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To share my recent discovery about, I have to first reveal two personal things I’m often ashamed of and shy about broadcasting:

  • sometimes I get quite melancholy and
  • part of my income comes from freelance digital marketing.

While the comic in me wants to suggest that #1 is a consequence of #2, they are not directly linked: I’ve dealt with occasional depression at least as far back as my teen years while my experiences with digital marketing are more recent.

Also, it feels awkward saying ‘melancholy’.  I think I’m trying not to use the term ‘depressed’…. Maybe ‘unfulfilled’, ‘bored’, ‘sad’, ‘lonely’, ‘uninspired’, ‘unmotivated’, ‘overwhelmed’… any of these could be an alright choice of words depending on the specific moment.  Not to get too distracted… my mood is not the point of the article, but it is what triggered the start of this research.

On to the discovery…

A couple months ago, I was feeling a little down and I Googled the phrase “everything is fine but I’m unhappy” and came across a bunch of posts from

The company name was familiar – I remembered being peppered with ads on Reddit promoting 7cups which I found very annoying.  These ads saying things like: “Are you Lonely? We can help” or “Are you sad? We can help” were really frustrating when I’d see them.  This constant reminder of the looming darkness of sadness was not what I wanted when I escaped to Reddit for amusement.

They were popping up so often, it made me wonder if somehow they were tracking me.  At the time, I thought it was coincidence.

Since then, I’ve run ad campaigns for clients on Reddit and learned how Reddit advertising works.  I now know that you can target people who have subscribed to specific subreddits, so the fact one of my accounts is subscribed to the /r/bipolarreddit subreddit is likely why they were sending these ads my way.

So these 7Cups ads pissed me off.  But why?  On the one hand, if they are offering something to help sad people… this is a good thing.  The service they provide: free peer support via chat.  If you want to pay, you can then speak with a professional therapist.

But upon deeper research, it feels more like they are preying on vulnerable people.

Which brings me back to my Googling ‘everything is fine but I’m unhappy.”

If you do this, you’ll see the 7Cups result:

7cups marketing scam


If you open this article, there is a “Top Rated Answer” that looked incredibly suspicious.  Here’s the post:

7cups marketing scam

Here’s what I found suspicious:

1) The response was posted the day before I opened the page yet it was already rated a “Top Rated Answer”.  How could an answer become a ‘top rated’ answer within a day?
2) There was a link embedded in the response (in blue) with all those unnecessary keywords in the clickable text.  Who posts answers with such long anchor text (the clickable part) unless they’re pushing keywords into posts for their search engine ranking.
3) The link embedded in the post was pointing to… yet we’re already in a forum on the 7cups website.  Why would anyone post on the 7cups forum including links pointing to… anyone reading this already knows about 7cups?

None of this makes any sense, unless…. You’re trying to boost your search engine rankings.

I had to know if the posted date was being automatically changed every day to make it seem more recent, which would be super, super sketchy.  I checked the site a couple days later.

7cups marketing scam

Sure enough – super sketchy

Checking in over a month later… and sure enough, the date has been updated again and now with a new username.

Since the content of the post was the same, I wondered how many times this has been posted on other 7cups posts.  I went back to Google and did a search for this phrase “Searching for answers on the internet” “we’ve all been there” and TONS of posts (over 200,000 results) show up with the exact same answer all over the 7cups forum.

7cups marketing scam

This screenshot was taken on August 5th and you can see the date of the answer was posted on August 4th and once again it’s a “Top Rated Answer.”

7cups marketing scam

Here’s another one from the post: “What part of me is the real me, and what part is the depression?”

7cups marketing scam

And another from the post titled: “why do I feel so down when everything is going well for me?” ….

7cups marketing scam

I did some digging on where their funding comes from on CrunchBase.  Looks like they’ve had two rounds of undisclosed amounts of funding in 2013 from a number of investors.

7cups marketing scam

I can’t get a sense of how they’re doing financially.  They offer text-based chat therapy services.  They give away free chat peer support from ‘trained’ “Listeners” and paid chat support from mental health professionals.  Anyone can volunteer to become a Listener if you go through their training.  (They also make some money from white labelling their platform to universities.)

7cups marketing scam

I will say that I liked the founder Glen Moriarty’s humble approach to listing himself last on the list of Team members at 7cups.

7cups marketing scam

Glen wrote a public post talking about issues with funding the company, which seemed pretty honest.  That’s when he announced they would be taking donations to support the site.  It’s unusual for a for-profit to solicit donations like this, but it’s not a horrible thing.

Though I could gripe about the impersonal nature of a text-based chat, or my concerns over the continued inflation of mental health services… there’s nothing inherently unethical with  their business model.

But the fact is, they are straight out lying to people.  They are making fake posts on their own forums to promote their website and boost their search rankings.  They’re altering the dates of their own posts.  They’re using fake aliases to disguise themselves as forum members instead of paid staff.  It’s lying.  It’s wrong.  And they’re doing it to an incredibly vulnerable population.

