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Million Dollar Crowdturfing Industry Dupes Social Networks

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the and-you-thought-gold-farming-was-bad dept.

China 170

New submitter bowlinearl writes "Three weeks ago Slashdot featured a story on the Chinese Water Army. A new study from researchers at UCSB delves even deeper into the problem of crowdturfing (full disclosure: I am one of the authors of the study). The study reveals that evil crowdsourcing services in China are a multi-million dollar industry, and that the number of jobs and the amount of money are growing exponentially. Hundreds of thousands of workers are involved, including a small contingent of career crowdturfers who each manage hundreds of accounts on social networks. The researchers observed the behavior of workers and the unwitting users who click on the generated spam by infiltrating the two largest crowdsourcing sites in China. However, crowdturfing isn't confined to China: the researchers discovered crowdsourcing sites in the U.S. that are 95% astroturf, as opposed to Amazon's Mechanical Turk, which actively polices itself, and is only 12% astroturf."

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Evil crowdturfing services? (5, Insightful)

niftydude (1745144) | more than 2 years ago | (#38352852)

Evil seems a strong word - as with everything - when obtaining information, know who you are talking to, and always consider the source.

It's the first lesson everyone should learn.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (3, Insightful)

InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38352870)

Likewise, people sometimes have an axe to grind or just doesn't like some company - like here on Slashdot that would be Microsoft - and say anything bad about them even if it isn't true. So some good crowdturfing just adjust that side of things and they both stay in balance.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38352956)

Both sides would be noise, not signal, which turns comments sections into total trash. Yahoo is an obvious example where you have red/blue or racists/anti-racist white nights drowning out any intelligent posts. People trying to "balance" render the section useless and those posting factual information people already know are just as useless as they do nothing to progress anyone's thinking.

You fuckin' little slut! Turn to dust and die! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38353186)

Don't read this... it is a curse...

In 1995, a little boy named Tom was playing with his toys in his living room. After about 15 minutes of playing, a tiny little man walked up to him and said, "May I explore the mazes of your bootyass?" Tom, surprised by this sudden occurrence, remained speechless.

After thirty seconds passed, the little man asked the exact same question that he asked previously. This time, Tom asked the little man why he would want to do such a thing. The little man said, "Because I want to explore every maze inside your bootyass." Tom, sensing no bad intentions from the little man, nodded and said, "Well, all right. But no tickle! If there's any tickle, I'll smoosh ya!" The little man nodded his head and was sucked into Tom's bootyass as if his bootyass was a gigantic spaghetti noodle.

Tom was beginning to have second thoughts about letting the little man explore the mazes of his bootyass, but he just shrugged them off. He thought, "What harm could allowing that nice, charismatic little man explore the mazes of my bootyass bring? He was so nice, charismatic, and thoughtful. I made the right choice."

However, soon enough, he discovered that he was terribly wrong. Suddenly, he was looking into his own bootyass as if he was looking through a security camera. Inside, he spotted the little man and numerous round doorways made out of bootyass; it looked like an endless maze. To Tom's surprise, the little man suddenly transformed into a red toy carrying a gigantic sack over his shoulders and began walking towards the smallest doorway of them all! "That sack will never fit through that doorway," Tom thought.

The toy continued onwards, and eventually the sack got stuck inside the small doorway in Tom's bootyass. The toy, visibly angry, began trying to force the sack through the doorway! This inflicted tremendous amounts of tickle upon Tom's bootyass! The toy then began kicking the sides of Tom's bootyass out of frustration while laughing the entire time. Even more tickle was inflicted upon Tom's bootyass. Just when Tom thought that nothing worse could possibly happen to him, the toy forced the sack right through the doorway and went flying deeper into the mazes of Tom's bootyass and crashed into the side of it! This inflicted more tickle upon Tom's bootyass than ever before!

Now that you have read this (even a single word of it), the very same toy, carrying his giant sack (which should fit through no doorway), will explore every single maze inside your bootyass (thereby inflicting major amounts of tickle upon it)! To prevent this from happening, copy and paste this entire comment and then repost it as a comment three times.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (5, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354548)

The difference is whether you have a workable, sustainable, working system or a broken, exploitable system.

Yahoo Answers's system is pretty clearly exploitable. Want to get someone banned? 6 dummy accounts will do the trick - their "ban process" automatically bans someone after 6 complaints. Amazon has some funny reviews [amazon.com] , some funnier ones [cracked.com] , but more importantly, they actually have humans check on complaints if there's an indication that stuff indicated here [pcmag.com] is going on.

