Well, first of all, I’d class anything using a ‘multi-level-marketing’ or
’pyramid selling’ technique as a potential scam, and if it’s putting
forward pseudo-science and false ‘evidence’ as I believe was the case in
this incident, I’d class it as a scam - they are designed specifically to
take a cut at every level, and sign up as many marketers as possible, with
each either paying a significant signup fee, or worse, forced to spend (x)
per month personally to stay a seller (I’ve personally seen both).
These companies, and the people who actively sell for them, are highly
predatory and certainly not the kind of organisations or people you want
near a community organisation, as there is a high chance that at some point
they will try to exploit the connection. And that’s after they are done
exploiting any vulnerable members of your hackspace.
The Presentation - Scam?
This presentation, as described, also has all the hallmarks of a scam - the
’famous people use it’ and 'the government/doctors are suppressing it!'
lines. It even illegally claimed that the product could cure cancer - which
is actually a criminal offense.
As for your distinction between a scam and matters of opinion, I strongly
disagree. When you are presenting information on matters of health, or
selling a product by extorting ‘benefits’, it ceases to be an opinion and
could arguably become a feature of the product and therefore be part of the
contract. Saying that a product helps with diabetes is no ‘mere puff’
(Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co), it’s not an opinion (like whether a
brand of eye shadow will suit you), it’s presented as a fact and a reason
to specifically buy a product.
Even if it wasn’t selling a product, it could induce people to change their
healthcare, and cause actual harm - and ignoring liability issues, that’s
somthing I’m sure no hackspace wants to be associated with.
In this case, I’d go as far as to definitely call it a scam. I’d personally
go as far as to report the individual to Trading Standards and maybe Rogue
Traders, but that’s a personal choice.
Duty of Care
The other issue worth noting is that this isn’t in general conversation in
the hackspace (where randomly chatting about crazy ideas, if not a partial
aim of a hackspace, is at least accepted), this is in a publicly advertised
and accessible meeting, which could be the first experiance that someone
has of not only that hackspace, but hackspaces as a whole. That’s part what
I had in mind when I drafted those guidelines.
The other important part about this being an open meeting is a simple one -
not everyone is going to be technically, scientifically, or otherwise
experienced and literate enough to avoid scams like these, and I’d argue
as a STEAM community we have a duty of care to question, interrogate, and
even expel ideas, products, and scams such as this from spaces like
hackspaces. This isn’t a quelling of free speech, this is an issue of
potential harm, fraud, and abuse of members. Especially considering that
there are potentially vulnerable members in hackspaces.