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Is HubPages Catering to Scrapers and Identity Thieves?

By Edited Feb 7, 2015 2 18

Will You Cash Out Before the Edmondsons?

Danny's winnings
Credit: Jessica Spengler on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

If you are wondering why HubPages has been making drastic changes to their policies and editorial "process," I have some disturbing (yet plausible) theories.

Ever since Squidoo sold out to HubPages, I've been baffled by some of the flak I've received. This comment made me question how some people were making money:

"Rose, some of us write stuff on the web to make money and not to get featured. Some of us don't even care much if some of the things we write are even read! Some of us don't really care where an article exists either so long as it's making us money."[1]

I must be naive, because I couldn't for the life of me figure out what this person meant. It was later I realized he was talking about the sale of content or websites and anything related to that "industry."

Backtracking a Bit

Most of you know that HubPages is still posting my former Squidoo identity, profile information (minus a link to my work here on InfoBarrel), and content. But what strengthens my case about Hubber Scores being meant for a third party buyer is the fact that my Hubber Score has actually gone up.
I haven't edited any of those lenses (articles) since 2013. Futhermore, I removed hundreds of links to my former work. Remember, I never joined HubPages - so I don't participate on the site at all.
The myths you've been led to believe by shills has finally been exposed and I think when you examine HubPages and their Terms of Use (TOU) closely, you'll understand the underlying reasons for these seemingly senseless decisions.

Strange Policy Decision No. 1

New Product to Word Ratio Rule on HubPages (Cartoon)
Credit: RoseWrites on InfoBarrel / All rights reserved

Underlying Reason?

Account Inactivity = 100% Profit

In order to profit the most from dead or inactive authors, HubPages doesn't want you to flag Hubs (articles) in violation. It's also the reason some horrible Hubs are still published. Remember, HubPages also internally allocates all Amazon and eBay revenue.

No one has emailed me from HubPages to let me know how much my work has been earning - nor my eBay and Amazon sales. And would I trust their "reports" anyways? No.

Oh but HubPages covered that in their TOU too, it states:

"Payment shall be calculated and based on records maintained by HubPages...No other data or statistics shall be accepted by HubPages or have any effect with respect to the HubPages Earnings Program."[2]

Even People Who Don't Like Me

Are Scratching Their Heads Wondering WTF?

In the post Editor’s Choice: Now With More Awesome![3] I scanned through the commentary and couldn't help but notice Paul Edmondson and his staff couldn't come up with anything tangible to sell this new EC program to authors with a brain.

In fact, Writer Fox had the guts to state the obvious. It's detrimental to change URLs. Not only that, numerous authors reported a significant [traffic] decrease in the program, she wrote.

Some people stated that if their subdomains were included, they'd go for it.

Ha! I'll give you one good reason why they don't want subdomains: authorship. You'll understand this point later on.

Boneheaded Decision No. 2

Paul discussing the "sale" of certain content and user info (Cartoon)
Credit: RoseWrites on InfoBarrel / All rights reserved

Wrong Emphasis

Don't You Think?

Rather than get rid of poor content, Paul Edmondson actually stated:

"If everyone took the Hubs that generate 80% of their traffic and made them EC quality, we would surely surpass this [arbitrary] threshold." 

I couldn't help but think what he really meant was: "Keep on tweaking your highest ranked work so scrapers can keep paying us top dollar for it."

When Greed Gets Out of Hand

Robin E. responds to author Aneegma on HubPages
Credit: RoseWrites on InfoBarrel / All rights reserved

Seems the Edmondsons are Unstoppable

In the forum thread titled Who messed with my hubs??!![4] I couldn't help but feel a kinship with the author who discovered someone had edited her work without her prior permission. 

I was appalled to read:

"I'm totally unhappy with the edits as they've practically wiped out my entire article and put in their own and the new one has no sign that I wrote it."

If you think this author is exaggerating, just take a peek at the following comments by others.

Writer Fox sums up the edited version
Credit: RoseWrites on InfoBarrel
calculus-geometry comment
Credit: RoseWrites on InfoBarrel
Writer Fox notes "editor" removed 650 words
Credit: RoseWrites on InfoBarrel
Phyllis Doyle comment
Credit: RoseWrites on InfoBarrel

It's Deja Vu All Over Again

Yeah, this line is definitely worth repeating: "Since you did not receive any communication from her, you did not have her permission and input. This is very unethical on the part of HP staff."