The uglier truth is that for many sites - slashdot included - the real exploit is held by people who can do precisely what TFA's authors describe: running hundreds of accounts, commanding click-up or click-down votes through them or (in the case of Slashdot) farming for mod points. Evolving Slashdot policy has actually made this worse, not better, for three reasons I'll crib from an earlier thread:

#1 - The best posters never moderate. They're involved in discussions, and you can never moderate AND post in the same thread.
#2 - It's too easy for the modpoint-harvesters to attack someone's karma; you can go into people's posting history as far as you want, and downmod weeks-old posts for no reason other than to bury karma.
#3 - The hidden gem: Slashdot implemented something akin to Yahoo's completely retarded "auto ban" function. To wit: "Also, if a single user is moderated down several times in a short time frame, a temporary ban will be imposed on that user... a cooling off period if you will. It lasts for 72 hours, or more for users who have posted a ton." [slashdot.org] The end result here is that the modpoint harvesters have been given a weapon - they control a "ban button" with which to attack not only the karma of their targets, but the posting rights of their targets.

The worst part? You can't ever see who downmodded. Sometimes you can see the reasons, but the modpoint harvesters get wise to the tricks - currently, you'll see the majority of modpoint harvesters downmodding as "Offtopic" and "Overrated" because those didn't go through the metamod system. Although, come to think of it, I don't think I've seen a metamod nag in 3 months... do they even have that system any more?

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38355448)

QQ

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38356066)

Do mod points actually exist anymore? I used to get some just about every week until around 2007, and I've had one set of points in the years since then.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (3, Interesting)

Diss Champ (934796) | more than 2 years ago | (#38356120)

For some reason I have gotten a lot of mod points these last few weeks, after a very long dry period. The system appears to be modal- either it wants to give you a lot or none. My karma has been excellent for a long time, so it's not a (visible) karma change.

Mandatory Notice (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38353002)

Please note that from this point on, comment direction and moderation in this topic will be managed by a Waggener Edstrom team on behalf of Microsoft. This is simply to ensure a positive and thoughtful discussion of Microsoft activities, and will not impact your Slashdot reading pleasure.

Note also that any further discussion of Waggener Edstrom's efforts on behalf of Microsoft will be moderated to -1.

"Monitoring conversations, including those that take place with social media, is part of our daily routine; our products can be used as early warning systems, helping clients with rapid response and crisis management.

http://waggeneredstrom.com/about/approach [waggeneredstrom.com]
http://waggeneredstrom.com/clients [waggeneredstrom.com]

Re:Mandatory Notice (0)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353630)

Mod parent up.. already he's been modded down by astroturfer accounts. Depressing that people actually get paid to troll the one place that I actually still enjoy reading and posting.

Mods (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353840)

Agree with somersault, please award the parent post the converted +5 troll.

Re:Mandatory Notice (5, Informative)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354228)

I've been keeping track of the shills I run across in a journal entry:

http://slashdot.org/~GameboyRMH/journal/273120 [slashdot.org]

Re:Mandatory Notice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38355976)

I read through a few of the posts you indicated were posted by "shills" and it's pretty clear none of them are actually shills. One of your "Microsoft Shills" even posted some anti-Silverlight stuff. You have one guy who seems to be guilty mostly of not hating Microsoft enough, and one guy who doesn't like Chrome. I suggest that if you think these people are shills, that you are not functioning correctly.

Re:Mandatory Notice (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38355058)

*shakes fist*

Waggeneredstrom!

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (5, Informative)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353018)

Class man. Vote parent up. One of the first on topic Microsoft astroturfers.

And to answer your serious point; It's absolutely fine for someone to post on here on behalf of Microsoft. There certainly used to be quite a few people who would put "I work for Microsoft" in their posts when giving serious answers. The key thing is that if you are benefiting financially from posting you should declare that and just speak directly on behalf of Microsoft. Because the astroturfers don't do that they are deceptive and illegal in quite a number of jurisdictions where Microsoft markets to Slashdot readers.

The fact that Microsoft is willing to use deceptive, illegal practices quite rightly discredits other people who attempt to support Microsoft in forums. Even if someone isn't benefiting directly, it's quite likely they got their viewpoint from someone who did. This is a general poison to the public debate which makes serious discussion more difficult. There is no possible justification for it.

