Prosecution via press release

Topix CEO Chris Tolles says it’s “Pissed off people, not illegality, is the issue to watch,” TechCrunch carries the story When Attorneys General Attack.

This is going to happen more – The States’ Attorneys General are the place that complaints about your company will probably end up. This is especially true if you host a social or community based site where people can post things that others may dislike. And, there’s no downside to attacking a company based in California for these guys (MyScape, Facebook, Craigslist have all been targets in the past couple of years). Taking complaints from your citizenry and turning them into political capital is simply too good an opportunity for these guys to pass up.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition – Unlike most other people in business who will attempt to reach out to you to get what they want, and use the threat of going public as a tool, our experience is that the offices of the Attorneys’ General seem to be most happy communicating via press conference, without any sort of preliminaries. This is primarily a political exercise, and you’re dealing with people who are very empowered to make life difficult for you.

Consumer protection is a valid concern for the AG. Care is needed to keep that concern from going viral. As consumers are more plugged in to international commercial networks, the opportunities for misunderstandings and complaint grows. Talking to the press first rather than trying to resolve things directly with the source of the itch is saying that politics has priority over solution. That is prosecutorial misconduct.

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