But Robin Edmondson pressed on and at one point stated:

"We will continue to iterate on HubPro. We are putting considerable resources into our editing service and wouldn't be doing so if we weren't fully committed to its importance to the site's future." 

Writer Fox was quick to point out:

"Have any of the editors written a Hub which consistently receives 500 views a day?  No?  Then, they probably don't know how to 'improve' a Hub which is getting that kind of traffic and it is dangerous to turn them loose on the best performing Hubs and let them try."

Who Are These "Editors"?

Writer Fox finds out about the "editors" on HubPages
Credit: RoseWrites on InfoBarrel

After Three Unanswered Emails

Robin Feels Someone Else Can Edit It

Robin's 3 emails-and-it's-ours excuse
Credit: RoseWrites on InfoBarrel

Now, Do You Feel HubPages

Can Be Trusted With Your Tax Information?

I sure hope not.

And that is one of the reasons I never joined HubPages. 

Did you know that HubPages states in their TOU that inactivity includes:

"An account with expired tax information that is greater than six (6) months beyond the date of such expiration."

What that means is "the entire amount of an Earned Balance in Your account will be permanently forfeit by You."[2]

Here's The Truth

HubPages Does Not Need Your SSN

HubPages does not send users a 1099 form of any kind. Payments are made via third party networks (PayPal) and are reported on Form 1099-K. And, all HubPages Earnings Program payments are through PayPal.

Furthermore, eBay reports to the IRS once you have reached $20,000; Amazon at $600 USD (last time I checked)

You still need to report your earnings, of course. You simply add up your earnings from HubPages and report them as another source of income on your return.

If you think I'm being too careful, consider this sobering statistic by Javelin Strategy & Research: 

"Consumers whose Social Security numbers are exposed in a data breach are five times more likely to become fraud victims than those who aren't."[5]

The advice from experts is this: 

Do not email your social security number to any prospective employer - or to anyone, in general.[6] 

If your SSN is a required field, use a taxpayer identification number instead. That way, thieves cannot use it. It is a valid taxpayer ID for tax purposes and business only. You can apply for this number through the IRS.[7]

If someone insists on obtaining your social security number, you should launch a complaint with PrivacyRights(dot)org. NOTE: You do not have to register to file a complaint.[8]

Thank you for sharing this important information with other writers online.



Feb 4, 2015 11:30am
Excellent info here. The SSN info should be known by everyone. It certainly applies to organizations that are as obviously untrustworthy as HubPages, but to other organizations too no matter how trustworthy anyone may think they are.
Feb 4, 2015 2:12pm
Thank you so much Jonathan. And when applying for a job, if a form asks for SSN (in Canada, it's called a SIN for Social Insurance Number), one should simply write, "Will provide upon offer of employment."

Most employers that conduct these "checks" do not do so until you are further along in the hiring process. It's not needed on the initial application.

And, in the US, I found out a TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number) can be used instead - I know sometimes an "entry field" might require it (but it really shouldn't be, for any business transactions online). The TIN has the same number of digits as an SSN.

Since writers on HubPages are "users" not full-time employees, there is NO REASON HubPages should be collecting tax information (like SSNs) - and it disturbs me that it appears to be a "requirement" in order to get paid.

Only staff members, hired by HubPages, that collect regular pay cheques would be required to provide SSNs.

Feb 4, 2015 3:02pm
Many U.S.-based companies collect SSN to send out 1099 around tax time as required (although this may be before the new PayPal thing...which could have changed things). TIN/EIN is definitely the way to go.

Digressing, but on a related note, it's amazing to me how many doctors, employment applications, etc *still* ask for a SSN. They no longer need it for most health insurances and there is no good reason to ask for it. I leave that field blank at every doctor I have been to in the last several years. No one has questioned me on it either.

HP is changing articles, adding almost 800 words of content? That's not editing! And adding fake experiences - that's unethical and just plain wrong on so many levels....
(Man, I am so glad I never submitted anything to that site...)
Feb 4, 2015 3:23pm
Yes, I think it was 2013 that PayPal changed the way things were done (not sure).