There is already a tendency on Slashdot that any minor technical error in a criticism of Microsoft gets picked on. If the astroturfers left this alone, this would provide more than sufficieint balance. As it is, I think that the underlying motivation is mostly to misdirect discussion making the astroturfers equivalent to forum trolls.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353064)

The fact that Microsoft is willing to use deceptive, illegal practices quite rightly discredits other people who attempt to support Microsoft in forums.

I wonder if there is *any* company, or politician, who isn't trying to use {xyz}turf on the WWW to convert a displeasing reality into a sweet delusion.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (3, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353670)

Most of them. Oh I'm sure that with big corporations the proportion of honesty falls. I doubt more than 50% use such things as a matter of policy. Small and family owned businesses live on their reputation and know that if they get caught doing that kind of thing it will be in tatters. I think the "everybody's doing it" meme is partly self justification but is mostly a lie spread by the few that do it as a kind of self justification. This is why strong regulators (effectively enforcing existing regulations; making sure that they are relevant; not just adding new ones) are better for almost everybody.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (2)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354280)

Economic darwinism favors companies that can gain an advantage and not get punished for it.

Honest companies don't survive long, and the so called regulators have more to gain by colluding with the private sector than they do with doing their job.

If you want stronger regulation you have to beef up government enough to stand up against the companies you want them to regulate.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38353998)

I wonder if there is *any* company, or politician, who isn't trying to use {xyz}turf on the WWW to convert a displeasing reality into a sweet delusion.

The children's argument: "He did it first!". Grow up please.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354296)

I think the so called child might be rightly pissed that he's the only one that gets punished for it

Especially if his big brother gets off the hook because he bribed daddy to look the other way.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38353842)

MS have long been replaced by Apple zealots and paid mouthpieces.

Mandatory Notice (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38353044)

Please note that free discussion has been suspended.

This topic is now being managed by a Waggener Edstrom Rapid Response team on behalf of Microsoft.

Moderation and discussion will be directed to ensure a fair and balanced discussion of our client's activities. Thank you for participating.

Monitoring conversations, including those that take place with social media, is part of our daily routine; our products can be used as early warning systems, helping clients with rapid response and crisis management.

http://waggeneredstrom.com/clients [waggeneredstrom.com]
http://waggeneredstrom.com/about/approach [waggeneredstrom.com]

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38353238)

Please note that this topic is now being managed by a Waggener Edstrom team on behalf of Microsoft.

Moderation and discussion will be directed to ensure a fair and balanced discussion of our client's activities. Thank you for participating.

Monitoring conversations, including those that take place with social media, is part of our daily routine; our products can be used as early warning systems, helping clients with rapid response and crisis management.

http://waggeneredstrom.com/clients [waggeneredstrom.com]
http://waggeneredstrom.com/about/approach [waggeneredstrom.com]

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353588)

And you're one of the astroturfers that tries to protect MS even when those things are true. People don't need to make up bad things about MS, because they simply have done and still do bad things.

"Insight in 140 bytes" as in "I'm a marketing droid who loves astroturfing on Twitter/social media". Anyone who visits Slashdot regularly will recognise that the vast majority of the newest UIDs are astroturfers. I'm a bit shocked by the scale of it all as mentioned in the summary, but I already knew about the industry thanks to you and your buddies.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354206)

Hahaha nice, an astroturfer commenting on an article about astroturfing.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354242)

Oh also do you work for Waggener Edstrom? [waggeneredstrom.com]

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (1)

InsightIn140Bytes (2522112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38355404)

Are you sure I wasn't just making fun of all the stupid "omg shill!" comments? ;-P

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38355498)

You should get a new job as a comedian if that's the case.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38356060)

Please note that this topic is now being managed by a Waggener Edstrom team on behalf of Microsoft.

Moderation and discussion will be directed to ensure a fair and balanced discussion of our client's activities. Thank you for participating.

Monitoring conversations, including those that take place with social media, is part of our daily routine; our products can be used as early warning systems, helping clients with rapid response and crisis management.

http://waggeneredstrom.com/clients [waggeneredstrom.com]

http://waggeneredstrom.com/about/approach [waggeneredstrom.com]

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (3, Interesting)

Torvac (691504) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353062)

misleading/unethical. not really evil.
how is spreading lies in this way different from spreading lies in ads on TV ?

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (2)

yotto (590067) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353178)

Because you know that ads on TV are going to put the product in the best possible light, and use false imagery to try to trick you into wanting the product. Or, if you don't know this, you could.

