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On Primatology.net, I just blogged about some unethical marketing tactics by Palabea.com that I want you to be aware of. Palabea is a startup social networking site with something like 50,000 users. There are some press reports circulating the wires promising Palabea will provide users with an opportunity to talk with “Albert,” a cyber chimp who has a Facebook profile. They are using the “Albert, the CyberChimp” fanbase to leverage growth in their site and generate revenue.

In that post, I address how the principle investigator, John Marlowe is fake. I also talk about how the institutions and publications are also fake. A founder of Palabea is the registered owner of CyberChimps.org, the online platform of the Cyber Chimp spin machine. Furthermore, the photos of “Albert” are doctored images of Ayumu, a real chimp, who is studied to understand primate cognition. Here are two examples:

I have no interest in slamming down Palabea. But I do not want misleading marketing to affect the public’s understanding of primatology. There is some honest primate cognition research out there, experiments that explore non-human language capabilities. This sort of hyped up fake stuff jeopardizes the scientific process and the integrity of primatology; it needs to be regulated… Palabea’s marketing will confuse the public by establishing fake institutions, projects, individuals, and “information.” I really don’t want this misinformation to spread to the mainstream press.

In order to prevent this poor attempt at viral marketing from spreading further, I’ve submitted my Primatology.net post to Digg. Please digg this news up and let others know about it.

One other way to help out is to add Albert the CyberChimp as a friend on Facebook and report the fake profile. I would do it myself, but “Albert” banned me from being his friend after I published the Primatology.net post! It is against Facebook’s Terms of Service (under the User Conduct section) to have fake profiles, and Albert’s is no-where-close to real.

“In addition, you agree not to use the Service or the Site to: … impersonate any person or entity, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent yourself, your age or your affiliation with any person or entity;”

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