In the PayPal Community Help Forum, I found a helpful thread: https://www.paypal-community.com/t5/About-Business/Does-paypal-send-out-tax-forms/td-p/868267

The gist is that PayPal will send out a 1099-K form if:

a) You made over $20,000 through a 3rd party processor such as PayPal
b) You made $20K through 200 or more transactions

Adam Levin's article (in my refs) explained that "In actuality, most doctors ask in case your insurance doesn't pay the entire invoice and/or to fill out a death certificate if you die. But instead, you should offer a next of kin who knows the number and your phone number for billing issues."

And yeah, I'm appalled at what is going on at HubPages (glad you didn't join) and soon enough I hope my case (and those filed by others) gets resolved. I am hoping that every person on HubPages can collect their deserved income too (should they wish to leave).

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment Leigh.

Take good care, Rose
Feb 5, 2015 4:05am
I really hope you can get this situation resolved sooner than later. I feel so badly for everyone caught up in this mess! (and thanks for that link, I'm going to check that out).
Feb 5, 2015 5:11pm
Thank you so much for caring Leigh. I hope anyone wishing to leave HubPages can get all of their deserved income (whether or not they reached $50).

I'd be prepared for a sudden, unannounced closure of the site (if I had joined HubPages).

As for my own content on there (illegally) - I'm sure it's been plagiarized and scraped to death (and is practically useless to me now).

For anyone else in the same boat as me, the wisest course of action is to file an IC3 report (and claim losses) before Feb. 15th, 2015. And file (also free) a complaint with Consumer Affairs (others have too). It's free to have a lawyer contact you.

Whether of not former Squids "agreed" to the transfer of their content doesn't matter. Their user information and content was bought by HubPages without their express permission first.

Feb 5, 2015 5:13pm
Whoops, typo. Last par should read "Whether or not..."
Feb 4, 2015 3:18pm
Oh I missed this "HubPages does not send users a 1099 form of any kind."
In that case, there is no reason why they should be asking.
Great advice about what to do if asked! Important stuff to know.
Feb 4, 2015 3:24pm
Thanks Leigh, I highly value your input.
Feb 7, 2015 4:46pm
I am finding all your articles about Hub Pages very interesting, Rose. I joined it last year and posted three articles, then realized that I would not earn any income until I had posted more articles (they recommended 20) and successfully applied for an AdSense account. This struck me as a very scammy way to get free content. I stated this in one of the community posts and immediately got some quite hostile replies from some dedicated Hubbers.

I have now deleted my articles and a feeling quite glad to be out of there.
Feb 7, 2015 7:29pm
Dear HLesley,

Indeed, it IS a scammy way to get free content - and their Terms of Use is borderline illegal, imo (which is why I never joined).

What's more, if you are dead, inactive, or don't opt-out of their "editing" program, your work will be UNPUBLISHED while "editors" change your highest ranked articles - thereby ALLOWING copied content to outrank yours in search results.

I am not convinced that this unfortunate outcome (for Hub authors) is unintentional, either. I think the Edmondsons targeted writers they thought wouldn't notice or care (inactive or dead authors).

Why is there no apology from the Edmondsons?

It makes no sense to mess with high traffic articles in the first place - unless they are being repackaged to "sell" to some third party.

These are huge red flags. I just hope people get their content out of there, collect ALL of their earnings (even if less than $50), and have their author content permanently removed from HubPages. I hope no one submits their tax information to them either.

It's obvious that HubPages cannot be trusted, not only from my own experience, but as an onlooker.

Thank you for dropping by and taking the time to comment. It means more than you know.

Glad you found InfoBarrel,

Feb 8, 2015 1:56am
I'm curious about something that I've not been able to understand (not from your articles, just in general) - what does "unpublished" mean in terms of HP's language?
Feb 8, 2015 9:10am
Oh good question Leigh. Since I never joined HubPages, I can only go on what HP has said or written. Perhaps I should have used the word "LOCKED" instead of unpublished in my post above. Sorry for the confusion.

Robin Edmondson stated to Aneegma: "We have been waiting on custom illustrations that we had commissioned for you, so that is why the Hubs have been locked for two weeks." (Source: 4th link in my bibliography)

Commentary by Writer Fox: "Google crawled and stored a cache of the first edited version, but doesn't have this latest release yet. Apparently, she's still locked out of her own Hub! Search engines will be by any moment now to catch this latest HubPro edit. It's a disaster!"