Note, both are misleading. Pretending to be a satisfied customer on an Internet posting is simply MORE misleading, and therefore different, from showing a bunch of skinny women drinking beer.

It's not like tv ads (5, Informative)

jopsen (885607) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353250)

TV ads don't pose as reviews or recommendation by other follow consumers.
Also ads elsewhere are not posted without consent, the spam comment that show up on my blog are not ads placed with my consent (Note I have spam filter and personally reviews everything it doesn't kill).
It's equivalent to a people just putting ad-posters on your wall without your consent.

Furthermore it is the biggest threat to the free internet today, to some extent outright destroying the internet as we know it.
Evil is a strong word, but it's capitalization with total disregard for other peoples property and misleading to the degree that it's outright criminal.

Re:It's not like tv ads (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353280)

It's equivalent to a people just putting ad-posters on your wall without your consent.

There are companies that hire graffiti artists to do that too these days.

It's getting to the point where the marketers ought to be first up against the wall when the revolution comes (yes, even before the lawyers!).

Re:It's not like tv ads (4, Funny)

rust627 (1072296) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354700)

For instance, the entry on the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation describes their marketing division as "a bunch of mindless jerks who will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes", with a footnote to the effect that the editors would welcome applications from anyone interested in taking over the post of robotics correspondent.

Thank you Douglas Adams

The fiery pit of boiling death is reserved for the lawyers .............

Self-trepanation by hammer and nail is healthy (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353978)

misleading/unethical. not really evil.

how is spreading lies in this way different from spreading lies in ads on TV ?

It depends on how serious one considers the consequences of "lies" are. This "just simple marketing" can lead to switching pointless things like brands of bottled water, but also switching medical treatments, food, voting, investing, and taking life risks. Would be interesting to see a survey on the opinion of injured war veterans is about the legality of using misleading information in military recruitment. And what would "truth in advertising" mean for recruiting for fighting in Iraq? "Lose your limbs to support stupid politicians and dumb ideas!"

Still, spreading lies and false information can be defensible as freedom of expression, if one can say they "honestly believe" in what they are saying. Which almost always can be claimed - true or not.

"Yes your honor I truly believe self-trepanation by hammer and nail may be greatly beneficial to one's mental health in the long term, in spite of a occasional risks to one's physical skull. "

Re:Self-trepanation by hammer and nail is healthy (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354336)

Being good is a competitive disadvantage in an environment full of crooks.

Getting stabbed in the back or kicked in the nuts is pretty nasty but it's also very effective.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354028)

how is spreading lies in this way different from spreading lies in ads on TV ?

That's evil. Legal != ethical or moral. And while we're discussing THAT bombshell, in some countries it's illegal to spread lies in ads on TV.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353616)

All evil acts boil down either to fraud, or some kind of denial of service or possession.

How can you doubt that fraud is an evil act? We are in between good and evil, but acts are one or the other. You do the math and you figure out which they are. Sometimes all the options are evil, of course.

Re:Evil crowdturfing services? (1)

NicknameOne (2525178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353856)

Apparently that doesn't work so well for Slashdot. Look at most tech articles and not only will you see the famed astroturfers from Microsoft bashing other companies but they will be modded very high too. So it's quite easy to game the system.

Evil ? (1)

vikingpower (768921) | more than 2 years ago | (#38352854)

Who emits that judgment ? The poster ?

Re:Evil ? (1)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353056)

Gosh; wow; a real human being using his own moral judgement. The horror; the evil. Execute him immediately.

Re:Evil ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38353218)

Nigger... is the best excuse; nigger... is the only excuse.

This fanfiction fuck!

img.slashdot.org (1)

mark_elf (2009518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38352874)

WelcomeToTheInternetYouMustBeNewHere.jpg

sorry... (2, Insightful)

alienzed (732782) | more than 2 years ago | (#38352892)

what?

Re:sorry... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38352938)

WTF is this all about and why is Slashdot posting such drivel. I've submitted dozens of better articles that never made it to the front page

Got it. (1)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | more than 2 years ago | (#38352920)

Don't believe everything you read on the Internet.

Re:Got it. (0)

JustOK (667959) | more than 2 years ago | (#38352992)

I have someone else read and believe it for me.

Re:Got it. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353102)

Don't believe everything you read on the Internet.

OK - that means I should believe everything I read on the internet.

Wait! Was that post some kind of paradox to make our heads explode?

