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The Underground Economy of Social Networks

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the such-a-strange-world-we-live-in dept.

Advertising 84

An anonymous reader writes "In a new study, Barracuda Labs analyzed a random sampling of more than 70,000 fake Twitter accounts that are being used to sell fake Twitter followers. They also analyzed some of the people that are using such fake followers including the recent example of U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Twitter account. Between Facebook's 10-Q filing stating that 83 million of its accounts are fake, to Mitt Romney's Twitter account recently falling under scrutiny for suspicious followings, fake social network profiles are a hot topic at the moment. And these fake profiles are at the center of a very vibrant and growing underground economy. This underground economy consists of dealers who create and sell the use of thousands of fake social accounts, and abusers who buy follows or likes from these fake accounts to boost their perceived popularity, sell advertising based on their now large social audience or conduct other malicious activity."

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I wonder .. (3, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906179)

How many fake accounts will it take to prop up Farcebook after they've forced Timelines on people and they begin the mass exodus to Google+

Re:I wonder .. (0)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906217)

you're presuming that people will actually use Google+.

Re:I wonder .. (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906705)

We can only hope that both of you are correct, and that the 'social' space remains a howling wasteland trodden by only marketers, wolverines, spammers, and zynga employees...

Re:I wonder .. (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906221)

Please, please, we prefer the term "heuristically assisted accountholders" and would like to assure all Facebook shareholders who aren't currently insider trading that they are based on the highest quality statistical inferences from our actual userbase for the greatest plausibility to the clickfraud bots that drive our advertising arm.

Re:I wonder .. (0)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906329)

brilliant

Re:I wonder .. (4, Insightful)

dc29A (636871) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906237)

That statement assumes that the average user^H^H^H^H^product of Facebook cares about privacy.

Re:I wonder .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40906291)

I bet you were one of those people who said there would be a mass exodus to Linux when Microsoft released Vista.
Yeah, we all saw that happen too.

Shills aren't new (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906199)

Bulk shills are. Welcome to the future, where the difference between a valid viewpoint and an astroturfed attempt to hornswaggle you out of your own money and political power has shrunk to the imperceptible.

Re:Shills aren't new (0)

Antipater (2053064) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906243)

hornswaggle

You learn something new every day.

Re:Shills aren't new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40906707)

I prefer Bamboozle

Re:Shills aren't new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40907491)

I like finagle.

Re:Shills aren't new (1)

jkflying (2190798) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907533)

I believe this is from Roald Dahl, the book "Little Billy". Another great one is "hoodwinklers".

Political power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40906621)

If you aren't the one holding the gun, then you have no political power.

Re:Political power (3, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906885)

If you aren't the one holding the gun, then you have no political power.

Pithy; but mostly false. In basically any polity as large/complex or larger than 'barbarian warband' actually holding the gun is a rather entry level task, typically handled by the actual leader's lackies. At the 'barbarian warband' level the strongman might occasionally have to do it himself; but even there it will be his charisma and burly friends and/or non-traitorous-family who keep somebody from just stabbing him in the eye while he sleeps...

If anything, "political" institutions are really an exercise in nothing so much as the mitigation of direct gun handling, through a combination of institutional compliance(ie. they don't say force of law for nothing; but the overwhelming majority of compliance requires zero cops to achieve) and relatively small(and, if one is both competent and lucky, tame) violence specialists to deal with any exceptions to the former.

Re:Political power (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907137)

"Leadership is mostly a power over imagination, and never more so than in combat. The bravest man alone can only be an armed lunatic. The real strength lies in the ability to get others to do your work."

Lois McMasters Bujold, _Shards of Honor_ (Captain Aral Vorkosigan)

Re:Political power (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907733)

If you aren't the one that can pull the trigger...

Re:Political power (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907765)

If you aren't the one that can pull the trigger...

...you probably aren't the one being shot at. No wonder they prefer to contract it out.

Re:Political power (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906939)

No, if you aren't the one with the money. Because if you have money, you can hire more guns, and bigger guns.

Re:Political power (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907251)

And when the more and bigger guns decide they like your money more than you, what then?

Re:Political power (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907487)

That's the point of the intelligence test. They need to be sufficiently stupid that they can't replace you, but sufficiently intelligent that they realise this. Alternatively, you can go for Hitler's strategy and give overlapping areas of responsibility to different groups with guns, so that they're too busy with infighting that they don't get around to deposing you.

