I recently received an email from “Daniel” at the “European Human Rights Centre”.
I came across your site while searching the net for
some quality websites. I think you did a great job
with your site.
My name is Daniel. I work for The European Human
Rights Centre (EHRC).
I would like to add your site to our usefull links page
(http://www.ehrcweb.org/links.php ) and I was
wondering if you can post a link with our site in
For your convenience I send you bellow the code
for our website:
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to
contact me and I'll answer your questions promtly.
We are Nonprofit organization .
European Human Rights Centre Organisation
CH-8093 Zurich / Switzerland
Fax: +41-1-693-10 73 and 693 11 51
But this email is not quite what it seems….
My own website isn’t especially Human Rights oriented, so I thought the email misguided, but I was busy so I ignored it. Then FIPR (where I’m Treasurer) got a remarkably similar email, and a discussion started amongst the Advisory Council about the European Human Rights Centre, which — rather surprisingly — we had never heard of before.
Looking at the EHRC website we found that “The European Human Rights Centre (EHRC) represents over 100 non-governmental and other not-for-profit organisations interested in the promotion of Human Rights throughout Europe and beyond” and also “Presently 124 Institutional Members from 21 European and 7 Non-European countries join the European Human Rights Centre” and moreover “presently 5100 Personal Members from 39 European and 50 Non-European countries join the European Human Rights Centre”. These numbers are impressive!
However, when I looked at their weblinks page (http://www.ehrcweb.org/links.php) this shows that they’ve chosen to link to a very strange list of websites, with limited involvement in Human Rights. There’s a lot of small clubs, a hip hop site and a publisher of photography and contemporary art books. There’s actually little commonality here, apart from the sites being fairly high in Google rankings and often having existing link pages of their own.
I smelt a rat.
So I looked at who mentioned the EHRC by issuing this Google search
q=%22European+Human+Rights+Centre%22+ehrc. Looking at the results, it is interesting to note that the EHRC always seems to appear on link pages or on blog sidepanels. Not one of those 5100 Personal Members or 124 Institutional members seems to have mentioned their involvement in the organisation.
So I looked closely at the “Who we are” page for EHRC where there is a mission statement which says “Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence”.
This mission statement, starting “Human Rights First” is, perhaps not surprisingly, identical to the mission statement to be found at the Human Rights First website
So the EHRC have apparently borrowed their mission statement, lock stock and barrel: apart from the bit at the end where it once said “Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C.” and it now says “Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in Strasbourg“ (my emphasis).
When I did some other searches on the Zurich address (which is the building of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biophysics) I turned up some remarkably similar emails reported on blogs (such as this one by Gordon Watts) which looked like this:
I came across your site while searching the net
for some quality biology and physics websites.
I think you did a great job with your site.
My name is Gabriel. I work for The European
Federation of Biophysics Organisation (EFBF).
I would like to add your site to our usefull links and so on.
That message is touting for links to www.efbfweb.org which says, within a remarkably familiar web design “The European Federation of Biophysics (EFBF) represents over 100 non-governmental and other not-for-profit organisations interested in the promotion of Biophysics throughout Europe and beyond”. This site also says “presently 124 Institutional Members from 21 European and 7 Non-European countries join the European Federation of Biotechnology” and “presently 5100 Personal Members from 39 European and 50 Non-European countries join the European Federation of Biotechnology” which, you have to admit, is a remarkable coincidence in numbers with the EHRC, not to mention the inability to remember if you’re a Federation of Biophysicists or Biotechnologists!
In fact, there is a European Federation of Biotechnology. Their website says “presently 225 Institutional Members from 32 European and 12 Non-European countries join the European Federation of Biotechnology” and “presently 5000 Personal Members from 39 European and 50 Non-European countries join the European Federation of Biotechnology”, which apart from the numbers has a very familiar ring, doesn’t it! The Biotechnologists have a list of their members on their website (who all look plausible), and there’s all sorts of other clues on the website (and in the “Wayback Machine”) that very strongly suggest that they’re an entirely real and reputable organisation.
Returning to the alleged Biophysicists: the EFBF has a Mission Statement on their website (just like the EHRC did), although it reads remarkably similarly to the mission statement of the “Applied Biophysics Foundation”; although that’s a strange site in itself and so it was probably not the wisest of statements to take a copy of, as Tim Worstall observes!
Anyway, you’ve probably got the idea by now as to how much these sites are to be believed, and so you’ll be wondering why “Daniel” and “Gabriel” are going to all the effort of sending out these emails? Well have a look at:
and see how the character of the website suddenly changes! It looks rather as if they intend to make money (gosh!) from Google ads and job application referrals… and of course being better linked to (and thereby getting a better Google rank) will considerably help in that aim.
If you use WHOIS to look up who registered the
efbfweb.org domains you’ll find that it’s a “Nichifor Valentin” from Tulcea in Romania. Interestingly, he also owns
cyberdomino.com and, guess what, looking that up on Google leads you into a twisty maze of websites, all different, and all covered with ads and multiple keywords and suchlike devices (just the way to make money from misled searchers)… Hands up anyone who thinks that he may own some other domains as well?
Anyway, enough of linking to his sites. In my view, as I’ve set out above, the EHRC and EFBF (the Biophysics version) are entirely bogus. So, just for fun, here’s a small excerpt from the Hall of Shame, some of the reputable organisations who have linked uncritically to these sites, starting with people who point at the EHRC:
The Council of Europe
The School of Politics, International Relations & Philosophy, Keele University
The Albert Sloman Library, University of Essex
University of Connecticut Libraries
Derechos Human Rights
The International Centre for Disability Resources on the Internet
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
The Global Development Research Center
South Asian Citizens Web
and I could add many more, but it gets boring. As to the EFBC:
and many more there as well, including 🙁 one Cambridge site:
Quarterly Reviews of Biophysics So, I’ll drop them an email…
Hello, my name is Richard. I work for...