Ex-eBay employees face jail for cyber stalking campaign

Hannah Boland
·2 min read
eBay - Kacper Pempel/Reuters
eBay - Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Two former eBay employees are facing prison time after pleading guilty to taking part in a cyberstalking campaign against a middle-aged couple who criticised the site in an online newsletter.

Prosecutors recommended prison sentences for Stephanie Stockwell and Brian Gilbert, who they said had harassed the couple over Twitter and sent them "disturbing" packages including a box of live cockroaches, a funeral wreath and a bloody pig mask.

Ms Stockwell and Mr Gilbert had worked as a manager of eBay's global intelligence centre and a senior manager of special operations for the global security team respectively at the time. 

Both have pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit cyber stalking and conspiring to tamper with a witness. Three other ex-eBay employees have also previously pleaded guilty in the case. 

Prosecutors have claimed the former staff conducted a "systemic campaign fuelled by the resources of a Fortune 500 company to emotionally and psychologically terrorise this middle-aged couple, with the goal of deterring them from writing bad things online about eBay".

Telegraph Tech 100 2020: see the full list
Telegraph Tech 100 2020: see the full list

As part of the 2019 campaign, the ex-employees are alleged to have set up accounts on social media to suggest the items, which also included books on 'surviving the death of a spouse', were being sent from the couple's readers, and also published an advert on Craigslist inviting "swingers" to their address every evening at 10pm.

It came after executives expressed frustration over unflattering posts about eBay in the couple's newsletter.

Texts emerged in the case from April 2019 in which Devin Wenig, then eBay boss, asked the company's head of communications to "take her down", referring to one of the victims.

There is no suggestion in court documents that Mr Wenig, who left eBay in 2019, instructed his employees to go after the couple. He has denied knowing about the scheme. 

eBay had investigated whether he was involved in the alleged plot, and said: "The internal investigation found that, while Mr Wenig’s communications were inappropriate, there was no evidence that he knew in advance about or authorised the actions that were later directed toward the blogger and her husband.

“However, as the company previously announced, there were a number of considerations leading to his departure."