Multi Level Marketing

Definition: Sales organizations that grow primarily through an expansion in membership.
Legal Status:
Rarely criminalized
Platform ToS:
Allowed by Policy
Victim Visibility:
Contextually Sensitive
TSPA Abuse Type:
Community-Specific Rules: Content Limitation

Unlike traditional businesses, MLMs form a pyramid-shaped network of distributors who recruit others beneath them, often to the financial detriment of the majority of participants. Though some platforms have rules prohibiting the propagation of pyramid-shaped businesses on their sites, these rules are often under-enforced. Discriminating between genuine entrepreneurial ventures and exploitative pyramid schemes requires significant time researching individual operations, and imposing a (potentially over-broad) set of restrictions in the name of user protection.

However, platforms can minimize their use for this purpose by imposing some simple restrictions on the behavior users are allowed to engage in on the platform. Since MLMs typically spread through private messaging functionality, and recruiters rely heavily on copy-and-paste, restrictions on features that make it easy to rapidly distribute duplicate messages can reduce the potential volume of MLM recruitment that an individual user can generate.

What features facilitate Multi Level Marketing?

Enable users to exchange text in real time.

How can platform design prevent Multi Level Marketing?

Posting Limits
Limit the volume of information a user can generate in a day.
Must Request to Message
Only allow friction-less initiation of a conversation between established connections.
Limited Number of Subscriptions
By limiting the number of subscribers (or the number of subscriptions), a platform can design toward real-world connections, and away from exponential scale distributions.
Label/Detect Identical Content
For some features, duplicate data suggests misuse.
Is something missing, or could it be better?