the US can take months, if not years between newsworthy milestones. The most recent news I could find as of this publishing is from August 24, 2021, on Yahoo! News from the Washington Examiner discussing the Trump camp’s request for a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit.

This particular suit shouldn’t be left to fade from memory in the shadows though, and here’s why:

In the past few years, world powers have been reigning in regulations on social media and internet commerce. The US is actually a little behind the curve. Trump may have unwittingly given us a source of momentum to get with the times.

In the European Union, they have the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), widely acknowledged to be one of the toughest and most thorough privacy laws in the world, a bold title. China just passed its own pair of laws in the past four months: The Data Security Law, which took effect on Sept. 1, and The Personal Information Law, set to take effect November 1st. The pair is poised to give the GDPR a run for its money for that title.

Meanwhile, in the US, Congress has been occupied with other things and, while there are five bills that took aim at tech monopoly currently on the table and a few CEOs had to answer some questions, little actual movement or progress has been made on making similar privacy protections a thing in the United States.

Trump’s lawsuit, while labeled by many as a toothless public relations move, may actually create momentum needed to push regulation of tech and social media forward in the US. The merits of the case are weak and ultimately the legislation that would give it teeth doesn’t exist yet.

You can’t hold tech companies accountable to a standard that doesn’t properly exist in law.

However, high profile attention and someone willing to continue to make noise and bring attention back to the subject, one of Trump’s strongest talents, could be “just what the doctor ordered” to inspire Congress to make internet user rights and data privacy a priority in the US, finally.

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Social Media

Even solopreneurs are doing live commerce online – it’s not just QVC’s game anymore

(SOCIAL MEDIA) When you think of watching a show and buying things in real time, it invokes thoughts of QVC, but social media video has changed all that.

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After the year everyone has had, one wouldn’t be remiss in thinking that humanity wants a break from live streaming. They would, however, be wrong: Live online commerce – a method of conversion first normalized in China – is the next evolution of the ubiquitous e-commerce experience, which means it’s something you’ll want on your radar.

Chinese company, Alibaba first live streamed on an e-commerce site in 2016, allowing buyers to watch, interact with, and buy from sellers from the comfort of their homes. In 2020, that same strategy netted Alibaba $7.5 billion in presale revenue – and it only took 30 minutes, according to McKinsey Digital.

But, though western audiences have proven a desire to be just as involved with sellers during the buying process, live commerce hasn’t taken off here the way it has elsewhere. If e-commerce merchants want to maximize their returns in the next few years, that needs to change.

McKinsey Digital points out a couple of different benefits for organizations using live commerce, the main one being an influx in traffic. Live streaming events break the buying experience mold, and consumers love being surprised. You can expect that prospective buyers who wouldn’t necessarily visit your store under normal circumstances would find value in attending a live event.

Live events also keep people on your site for longer, resulting in richer conversion opportunities.

The sense of urgency inherent in in-person shopping doesn’t always translate to online markets, but having a stream showing decreasing inventory or limited-availability items being sold inspires people to act expeditiously rather than sitting on a loaded cart–something that can kill an e-commerce conversion as quickly as it starts one.

There are a ton of different ways to incorporate live events into your e-commerce campaigns. Virtual auctions are popular, as are markets in which individual sellers take buyers through inventory. However, the live event could be tangentially related–or even just something impressive running in parallel with the sale–and still bring in a swell of revenue.

Screen fatigue is real, and there isn’t a true substitute for a brick-and-mortar experience when done correctly. But if you have an e-commerce shop that isn’t utilizing some form of live entertainment–even just to bring in new buyers–you’re going to want to try this strategy soon.

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Social Media

LinkedIn is nixing Stories this month (LinkedIn had Stories!?)

(SOCIAL MEDIA) LinkedIn tried to be like the cool kids and launched “Stories,” but the video feature is being shelved and “reimagined.” Ok.

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Creating the next big thing is essential for social networks to stay relevant, continue growing, and avoid shutting down. Sometimes, this leads to businesses trying to ride along with the success of another app’s latest feature and creating their cloned version. While the logic of recreating something already working makes sense, the results aren’t universal.

This time around, LinkedIn is saying goodbye to its short-lived Snapchat-like video product, Stories. In a company post, LinkedIn says it’s removing its Stories experience by the end of September.

Why is LinkedIn retiring Stories?

According to a post by Senior Director of Product at LinkedIn Liz Li, “[LinkedIn] introduced Stories last year as a fun and casual way to share quick video updates.”

After some testing and feedback, they learned this is not what users wanted. Seems like they could have beta tested with users and heard the same thing, but I digress.

“In developing Stories, we assumed people wouldn’t want informal videos attached to their profile, and that ephemerality would reduce barriers that people feel about posting. Turns out, you want to create lasting videos that tell your professional story in a more personal way and that showcase both your personality and expertise,” said Li.

What does this mean for users?

Starting on September 30, 2021, users will no longer be able to create Stories for Pages. If you’ve already planned to have an image or video ads run in-between Stories, they will now appear on the LinkedIn feed instead. For those who used Campaign Manager to promote or sponsor a Story directly from your Page, the company says “these paid Stories will not appear in the LinkedIn feed”, and the user will need to recreate the ad in Campaign Manager.

What’s next for LinkedIn?

According to Li, LinkedIn is taking what it learned from its finding to “evolve the Stories format into a reimagined video experience across LinkedIn that’s even richer and more conversational.” It plans on doing so by using mixed media and the creative tools of Stories.

“As we reimagine what is next, we’re focusing on how we can provide you with a short-form, rich interactive video format that is unique to our platform and that better helps you reach and engage your audiences on LinkedIn. We’re always excited to try out new things and learn as we go, and will continue to share updates along the way,” the company said.

Although Stories didn’t work well for LinkedIn as they hoped, one thing is for sure. LinkedIn isn’t giving up on some form of interactive video, and we can only hope they “reimagine” something unique that keeps users coming back for more.

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