Re:Got it. (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353592)

He said don't believe "everything", not "anything". And even if he did, you could logically conclude that some things can be believe and others can't (his statement would then fall into those that you can't).

Re:Got it. (1)

schroedingers_hat (2449186) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353658)

Okay, I'll believe you.

Still not a problem.... (4, Interesting)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 2 years ago | (#38352936)

I still don't understand where the problem comes in.

I know when I buy a product I don't just say "Oooh, 4.76 stars! Gimme that one!". I read every damn review I can get: I read amazon, newegg, hardocp, etc. I make a point of reading both the stellar and the abysmal reviews; of reading both user and professional reviews. I just don't see myself falling to fakes. How is some harried Chinese shill, paid by the word or by the post, going to poison my impression of the product when there are still people writing the sort of real, detailed reviews that clearly took both time and a genuine user experience to write?

It's not that I think spam reviews will all be obviously vapid or riddled with 'Engrish' straight out of some pseudo-racist 70's action film; I just don't think that even a careful, literate fake can bullshit an authentic experience in a convincing and time-efficient manner.

And I know I'm supposed to be proud of my extraordinary time investment in researching products and my technical acumen versus the typical consumer; I know I'm supposed to think of the 'average' user as some knuckle dragging moron or arthritic grandma who would easily be fooled, Still, outside the deluded minds of preening digerati the average person isn't really too bad. I think they'll spot total bullshit almost as easily as I could.

Re:Still not a problem.... (5, Insightful)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353030)

The problem comes with the numbers. You say the average person is not so dumb, well, half of the people are dumber than that.

It's like with advertising. It works. If it didn't, the big shoesalespeople wouldn't be putting more than half of their turnover into marketing. You and me may not be dumb enough to fall for it, but on the whole, it works and thus the thought that the system consists of rational individuals making the best decisions for themselves is mathematically laughable. Bah! That's a nice tangent I went off on there... Point being: -turfing probably still works, otherwise they wouldn't invest so heavily in it. Problem? I think so. Solution? Off the top of my head I can't come up with others than education and hard work of those who can spread truth. Or the crushing of capitalism, of course.

Re:Still not a problem.... (2)

webbiedave (1631473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353166)

The problem comes with the numbers. You say the average person is not so dumb, well, half of the people are dumber than that.

Hate that quote... grumble, grumble... MEDIAN... grumble, grumble.

Re:Still not a problem.... (3)

Alranor (472986) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353222)

a) Median is a form of average
b) If you're measuring intelligence over a large population, the results aren't all that far from a normal distribution, in which case the mean, median and mode will all be the same number anyway /but yeah, I know how you feel :)

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353332)

You and me may not be dumb enough to fall for [advertising]

Yes, yes you are. We all are (well, I wouldn't call it dumb, but we are all affected by marketing). If you believe you aren't affected by advertising, that only means your filters are down, making it easier to affect you.

Re:Still not a problem.... (2)

starfishsystems (834319) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354364)

I'm inclined to dispute this point, using my own life as an example.

For the past forty years I've been earning a typical income, spending most of it, and saving the rest. That's typical behavior for most people, I hope. When I look at what I've spent it on, almost none of it was ever advertized. For the residue of goods and services that was subject to advertizing, I observe that my buying decisions were not made on the basis of that advertizing but on my own initiative based on need, attributes, and availability.

As a sanity check, I just took fifteen minutes to walk around the house looking at stuff. Hundreds of things. I could find no exception to the above claims.

We can certainly get into splitting hairs on what exactly is marketing. If a product is packaged in such a way that it informatively describes its attributes, that is arguably a form of marketing. Certainly I'm influenced by such information. But I don't think that's what's being discussed here. We're talking about messages whose content essentially reduces to "buy this".

I find no difficulty in identifying those messages and ignoring them. I find advertizing unpleasant, but my activities rarely put me in contact with it. Where they do, I have mitigations. For web browsing, I have ad blocking software. For television, I use this thing called a MUTE button. But I watch it so rarely that it hardly matters.

I don't see what the big deal is. Folks, this is not hard or radical, it's an easy habit. My life is rich and meaningful and totally enjoyable, and my conscience is clear that I'm doing things because I choose to do them, not because some voice has told me to do them.

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 2 years ago | (#38355204)

Same as that, but I'll add one thing: adverts actually put me off buying something. If the product or service is actually that good, why advertise it 100 times a day?

I don't know where you're from, but in the UK we have an insurance broker company called "Go Compare". It has the most annoying soundtrack ever. Don't take my word for it, it was voted as the most irritating advertisement in 2009 and 2010.