I’ve thought it might be appropriate to contact them before posting this.  Maybe that would be proper journalism.  (Am I a journalist?) This would give them a chance to explain themselves.  Likely, they would blame a programmer or a marketer, maybe reprimand them or fire them, and ‘fix’ the issue.  Then they would be absolved of their responsibility, right?  Possibly.

As I look at it, the level of technical detail that went into doing this kind of exploit is probably a combination of both marketing and programming and doesn’t seem like it would be a single individual at the company who pulled it off.  This also does NOT seem like something a rogue marketer or engineer within the company would do.  Nor does it seem like something that a 3rd part would do if they outsourced their marketing.  To implement this type of auto-posting, auto-date updating, and changing usernames, etc… this is something that was probably discussed by more than one person and was a collaboration.

I’m not sure my motivation for posting this.  I am angry.

I downloaded their app because I wondered if they were using bots instead of real people to do that chat support.  That would have driven me postal.  While the app was buggy, it appeared I was talking to real humans.  Then again, chat bots have gotten good enough that I don’t really believe I’d be able to crack a good one.

So I’m bashing this company… but what if their service helps people?

Honestly, I am so torn about this.

Maybe I’d be harming their reputation by blowing this out of proportion and that could lead to less people getting help from their platform.  Or maybe writing this article is actually providing free marketing to them, and I’m only serving their purpose?  Maybe my ego is at play here – wanting the joy and distinction of having uncovered this kind of thing and being rewarded with “likes” and “shares” of my post.

I’m not sure… I suppose I could just contact them privately and see what they think.  I don’t know really how far deep this goes into their system… I have no idea exactly how many forum posts they have on their website and how many of them have this ‘hack’ built into them.

I’ve also got some residual anger about Talkspace, an app which sounds similar to 7cups, except that their therapists will actually prescribe anti-depressants for people through the app.  This sounds frightening and horrible.  I’m not sure what to do about it, maybe I’ll do a separate article about these folks at a later date.

Lastly, I realize… there is a big part of me hesitant to post this because I feel like a hypocrite.  I’ve done some work in online marketing that I’m not super proud of.  It feels hypocritical to write this post criticizing these folks while I’ve done milder versions of this type of thing.  I’m not sure… but now it’s August 21 and I still haven’t posted about these people.  I think it’s more important to reveal the truth that to take any kind of moral high ground.  So I’m posting this… you can decide what to make of it.

PS – it also pissed me off that they send me marketing emails.  How many fucking emails is enough, 7Cups?

7cups marketing scam

UPDATE #1: In the weeks that passed between writing this, editing it, and having the courage to post it, 7cups removed all of this content from their website… which is a good thing.  But I still feel that the truth should be shared, so I will still post/share it.

UPDATE #2: I received some really unusual emails from someone claim to work for 7cups. Not sure what their purpose is.

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  1. I gave it a try as a free therapy chat.. and wow! All the girl could say was “hmmm, I can’t help you with such important decisions” “it’s stupid to ask this on 7cups” and so I said ok great and wasn’t going to ask anymore advice and she asked if I had another question, so I said my questions are stupid to ask on 7cups, so, never mind. Than she proceeds to tell me it is stupid to ask such questions on 7cups and to fuck off – then I was immediately deactivated… for saying “you said my questions are stupid to ask on 7cups, so, never mind “ … I literally said that and they deactivated me lol.!

    • Wow – sorry to hear you experience that. I have heard the service has helped some people, in particular, some teens who haven’t had access to a “real” therapist or anyone to talk to. So I imagine there are cases where this is valuable, but it is concerning that they are using deceptive marketing techniques because it suggests a lack of consistent values throughout the organization which is really problematic when dealing with such sensitive things.

      • The website is disgraceful and there are even abusive listeners that use the website. My best friend Andrea used the website just to talk about some very personal problems going on in her life. The listener that she spoke with laughed at her and blocked her for no reason at all. She also learned that that same listener started sharing everything she was telling her with other listeners on the website. My best friend reported this listener to the website and she was kicked BUT the listener came back to the website again and started abusing other people. My best friend felt totally humiliated and shouldn’t be put through that at all! Luckily, she is going to see a therapist in person now. But I would advise anyone wishing to visit the website to talk to someone, DO NOT DO IT!

        • Wow — I had no idea. After I wrote this article, a part of me felt like it was a real waste of my time. It felt so negative to spend all this time writing an article bashing a company. I feel like my energy is better spent creating something positive. Yet this post has gotten a lot of interest from people and I’ve been hearing all these really bad experiences. Thank you for sharing.

        • I’m so sorry your best friend had this experience. I will admit however that there are some people who sign up as a joke, especially since registration is free just to bully people that are going through a difficult time. I agree with you it’s a very horrible thing to do.

    • They deactivated/unapproved my listener account of 3-4 years, because I spoke out against the festering racism in their listener and member community. The whole website is such a despicable sham of the most pathetic “power trip” i have seen on internet forums, so far.