Cardisa asked: "You can't edit your hub after the HP editors have messed with it?"

PegCole17 was quick to note: "This was in Paul's post on the other thread:
'I'll also take a note to make it much more prominent that Hubs may be modified once they're posted.' This does not indicate obtaining author approval in advance to me.

I believe that locking Aneegma's Hub (article) had the same effect as unpublishing it (to search engines). And, I cannot understand why it was locked for two weeks. Plus, there was no sign on this "edited" version that she was the original author.

It certainly looks like the Edmondsons are selling articles (with the highest traffic) to some third party (tweaked by their "editors" first). None of this makes any sense from a business standpoint. Getting rid of low quality content on the site should be their first priority.

Hope that helped to clear things up and sorry once again for my choice of words,

Feb 8, 2015 1:25pm
No apology necessary, like I said it wasn't your articles at all (you've done a great job explaining all this, especially for people who have never used the site), it was just this term that confused me.

What a crock. I feel so bad for people caught up in this - and I agree, it makes no sense to touch the good stuff and leave the stuff that is not up to par. There has to be a reason for this. Almost every other site I've seen over the past few years was working on cleaning up or encouraging updates.
Thanks so much for explaining Rose.
Feb 7, 2015 10:39pm
Interesting indeed. I joined Squidoo because everything was straight forward. I didn't need an external earning account plus payout minimums were doable.

Its kind of ironic that the down talkers are starting to experience what some of the complainers have been going through since the transfer. Wonderful article and thanks so much for that TIN/EIN info. Didn't know there was an alt to the SSN.

Would love it if businesses didn't request this as well as not make it mandatory. Thanks again.
Feb 8, 2015 9:32am
Yes, Squidoo was easier to understand in terms of payouts, etc. Plus, HQ members also took action when the site was scraped.

In Canada, you would be required to provide your employer [within three (3) days after the day on which your employment begins] with your social insurance number (our SSN). And our government body (Service Canada) states: "You should only provide your SIN when it is required by law."

You are NOT legally required to provide it when:
a) communicating electronically, particularly online
b) completing an employment application (before you get a job offer)
c) cashing a cheque
d) completing banking transactions
e) proving your identity (except for specific government programs)

Some businesses ask for it even though there is no legal basis to request it. Although this practice is strongly discouraged, it is not illegal to do so.

Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting Browna86, I'm glad you found this information helpful.

Take good care,

Feb 8, 2015 5:40pm
The de-listing of articles is weird there.
Feb 9, 2015 4:07pm
There is garbage on there that remains (probably because these accounts are "inactive" and HP can therefore keep 100% of $ generated by it).

The only logical explanation for tweaking work with the most traffic is to satisfy scrapers and 3rd party "buyers." Furthermore, HubPages doesn't disable copy & paste, nor help report it when mass copying of the site occurs (at least Squidoo did that).

The last vague response I read from Paul Edmondson was this:

"Typically, when we get a report of a site that has done large scale copying we report it to google's ad team. They can take away their ability to earn, although that doesn't get the content down. In most cases I've researched, I don't believe our site is getting hurt in the rankings, but this is something I keep an eye on and discuss.

Over the next three weeks, I have a few people that I've lined up to talk about negative SEO with and what we are seeing on HubPages. I'll post back what I learn."

I believe Paul E. is just "buying time" right now and the site will probably shut down suddenly and unexpectedly in the next few weeks - months.

Thanks again for dropping by and commenting.

Take good care,
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  1. "Squidoo is Moving to HubPages." InfoBarrel Forum. 3/02/2015 <Web >
  2. "Payment Section; paragraph 2." HubPages Terms of Use. 3/02/2015 <Web >
  3. "Editor’s Choice: Now With More Awesome!." HubPages Forum. 3/02/2015 <Web >
  4. "Who messed with my hubs??!!." HubPages Forum. 3/02/2015 <Web >
  5. Adam Levin "5 Places Where You Should Never Give Your Social Security Number." Huffington Post. 3/02/2015 <Web >
  6. Alison Doyle "Social Security Numbers on Job Applications." About.com. 3/02/2015 <Web >
  7. "Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN)." IRS. 3/02/2015 <Web >
  8. "File A Privacy Complaint." Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. 3/02/2015 <Web >

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