I refuse to visit their website, I'll change the radio station if it comes on, I'll pause the DVR and wait 30 seconds if I see that singing waiter. I'll not buy anything from them ever.

Add to that their Google blacklisting, on more than one occasion, and I think my job here is done.

Karma.

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354048)

The real problem is numbers, say there are 20 reviews on Amazon, and 15 are fake and praise the product, 1 says it's OK, and 4 says it was useless.... that looks to be the normal spread for a good product ...whereas without the fake reviews it would be 1 OK and 4 bad reviews, the sign of a pile of junk .... and so people will assume it is worth buying ... Astroturf wins ...

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354062)

I think your Hegelian approach "it exists, therefore it's rational" (couldn't find the quote in German or English, the closest source is Russell's History of W. Phil in Russian) does not work here. Current society is highly redundant: there plenty of services, goods and inevitably, people that providing them and making them that are not necessary at all.

There is a PERCEPTION of increased value on investment on all kinds of marketing and I am sure that there is a lot of pseudoscientifc astroturfing going on that show that astroturfing works. But is there actual science behind it? What would be a repeatable experiment on it?

The phenomenon that is being studied here is huge social network of millions of people. There is no way one can make adequate (experimental physics level) scientific experiments involving such huge system.

Re:Still not a problem.... (4, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353042)

To most sane people, it isn't worth spending hours reading reviews for a $20 product.

Re:Still not a problem.... (4, Insightful)

delinear (991444) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353398)

It depends what that product is, what you're planning to use it for and how easy it is to replace - I probably spent longer than I usually would reading reviews for camera equipment I planned to take abroad because it would have been a pain to try and replace it in a foreign country. Things that you need to take on a trip, or that you might need to rely on at short notice and/or during an emergency it certainly can pay to read the reviews.

Re:Still not a problem.... (3, Interesting)

wanzeo (1800058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354080)

I actually enjoy reading product reviews, it satisfies that urge to consume, while at the same time keeping the products that I buy useful and at the best possible price.

For example, I recently needed a coffee maker, I spent months reading anything I could get my hands on about coffee makers. By the time I actually bought one, many of the earlier reviews I had read were for products not even on the market anymore. But the result is that I now know a lot about coffee makers, and I am very happy about the one I bought.

Now I don't expect everyone to be such an scrupulous shopper, but I wouldn't go so far as to call people like me less than sane just because we refuse to buy the first shiny thing that floats into our vision.

Re:Still not a problem.... (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354192)

The reason I say "sane" is because you could've spend all that time you spent reading reviews simply doing some extra paid work. If you spent months reading reviews, you could have probably also spend those hours working, bought half a dozen coffee makers, threw away all but the one they liked and still have had more spare time and money left.

It's not "sane" in the same way that people will spend quite some time bargaining for a few dollars on, for example. a $100 radio, yet round off the price of a new car or house to $1000. The relatively minor effort to bargain the price of a car down to $10 increments is much more profitable than all the minor bargain hunting, yet few people do.

Ofcourse, if you consider either of these (reading review, bargaining) enjoyable then there is value in doing so, albeit not a monetary value.

Re:Still not a problem.... (2)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354922)

The reason I say "sane" is because you could've spend all that time you spent reading reviews simply doing some extra paid work. If you spent months reading reviews, you could have probably also spend those hours working, bought half a dozen coffee makers, threw away all but the one they liked and still have had more spare time and money left.

They call those people professional product reviewers, except the companies usually gives them the coffee makers for free in exchange for a generally biased positive review (so they get more freebies from the company in the future). People like to hate on Consumer Reports, but they are one of the rare places that actually buys all their reviewed products at full price from retailers eliminating a source of bias. Product research is important, but generally for expensive durable goods that you will use for a long period of time (like cars and washing machines).

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354352)

Which is probably why the phrase "you get what you pay for" applies so well.

Yeah, but... (1)

quixote9 (999874) | more than 2 years ago | (#38356400)

Let me tell you the story of me and my $35 toaster. You know the old joke about "they can land someone on the Moon, but they can't make a toaster that doesn't burn the bread"? It's totally true. After many years, I shouted, "Enough!"

I researched toasters. (Yeah, I know. I must not have enough to do.) After a couple of hours crawling all over everywhere, reading negative reviews first, evaluating positive ones for whether there was anything interesting or useful said, etc., etc., etc., I settled on one. Kind of expensive, but you have to remember I was really sick of burned toast.

