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I'm wondering about the legality of a practice, for which I can only think to title it "sock puppet site ad revenue farming by recycling articles". I don't know what else to call this, what I've found. It's run by some rich dude, and after investigating, I understand now why he's rich. I'm wondering about the legality of this, and I can't find the answer online.

Here's the deal:

There is one website that is fairly popular among computer geeks, which is part of a "network" of other websites. This network of websites is properly registered to him, in the USA. It's headquartered at a bank, though. (Thanks, Google Maps.)

I found out through other means that he also owns another "network" of websites, which recycles all the same stories from his main news network. These websites are registered in Canada. They're definitely the same network - they left behind an accidental link from one network to the next. Besides the accidental link between the networks, I can be certain that they are the same - they use the same methods. The second network which recycles the first network's stories shares the exact same layout, posting method, and About pages are the same (just reworded).

From the second network, I found a third network in a similar way. Again, it just recycles all the same news stories as the first. Same layout, same About page.


I'm still looking for more site networks, but the reason I question the legality of this is due to the international registration of multiple domains to generate ad revenue by recycling stories across sock puppet networks, giving the impression of multiple, independent companies. These seem to be fraudulent websites, but I am not trained in nuanced legal matters.

... "sock puppeted news" ...

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    Why do you think this would be illegal? It's obviously that person's property, they can largely do whatever they want to do with it. – Nij Dec 20 '16 at 8:53
  • @Nij: The international website registrations (whereas he is a US resident). Also, I wonder if the multiple reuse of intellectual property for the sake of generating greater ad revenue constitutes fraud. Again, I'm not trained in legal matters, which is why I'm asking. – user10207 Dec 20 '16 at 8:55
  • If either of those things was actually illegal in any way, thousands of businesses worth billions of dollars would be prime targets for prosecution. – Nij Dec 20 '16 at 10:49
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...due to the international registration of multiple domains to generate ad revenue by recycling stories across sock puppet networks, giving the impression of multiple, independent companies.

None of that is illegal on its face. Internet domains are freely registerable by anyone, anywhere (with the exception of some laws in some nations that restrict such Internet-related activity), and registered privately or publicly, and websites can be hosted anywhere. Writing articles and "spinning" and copying articles (even if that writing is sales gibberish in broken English) among the same copyright owner is legal, and using the same design and layout for a network of sites is legal. The formation of multiple, related companies and shell companies to give the impression that companies are separate and independent is legal (again, with the exception of some business and corporate laws in some nations that restrict such activity).

These are all common business practices. Some business practices may appear to be unethical - trying to fool customers in order to make money and get clicks and sell ads. And what you may be feeling is that such activity is unethical. And that's OK. But feeling that they are unethical doesn't make the practices illegal. Many common activities that are considered to be unethical are illegal; but not all. Buyer beware.

One way some of that activity may be illegal is if those articles are factually incorrect and promote quack medical treatments, are financial scams requiring payments, are gambling sites or promote other clearly illegal things. But then you get into the complexity of exactly how they are illegal, which jurisdictions are involved, and on and on.

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