Re:Political power (1)

StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) | more than 2 years ago | (#40909377)

Not so, in those close political races separated by only a few votes. Each voter in those elections wielded enormous power to allocate budgets, pass laws to fix our problems, or steal our liberties, or give money to local contractors, or raise taxes, or vote in additional tax breaks. The best that someone holding a gun has done lately is kill a few dozen people watching Batman and worshiping in a Temple. I think the gun/power thing is really overshadowed by the power of the vote. It does make some people think they are big men, at least within that small circle they can actually hit a target in. Think larger all you gun people, it the vote that packs the punch and at much longer distances and for a much longer time. An if you you are thinking of a revolution against the government, well the vote is the orderly way we do things in the U.S. and no one needs to get killed. (Someone should have told that fellow that shot Gabby Gifford).

And for you first person shooter game enthusiasts, they are starting to bring in voting machines so you can even vote via video game.

Re:Political power (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 2 years ago | (#40911265)

"Each voter in those elections wielded enormous power [...] The best that someone holding a gun has done lately is kill a few dozen people"

Therefore, killing a few dozen of those enormously powered voters *is* a lot of power, isn't it?

Re:Political power (1)

StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) | more than 2 years ago | (#40919801)

Point well taken, of course you have to fear that doing that angers voters who vote anti-gun laws and they come and take away your guns with the military and tanks to back them up. So it may not be wise to piss of the electorate. You see what they did with prohibition of alcohol and now with tobacco. You miss-behave and your next on the legislation list.

As we can see in the story submission (1, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906799)

Welcome to the future, where the difference between a valid viewpoint and an astroturfed attempt to hornswaggle you out of your own money and political power has shrunk to the imperceptible.

Indeed, the very story submission itself was crafted by the Democratic party... it would have been pretty easy to write up a less obviously partisan story summary but they couldn't be bothered to even try and hide.

Re:As we can see in the story submission (1, Flamebait)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907255)

How come I never see you posting things that aren't crazy conspiracy theories?

Re:Shills aren't new (1)

gallondr00nk (868673) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907001)

...where the difference between a valid viewpoint and an astroturfed attempt to hornswaggle you out of your own money and political power has shrunk to the imperceptible.

Fortunately, most attempts at astroturfing are hopelessly incompetant. I saw one recently here who was almost certainly turfing for Microsoft and he was called out time and time again.

We live in an age where in marketing circles subtlety and tact are deemed to be completely redundant. No-one takes the effort (or rather, pays the going rate) to actually create plausible, human and difficult to detect astroturfing efforts.

Re:Shills aren't new (2)

mkkohls (2386704) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907245)

Bulk shills are. Welcome to the future, where the difference between a valid viewpoint and an astroturfed attempt to hornswaggle you out of your own money and political power has shrunk to the imperceptible.

That's why Mitt has to use them. Not very many of the people who *actually* agree with him are competent enough to use the "new fangled internets" and yet her feels he must seem as if they are.

Re:Shills aren't new (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40922255)

Wait until androids become affordable and astroturfing comes to meatspace...

well that settles it (4, Funny)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906211)

Whereas I previously liked all of Mitt Romney's policies and was going to vote for me, this shocking revelation that his Twitter follower count might be manipulated is just too much for me to swallow, so he loses my vote!

Re:well that settles it (1, Funny)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906227)

Hah, I suppose I should preview better before posting. I was going to vote for him of course. But maybe I should indeed write-in "me" instead. My Twitter-follower count is genuine.

Re:well that settles it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40906397)

No, no, don't worry, Mittens, your secret's safe with us, we won't tell everyone about your shill accounts on Slashdot. Continue voting for yourself.

Re:well that settles it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40907063)

Now that I've learned that Romney has a three-digit Slashdot UID (lower even than mine!), etc. etc. finish joke here.

Re:well that settles it (3, Funny)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907413)

Just the fact that he HAS a twitter account was enough to lose my vote.

Re:well that settles it (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907509)

So who are you going to vote for, then?

Re:well that settles it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40907661)

He has "people" who have "people" who have twitter accounts.

We are talking about corporations? Right?

Re:well that settles it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40907759)

If you refuse to live in 2012, why not just throw yourself off a cliff instead of dragging us all down?