And, damn if the thing doesn't work! So, if you're crazy enough, you can actually make the system function (sometimes). I agree that most people aren't going to or don't do any of that. But if I'd driven to the mall and picked from the available, normal, bread-burning toasters, that would have taken a couple of hours, too. And cost gas money.

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

Craefter (71540) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353052)

I still think you overestimate the intelligence of the average internet user. I'll give you a couple indicators:

- E-mail spam still exists because people click links and (God forbid) order pills.
- Accounts still get hacked because people "verify" their account when asked to.
- People execute/install any crap they can find without questioning its origin.
- Facebook exists.

Need I say more?

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38353092)

That's why I've almost totally given up on most social networks. I meet new people by sending UDP packets to unusual ports at random IP addresses. I read server logs for people doing likewise. You meet some of the most interesting people that way. They're never stupid.

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38353210)

You left out the important bit. Has doing this gotten you laid?

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353612)

His success rate with UDP packets is undoubtedly higher than your success rate with Facebook.

Re:Still not a problem.... (2)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#38355126)

That's why I've almost totally given up on most social networks. I meet new people by sending UDP packets to unusual ports at random IP addresses. I read server logs for people doing likewise. You meet some of the most interesting people that way. They're never stupid.

But if you want a deep, meaningful relationship, shouldn't you be using TCP packets? UDP is fine for a quick hookup, I suppose, but it takes a lot of work to maintain anything more substantial.

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353098)

And someone plz think of the "grossly overconfident" IE users!

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353138)

The review sites certainly could make it easier. For instance fake book reviews are becoming a very common thing on amazon, esp. for books in the mid-range of demand. It's amazing to look at a book and see all these 5 star ratings and then note that 99% of the people who gave it 5 stars mysteriously only have 1 review....Amazon helps out a little bit by allowing you to look at only reviews from people who bought the item or are a "top reviewer", but that still doesn't really help that much.

They should be allowing me to customize my settings to block any reviews from "suspicious" reviewers, but they won't out of fear of offending someone and perhaps losing a sale as someone buys garbage then has to go back and get a better product.....

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353460)

This is the key factor - Amazon et al only really care about the illusion of community reviews, they won't go too far out of their way to allow you to drill down to the real reviewers because, as you say, it might cost them a sale (it's certainly going to cost them money to implement). For now there is confidence in the system amongst regular users, people who are suspicious can generally get a feel for what the real reviews are by reading around, we might see more useful tools in the future as confidence in the system wanes and they need a new draw. I tend to find the approach that works for me is to use the scores to do some initial filtering, then to ignore the glowing reviews - read the negative reviews (with a pinch of salt) and see if the issues others are encountering are something that would bother me or not. People writing glowing reviews tend to skip over the deficiencies of a product they're enjoying, at the same time you can't just take negative reviews at face value as everyone's needs are different.

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354358)

It's difficult to cater to us smart folks when the idiots outnumber us a hundred to one.

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

Igarden2 (916096) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353470)

If the amount of forwarded misinformation I receive from some of my otherwise intelligent friends is any indication, I'm inclined to disagree. Too many of these forwards are total fabrication and I can't for the life of me understand why they get passed on, but they do.

Re:Still not a problem.... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354020)

the problem is that if you buy crowdsourced market research, what good is it if all the 10000 answers were from the same fucking guy?

of course the problem is pretty obvious though.

Amazon Mechanical Turk (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#38352966)

I had no idea that thing was still around... guess there's no point in gaming a system almost no one is using, eh?

Stop Making up New Words (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38352984)

What on earth is a "crowdturfer"?
Did you mistype crowdsurfer? Is it a group of people who install sod?

If you're going to go batshit crazy with the new buzzwords, at least define them as you make them up. (Yes, that's right, TFA is the first and only use of this stupid word according to the google.)

I haven't been this dumbfounded since some genius came up with "nettop".

Re:Stop Making up New Words (2)

loosescrews (1916996) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353088)

Here is a definition from the linked article:

"Evil crowdsourcing on a very large scale." Influencing public opinion with fake "grassroots" activity is known as astroturfing, leading Zhao to coin the term "crowdturfing," since it is done via large crowdsourcing sites.

Re:Stop Making up New Words (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353126)

Here is a definition from the linked article:

"Evil crowdsourcing on a very large scale." Influencing public opinion with fake "grassroots" activity is known as astroturfing, leading Zhao to coin the term "crowdturfing," since it is done via large crowdsourcing sites.

