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Photo media duped by fake crowdfunding

In the infinite quest to keep fresh content published daily (and make a buck), the online photo media unintentionally promoted a potentially fraudulent crowdfunding campaign, which raised over $300K for a fictional camera battery with increased capacity.

The X-tra battery crowdfunding campaign even took advantage of its publicity. But how many of the above write-ups were in fact cash for comment?

In November 2020 CanonRumors broke the X-tra battery crowdfunding story, with the headline ‘Kickstarter: This Revolutionary Camera Battery will Lighten Your Bag and Change the Way You Shoot‘. The story was then picked up by the usual suspects: DPReview, Petapixel, Fstoppers, DIYPhotography, Digital Camera World, CineD, and other lesser-known publications.

Inside Imaging did not cover the X-tra battery campaign. Due to the risks of writing about an unknown party requesting funding for a non-existent product – not to mention our aversion to boring stories – we looked elsewhere for content that week.

But almost everything about the X-tra battery appeared legitimate. The KickStarter crowdfunding campaign includes a slick media kit including a flashy video, numerous product shots, and a press release. It would have taken considerable time and resources to create, although the hard work paid off big time.

The big alarm bell is that the two organisers, CEO Jeffrey Parker and CTO Arthur Lau, have virtually no online presence or affiliate company. They claim to be photographers and videographers, yet Googling the names yields no webpages proving they are who they say they are. When CanonRumors recently found the profile picture attached to Parker matched a Hong Kong-based stock photography model, the campaign started looking dodgy.

‘Jeffrey Parker’, from the X-tra battery crowdfunding campaign page.
Doppelgänger? A model from a stock photo agency looking very similar to ‘Jeffrey Parker’.

CanonRumors did most of the digging to reveal the Kickstarter campaign is most likely a scam, with the research prompted after the rumour website hadn’t received its affiliate fee for promoting the X-Tra battery:

‘I was signed up as an affiliate for the project, and I had spoken directly with the claimed CEO “Jeffrey”, and I was offered 20 percent of all sales driven to the project. Being the trusting readers you are, you folks laid out about $18,000 in backing the project, for which I had earned just shy of $3500. A decent sum to keep the lights on and the server churning.

On January 12, 2021, that payment was due to the Kickbooster platform to be handed out to all of the affiliates, it didn’t happen. Which isn’t highly unusual, sometimes payments are late. I reached out to Kickbooster and they told me that no one from the project had returned any communications about payment.’

This whole issue of websites being paid for enthusiastically promoting Kickstarter campaigns has been a revelation in itself. Who, as they say, knew?

In the original promotion of the X-tra Battery, CanonRumors didn’t disclose its promotional role. The rumour website was participating in an affiliate link program to generate a commission, but didn’t think informing its readership was something it should do. Habving been caught out, it has since apologised to readers.

A vicious 24-hours news cycle

Like all other online publications, Inside Imaging participates in the never-ending quest for fresh and interesting content. And it’s no secret that other websites are part of that quest – this is how we became aware of the X-tra battery scam!

A problem is that by plagiarising ‘appropriating’ content, some writers may not do their due diligence in researching and fact-checking a topic or exploring a new angle. There is an assumption someone else has done the ‘hard work’, but that’s not always the case. Unfortunately, there are more photo websites than their are trained journalists working on them.

 

 

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