The Federal Trade Commission strictly enforces false advertising by for profit companies. There are severe and even criminal penalties. The recent case of infomercial star, Kevin Trudeau in Chicago, is an example of how far the FTC will go.
No one really enforces false advertising in the non-profit world. If there was enforcement, every single politician in America would be behind bars.
Two weeks ago, an advertising campaign for the "Miracle Machine" went viral on the internet. 600 news media entities reported on a machine that allegedly turned wine into water. The stories included a video with the two "inventors" of the "Miracle Machine" explaining how it works. (See below)
According to the stories and video, for $499 anyone can turn plain tap water into fine wine in three days. 7000 people signed up for more information on the machine's pending Kickstarter campaign.
The real campaign for the Miracle Machine was revealed. There is no "Miracle Machine". There is no turning water into wine in three days. The machine was an elaborate scheme for a non-profit group, "Wine to Water".
"Wine to Water" is a charity purporting to provide access to clean drinking water all over the world.
Trying to stay respectable, the news media is calling it a hoax. It was a scam, a fraud, racket, snow job,flimflam, hustle, and a con. It was dreamed up by charlatans and frauds at an ad agency doing pro bono work for the charity.
"In just under two weeks, the Miracle Machine went viral with over 500 million media impressions as more than 200,000 people watched the Miracle Machine video, nearly 600 media outlets around the world covered the story, 6,000 people tweeted about it, and 7,000 people signed up for a potential crowd-funding platform to invest in the faux machine." (PRNewswire)
Suckers are born every minute. 600 media organizations proved it by reporting a story with no verification. Journalists, editors, and upper management should seriously start questioning, checking, and double checking whether or not their mothers really love them. Maybe they should double check if their mothers are really their mothers.
What makes all this worse? The press release and interviews announcing the con game are full of hubris.
"I would quarrel with the idea that it’s a violation of trust," Allen Peterson, CEO of Wine to Water told FoxNews.com. "We are very serious about the crisis that affects 800 million people. Our ability to save one child’s life makes this all worth it, and the truth is that in today’s world there’s so much noise that it’s a difficult to get a real message through." (Fox News)
I would quarrel with Mr. Peterson. The truth is that in today's world there should be repercussions for charlatans and frauds in the non-profit world who scam the public with false advertising.
The news media should be appalled, not only at the scam, but at how easily they were conned.
So far no politicians are calling for heads to roll or new laws to be enacted. They would have to abide by those very laws too. There are no scathing editorials blasting this tactic. Not one negative peep.
There are only a lot of red faces.
Wine to Water and the advertising agency that created the scheme are going to get away with fraud. What they did was perfectly legal. The only thing non-profits, including politicians and political campaigns, cannot do is promote violence, murder, or incite people to serious criminal activity. Otherwise, the can lie all the way to the bank.
Fooling the media is perfectly acceptable. Scamming the public is socially responsible if it is for a good cause. Gee, who would want to deny "the children" clean drinking water?
Kevin Trudeau faces ten years in prison for doing something similar. If Trudeau ran a non-profit he would be free as a bird.
"Water to Wine" did a lot of damage to the non-profit world. Why would anyone want to part with their hard earned dollars to any charity now? If "Water to Wine can pull off such an elaborate scam, who is to say others are not charlatans and frauds?
Any charity can make a slick video, push it out, publicize it, send it viral on the Internet and reap rewards for lies.
There ought to be a law against this. There will not be. Politicians and political campaigns do not want to be held to the same standards as their for profit counterparts.
It is not legal to profit from lies. It is perfectly legal for non-profits to lie.
As that Russian comedian used to say, "What a country."
The video that scammed the world:
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