What's wrong with "evil crowd-sourced astroturfing"?

Or the more accurate, "massively parallel astroturfing"?

Or "why-don't-they-join-the-21st-Century-and-write-a-bot-to-do-it astroturfing"?

...

Heh. If the participants in a grassroots movement did this, you'd have "grassroots astroturfing".

Beowulf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38354272)

What if you had a beowulf cluster of trolls and *turfers
Oh, they already do...

Re:Stop Making up New Words (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354642)

What's wrong with "evil crowd-sourced astroturfing"?

Or the more accurate, "massively parallel astroturfing"?

I think the technical term you're after is "embarrassingly parallel".

Re:Stop Making up New Words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38353690)

Someone, quick, create a wikipedia entry!

Re:Stop Making up New Words (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#38355162)

Yes, stop making up new words... and start using words we already have. It's not a "water army", it's a "navy".

Re:Stop Making up New Words ... said Ogg (2)

quixote9 (999874) | more than 2 years ago | (#38356474)

Back in Stone Age, we had one, two, many! words. Plenty for Ogg. Who need more?

sigh (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353050)

Our species has gotten its hands on toys that we're just not grown-up enough to play with.

Re:sigh (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353234)

that's what it said.

Humf (1)

arcite (661011) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353086)

The Chinese make the Nigerians look like a bunch of amateurs.

Re:Humf (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38353272)

and the Jews on wall street mock them all

A related fallout (5, Informative)

tanveer1979 (530624) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353414)

I don't know whether it falls in this category, but the ability to buy crowds for cheap is having interesting results.
A real case I observed recently.

A leading motorcycle manufacturer did a contest in Asia (over 6-7 countries). On their webpage, write some thing about yourself(related to touring). Depending upon the number of "votes" winner will be declared, and then the winner gets a 20,000$ bike or something like that.

The lead guy led till the second or third last day. I followed his posts on FB asking people for votes and all.
And then bam, on the last two days, an unknown came up with largest number of votes.

Most of his friends accused the organizer of rigging votes. After all, how could somebody with almost nil votes come on top.

What they do not realize, for 1000$ you can actually buy tonnes of votes from these crowdturfing sites.

For 1 cent, you can get one guy to vote, so 100,000 votes is quite a bit.

For a random guy, not clued to this, getting 5000-10000 votes can be an achievement, and beating 100,000 votes are next to impossible.

I have seen this happening in many online voting contests where prize money is huge.

Duh (1)

Mark_in_Brazil (537925) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353656)

"Windows Vista was really bad, but Windows 7 is great!"

Hey (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38353668)

This is just a test but, i will send 5$ to anyone o mod me up until i reach +5 informative.

I wonder how big the fake click industry is ... (1)

Lazy Jones (8403) | more than 2 years ago | (#38353720)

"Crowdturfing" seems to be a new phenomenon that came with the rise of social networks, but the multi-billion pay-per-click ad industry has had to cope with (and benefit from) fake ad clicks for many years. Someone will have to burst that bubble soon...

WTF? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38354198)

This summary is completely incomprehensible. WTF is "Astroturf" and "Crowdturfing" is sounds like some sort of diarrhea that some jackass is spouting out of his mouth.

Buzzwords (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38354204)

Looks to be like the author is simply trying to promote a new buzzword "crowdturfing" which I have never heard of before now, and it's name does not imply anything. I still have no idea what it's about.

Crowdnullrouting. (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354558)

When discussing China and the Internet, calling it "evil" is redundant. They are almost completely immune to legal repercussions, our governments are too pussywhipped to blackball the trade industry, and China knows this. It is the only card they ever play. They have us by our consumerist balls, so they can get away with anything.

It is for these reasons that I drop ALL packets entering my network from China, except for VPN connections from the handful of contractors with whom I actually work. I've done this for the better part of 7 years. There is simply no business incentive for me to deal with that market, while they have all the reasons in the world to fuck with my sites, services and users. They can join the rest of us when they learn to play nice.

Re:Crowdnullrouting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38356266)

Could you tell me how you go about dropping all packets from China? I could use some of that.

Is this moving us to the end of anonymity? (1)

Marrow (195242) | more than 2 years ago | (#38354872)

Is there going to be different values for nyms based on their location or verified identity? Maybe that would be a good thing. Keeping nyms, but guaranteeing that a person can have only one per site. Or one per planet.

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