The lawsuit alleges that eBay employees mailed packages containing live cockroaches and spiders to a married Massachusetts couple.
A Massachusetts couple has filed a lawsuit against eBay, claiming its former employees targeted them with intimidation, harassment, and cyber-stalking.
CBS News reports that the lawsuit was filed by David and Ina Steiner, who run and own the website EcommerceBytes. In their complaint, the Steiners say that former eBay employees engaged in a conspiracy to “intimidate, threaten to kill, torture, terrorize, stalk and silence them,” in order to “stifle their reporting on eBay.”
David and Ina Steiner say that eBay personnel sent numerous death threats, as well as bizarre package deliveries intended to scare them.
According to the lawsuit, some members of eBay’s security team conducted in-person surveillance of them, too.
“This has been an unbelievably difficult ordeal for my wife and I,” David Steiner said in a Wednesday statement. “Never did we imagine doing our jobs as journalists would lead to this. We want to protect the rights of reporters and the freedom of the press.
“We have endured enormous cruelty and abuse and feared for our lives,” he added. “If this behavior can happen to us, it can happen to anyone.”
While the allegations may seem unbelievable, they were investigated and substantiated by federal investigators.
According to CBS News, prosecutors said that eBay executives, upset with the Steiners’ negative coverage of the company on EcommerceBytes, decided to take action against the couple.
The harassment campaign against the Steiners included deliveries of live cockroaches and spiders, a funeral wreath, and a bloody, pig-faced Halloween mask.
Some eBay employees also subscribed to pornographic magazines under David’s name, which they then had sent to neighbors’ homes. Other security personnel conspired to plant a GPS device on the couple’s car.
“The Steiners were paralyzed with fear,” the lawsuit states. “The unrelenting stream of threats to kill, disturbing deliveries, as well as the physical surveillance caused the Steiners to suffer from significant and continuing emotional distress, including but not limited to, anxiety, panic attacks, persistent and debilitating concerns about their physical safety, habitual insomnia, embarrassment, humiliation, shame and perpetual fear that they are being followed and tracked, all of which suffering continues now and will continue in the future.”
Several eBay personnel were charged for their role in the harassment campaign last summer; five have already pleaded guilty.
Last year, then-U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling explained eBay’s actions, saying the company did everything it could to silence the Steiners.
“This was a determined, systematic effort by senior employees of a major company to destroy the lives of a couple in Natick [Massachusetts] all because they published content that company executives didn’t like,” Lelling said last year.