Silicon Beach: Porn and Fuzzy Stats on Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau Website

Categories: Silicon Beach
Screen shot from GMCVB community forum.
This picture is tame. There were way more tits, ass, vajayjay, and blowjobs on the GMCVB forum than you'd ever find on Collins Avenue.
Gus Moore, founder and owner of Miami Beach 411, a decade-old website with one of the city's oldest and most active online community forums, has a hefty bone to pick with the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

It all began last week when Moore was surfing GMCVB's website and logged into its community forum. Moore, who could very well be called a leader in local social media for bringing a community of travelers and locals together online -- years before Twitter and Facebook -- was appalled by what he saw: An eye-popping infestation of porn spam, mainly from Russia, with NSFW photos.

In a blog post, Moore questioned why no one was moderating the forum when the GMCVB has a budget of $23 million and a staff of 70 and receives funds from the City of Miami Beach: "Seventy full-time employees and you can't control this garbage? The City of Miami Beach gives you $5 million a year to promote our city, and this is how you do it?"

Moore then called for a ban on the GMCVB: "Until
they get a system in place to ensure this never happens again, I am
calling for an industry-wide boycott of their services. I'm asking
journalists and bloggers to stop covering their events, I'm asking
advertisers to not use their services, I'm asking the city to terminate
the contract, and finally, I'm asking GMCVB to remove the offensive
content and issue a formal apology."

An apology was never issued, but the entire forum -- not just the explicit and embarrassing
content -- was removed. (Interestingly, the GMCVB was protecting its
Twitter account but unprotected it soon after yours truly tweeted about

The situation didn't end with complaints about pornography on the website of Miami's official promoter. In another post -- an open letter to Bill Talbert, president and CEO of the GMCVB --
Moore also questioned whether the GMCVB, whose job it is to attract visitors
and transplants, was sugarcoating its data about employment and prosperity. Despite signs and studies indicating the contrary, Talbert had blogged about how well the hospitality and
leisure industry was doing without quoting sources.

"Please don't deceive us about the job market," Moore wrote. "Don't tempt us
with unrealistic expectations. People have crazy dreams about moving
here; we should never confuse them about what life is really like."

Moore admits he's being somewhat tongue-in-cheek and he wants to collaborate
with the GMCVB. "Mr. Talbert, I hope you see my humor. We all know
you're not trying to deceive anyone on purpose, but this should be a
reminder that people are listening to what we say. I would like an
opportunity to visit with you to get your insight on how Miami Beach
411 and the GMCVB can work together."

The GMCVB removed the post from its blog last night without comment or explanation, according to Moore.

Silicon Beach spent some time on the phone with Moore yesterday to follow up.

New Times: Clearly they're paying attention, but have you heard from them at all?

Gus Moore: No, but I plan to call them tomorrow and ask some questions.

NT: Neglecting a forum is not good social media form. Is that what bothers you?

Moore: About three years ago, the GMCVB tried to rip off the idea of Miami
Beach 411. They hired a destination management company in Corpus
Christi, Texas, to handle the forum. They paid thousands of dollars,
but nothing useful ever really materialized from it. Spammers took
advantage of it.

NT: Isn't it strange for Texans to be representing the 305? Who knows -- it's probably some call center in India, really. Doesn't that fly in the face of social media and

Moore: Exactly. It takes locals to run a forum -- real people talking to people in a real way, people with local knowledge, people getting together. Money is being squandered and it's
not even helping the community. 

NT: Isn't the bureau a nonprofit?

Moore: Yes. The GMCVB is a not-for-profit organization with a huge City of
Miami Beach contract. Their officials have fat salaries. I don't mind
if people make money, but I do mind that they're falling asleep at the
wheel. They removed that blog post about the hospitality jobs, but
instead of talking about it, they're pretending like it never happened.

NT: It takes people who get social media, not just money, to create a
successful online community. What would you like to see happen?

Moore: I'd like them to stop blowing smoke up people's asses about all the
fake jobs that they claimed are happening in the hospitality industry.
They should engage more. Putting a forum on autopilot, throwing
hundreds of thousands of dollars at it, and expecting it to succeed
without involvement is just doomed to failure. If they're really
concerned about promoting the destination, they really need to talk to
people. They had a private Twitter account and they still have a blog
without a comments or contact system. They've been sending readers a
message that says, "Screw you." That makes Miami look bad.

NT: You wrote that you'd like to meet with the folks at the GMCVB. What would be the ideal outcome of that meeting?

Moore: I would like to sit down with them, along with some of my forum
moderators and contributors, and come up with a better solution.

Freelancer Maria de los Angeles also writes for Miami Beach 411 but is
also very personally involved in local social media and travel issues,
independent of any contractor.

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