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The Accidental Typo on Purpose

How deceptive MLMers try to evade regulators in the COVID era.

| Jason Bagley

Much like the accidental text on purpose, in which someone intentionally sends a text to the wrong person to gain an advantage over that person without their knowledge, the accidental typo on purpose is rooted in subterfuge. If you haven’t heard of this term before, that’s because I just made it up.

Here’s how the ruse works: An MLM distributor who knows they’re not supposed to make deceptive claims in their marketing purposely misspells a word using special characters instead of letters in order to avoid being noticed by regulators. They know that if regulators could spot the word, they could be in trouble.

Take this image from a Jan. 28 Facebook post by a high-level distributor of doTerra, an MLM that sells essential oils and supplements:

If you’re thinking, “Hey, that’s not how you spell COVID,” you’re right! But the intent is clear. And with continued regulatory scrutiny of COVID claims, both by the Federal Trade Commission and by the Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council, you can understand why a distributor who is trying to avoid that kind of attention would write in code: Regulators are just as capable as marketers of using algorithms to achieve their goals, and if they’ve programmed an algorithm to find deceptive “COVID” claims, it may not catch alternate spellings. (The doTerra distributor was less cryptic in the caption of the post, mentioning “COVID-19” several times; Facebook, which employs its own algorithms to weed out COVID misinformation, flagged the post for containing coronavirus-related content.)

How about another example? This one comes from a distributor of BlackOxygen Organics, aka BOO, ostensibly posted on social media before the MLM selling “magic dirt” announced in November that it was closing operations:

Is it a coincidence that the only word in the post that might get picked up by an algorithm monitoring COVID claims – “transmission” – is spelled with a combination of letters and special characters? I guess you could say I’m [email protected]

Jason Bagley

Jason Bagley, writer at TINA.org, is still romantic about journalism and believes in its power to educate and inform.

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