  2. I have an email account I rarely use. I opened it today to find more than a dozen messages from 7 cups – Laura and Glen are in there! I had never heard of 7 cups so I googled it and found your post. This email address was used to sign up for That’s it. I didn’t even complete the signup. So maybe the spammers aren’t just using subreddits.

  3. Thank you for posting this. As a listener I am really bothered by this kind of marketing targeted at such a vulnerable group. I would have thought twice before signing up if I would’ve known.

    • Thank you for sharing! It’s really frustrating…. there is some potential her for them to do something valuable. I hate to see that potential compromised.

  4. I am a former listener for 7cups. A lot of the materials are very relevant to those seeking support for mental health or emotional support. They are not only hacking the site though, there are major copyright breaches. One involved a UK charity, large sections of the charities help guides were copied and pasted without consent, when the charity clearly states on their terms that over 200 words used have to be cleared with them. Many students and medical professionals use the UK site, which is why they have that clause clearly stated.

    They state they train their listeners, this is a 5 minute multi-choice questionaire. They tell you to look for ‘verified listeners’ with a purple tick, that just means someone has had a 20 min mock chat with a user who has one of those purple ticks. I actually used to do these, and really was shocked at the lack of quality, empathy and the fact they were copy/pasting all responses from the on-screen promt for them. Wouldn’t surprise me if a lot are actually bots.

    The user you have recieved the e-mails from there, is as far as I know, not a paid staff member, they go by a screen name of @rumplesteeleskin. This is how the company are scapegoating responsibilities. Concerned a bit, by the lack of language skills in the e-mail.

    There have also been reports of teenagers being groomed on the platform, although this does happen on majority of sites with chat functions anyway.

    • Wow – thank you for speaking out on this. I’m somewhat surprised to find this blog post is my most popular one… very interesting.

  5. 7cups has become more degraded in the past few years. I was there since around 2014-15. The racism, ignorance, bigotry were still there, but now, they block *you* for reporting it. It has all become so ugly. There are people who still contact me, years after 7cups “unapproved” my account because I reported many racist incidents. Their priority is to flex their “power” on listeners, rather than help people. How utterly despicable can these people be?

    • I’m not sure I understand. Are there public group chats where this ‘racism, ignorance, and bigotry’ is happening? Or is it the listeners who are behaving this way? Or the people who are seeking support?

      • Yes, it’s very different. I used it early 2010s and they were really helpful with giving information. They would not push their own therapy, rather they gave tips on how to find help. Resources for depression and family issues. I had asked about some other problems I had and they would give me some support. I was even told to search for free community services as they were more likely to help than online chat with strangers. They even told me how to get that help without alarming others or getting harassed for seeking help.
        I tried again this year, but at every stage of the discussion, they would push their own product or tell you that they can’t help.

  6. You might or might not be aware that the ENTIRE senior management team of 7 Cups was let go unexpectedly overnight by Glen, the CEO, in November 2019. The remaining staff is less than 5 people and almost all are contractors (mostly part-time). The reviews of 7 Cups on, those not clearly done by Glen or the current 7 Cups team, discuss issues of bad management, unsafe for users, high trolling, shady and questionable accounting practices, and an overall bad platform. You will also notice after every bad review, there is a very suspicious general good review.

  7. There’s something really shady about this site. Just the fact that anybody can be a listener and as young as age 15 listening to adults, that doesn’t sit right with me from multiple perspectives. A lot of people I’ve chatted with seem to be young people who want to be therapists but don’t have the skills for it and are using this site to ‘practice’ so to speak.

    I too have wondered about chat bots for some listeners as the answers from them are all and supposed to be very generic. Add some deep learning algorithm that monitors the chats (which I believe their TOS says they aggregate) and you could probably easily build one. I don’t believe they do this now but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were a goal.

    There’s a reason you need to get licensed to work in a clinical environment. I just don’t think this is a good idea, and after reading this article it just reinforces that notion. If they need to be deceptive to get people to login there is something wrong.

  8. I forgot to mention that 7 cups keeps telling listeners not to give advices. Although 7 cups has many problems but still i have realized that some people have no other way of talkibg to someone. In 7 cups i feel more safe. In other websites things almost always turns out sexual.

  9. Reading this I tried to deactivate my account. They force you to write a reason why you are leaving. I pressed the space key and left. Now I shall go block 7 cups from my email and find a better free online therapy that will actually help me

  10. A listener on 7 Cups was telling my twin what to do, even though 7 Cups claims that giving advice is breaking their rules and, even after the head of the community team was told about it, the listener NEVER got her account taken away and she has a lot of leadership positions (including being a moderator).

  11. I have been a listener/ member on 7cups since 2015. This is where i was targeted by a predator. The website is full of bad people out to do harm. I was vulnerable and some people take advantage of it. I was raped after being groomed for over a year. I reported it to admins and they didnt even want to listen to my story!!! The website is very toxic

    • Wow, I am sorry to hear what you went through. Were you able to pursue any legal action to hold this person accountable?

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