Argentine ‘superhero’ unmasked

Updated 26 January 2013
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Argentine ‘superhero’ unmasked

BUENOS AIRES: He was a self-styled superhero, prowling the gritty outskirts of Buenos Aires wearing a mask and cartoonish outfit and armed only with a flashlight, compass and pepper spray as he took on bad guys.
But now his cover is blown, thanks to an alleged shootout with muggers, and the superhero is charged with carrying an unlicensed gun, police said Wednesday.
The man who called himself Menganno — Spanish for Joe Blow — and became famous in Argentine media is actually one Oscar Lefosse, 43, a former cop who served from 1986 to 1996. It turns out his gun license expired a year ago.
On Monday, Lefosse told police that three petty criminals opened fire on his car as he drove with his wife. He returned fire with his Glock pistol. On his Facebook page, “Menganno” — 33,000 followers — posted a photo of what he said was his bullet ridden car.
But a policeman quoted by the news agency Telam said the shots all came from inside the car.
“He could have killed somebody, an innocent bystander. He is irresponsible,” the official said.
In an interview with AFP in 2010, Menganno described himself as “a real, flesh and blood superhero. My goal is for all of us to be better and show more solidarity. Injustice makes me sick.”
He said then that he only defended himself with a flashlight, pepper spray and a compass, and had a company in the security sector. He did not elaborate.
“I do not walk around the street armed. I keep my gun at home,” he said Wednesday on Argentine TV.
Lefosse used to hide his identity behind a mask that was a mix of dark and baby blue and coordinated nicely color-wise with a Superman style suit he wore, with a symbol on his chest to boot.


Russian agency offers fake restaurant reviews ahead of World Cup

Updated 21 May 2018
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Russian agency offers fake restaurant reviews ahead of World Cup

MOSCOW: A Russian marketing agency has offered to help restaurants in cities hosting the football World Cup use fake reviews to bump up ratings on review site TripAdviser, the agency’s owner has confirmed.
Marketing company Bacon Agency says it can circumvent TripAdviser’s algorithm for detecting fraudulent posts and publish reviews in foreign languages ahead of an influx of fans from abroad.
“What can you do if no Serbs and no Swedes have ever been to your venue and left a review?” Bacon Agency asks, in a brochure received by a restaurant in Yekaterinburg, which hosts Egypt and Uruguay in their first-round matches.
“You write it yourself!” the agency says.
For 35,000 roubles ($570), the agency promises a spot in TripAdviser’s top 10 list. “We are offering to help tourists find you, and to leave their money specifically with you,” it writes.
“We oppose any attempt to manipulate a business’ ranking,” TripAdviser said. “Our dedicated investigations team is proactive and extremely effective at catching those trying to solicit fake reviews for money.”
Fake reviews are widespread, but it is unusual for a company involved in the practice to discuss it so openly, or to link it explicitly to a sports event.
The World Cup has created lucrative opportunities for businesses in the 12 host cities hoping to benefit from well-to-do foreign fans at a time when Russians are feeling the pinch from a fragile economy and Western sanctions.
Contacted by Reuters, Bacon Agency confirmed it had offered the service, but said it only wanted to act as the middleman between restaurants and freelancers posting fake reviews.
“We understand that all this is illegal in the sense that TripAdviser is against it,” said Bacon Agency’s owner Roman Baldanov.
“We were just testing this niche, because we see high demand. It’s not because we’re bad guys who came in and said, look, you’ve got to start swindling ... All restaurants know that reviews are ordered, and many use this service,” Baldanov said.
He said nobody had yet taken up his offer. “The response we got was: thanks, but we are already doing this ourselves.”
Reuters tracked restaurants in six World Cup host cities over two months, noting an uptick in suspicious-looking posts.
An event like the World Cup increases incentives to post such reviews, said Stanford University’s Jeff Hancock, an expert in detecting fake reviews.
“Any time you start seeing reviews come in all at once, look sort of similar, have the same kind of language, then alarm bells should start going off,” Hancock said.
At least six restaurants in the TripAdviser top 30 list for Kaliningrad, which will host Croatia and Nigeria, appeared to fit this description.
Peperonchino, a cafe serving Italian cuisine 20 minutes’ drive from the World Cup stadium, used to get around one review a week.
But two weeks ago, reviews began to flood in — 45 in total — the majority from accounts with stock photos, created this year, and rating the cafe five stars. Peperonchino rose from 28th place to 2nd on TripAdviser’s list.
Sister cafe Peperonchino 2 also received a flood of reviews in the past fortnight, also 45 in total, 32 from such accounts.
“All our reviews are real and are left by our customers,” Peperonchino said. “It’s just we have a big loyalty system, a mobile phone app, and so on.”
In a strategy document seen by Reuters, Bacon Agency explains how to avoid detection by TripAdviser.
“The issue is that TripAdviser has developed algorithms which monitor user activity and when they spot an attempt to manipulate the numbers, they sanction the venue,” the agency writes.
To trick the algorithm, fake reviews are published using different IP addresses, devices, browsers and operating systems. Each account has a “back story” of earlier posts.
The reviews will be “full of real details about the menu and decor, as well as ‘real’ photographs, which we will ask you to take.”