Re:well that settles it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40907739)

Whereas I previously liked all of Mitt Romney's policies and was going to vote for me, this shocking revelation that his Twitter follower count might be manipulated is just too much for me to swallow, so he loses my vote!

So you're either gonna NOT vote or vote for the current shitbag in the Whitehouse.... really smart there, Sparky....

Re:well that settles it (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | more than 2 years ago | (#40916435)

Whereas I previously liked all of Mitt Romney's policies and was going to vote for me, this shocking revelation that his Twitter follower count might be manipulated is just too much for me to swallow, so he loses my vote!

So you're either gonna NOT vote or vote for the current shitbag in the Whitehouse.... really smart there, Sparky....

Your 'whoosh', sir. *hands over a card with 'WHOOOOSH!' written on it*

I would have phrased it differently. (4, Insightful)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906213)

I would have phrased this differently:

This underground economy consists of dealers who create and sell the use of thousands of fake social accounts, and abusers who buy follows or likes from these fake accounts to boost their perceived popularity, sell advertising based on their now large social audience or conduct other malicious activity."

We could probably go with something like this:

This underground economy consists of dealers who create and sell the use of thousands of fake social accounts, and suckers who buy follows or likes from these fake accounts to boost their perceived popularity while under the misguided impression that these numbers convince people to purchase their product

One "like" from a "friend" is worth a hundred thousand likes from random strangers (even if they're real people). And one detailed comment about a product from an actual trusted friend is worth more than a hundred thousand likes from friends.

Re:I would have phrased it differently. (5, Interesting)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906345)

One "like" from a "friend" is worth a hundred thousand likes from random strangers (even if they're real people). And one detailed comment about a product from an actual trusted friend is worth more than a hundred thousand likes from friends.

That was supposed to be the whole point of Facebook. It's easy to "like" anything, but having a relationship graph gives you the context necessary to decide who the hell is "liking" something in the first place, and what that means. It all starts to break down when people friend anyone will-nilly, or sell their friendship to bots.

The problem is that friendship on Facebook (or Google Plus, for that matter) is an exhaustible resource. They'd probably kill fake accounts dead if they rationed the number of friends you're allowed to make, and only allowed people to create new accounts on the basis of several invitations and community rating -- essentially a proper web of trust.

Of course the whole business model for these sorts of sites is to bilk advertisers with clickfraud, and bots with phony accounts are a great way of doing that, so the goal isn't to eliminate phony accounts or friend relations, but to find the perfect balance of just enough humans to make the ads profitable, and advertisers feel like they're actually hitting an eyeball every now and then.

Re:I would have phrased it differently. (1)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906533)

can't we just stop feeding them? the advertisers i mean. can't we just shove them all into the grand canyon or put them into orbit? i mean, wtf.

Re:I would have phrased it differently. (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907451)

find the perfect balance of just enough humans to make the ads profitable, and advertisers feel like they're actually hitting an eyeball every now and then.
All they really need to do is convince people that the ads are profitable. They probably aren't, even if every hit actually was a real eyeball, but the whole purpose of the marketing department is to make the client believe that the money they are spending actually results in more sales.

Re:I would have phrased it differently. (2)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906465)

hundred thousand - hmmm - so all you need is 1 million likes to show a profit, which is generally how spamvertising works.

Re:I would have phrased it differently. (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906901)

One "like" from a "friend" is worth a hundred thousand likes from random strangers (even if they're real people). And one detailed comment about a product from an actual trusted friend is worth more than a hundred thousand likes from friends.

That must be why they pay me so well for killing peoples' friends and replacing them with eerily lifelike spamdroids... I always wondered.

Re:I would have phrased it differently. (1)

NotSanguine (1917456) | more than 2 years ago | (#40908679)

One "like" from a "friend" is worth a hundred thousand likes from random strangers (even if they're real people). And one detailed comment about a product from an actual trusted friend is worth more than a hundred thousand likes from friends.

What? People actually pay attention to "Likes" and "+1s" and such? Then again, somebody (or some-bot) actually clicked a button so it has to be important, right?

Maybe we should think about it like this: "Facebook Likes, number of Twitter followers, Google +1s and similar can have a powerful effect on the weak minded" --Obi Wan Kenobi

Why use twitter (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906355)

fake Twitter accounts that are being used to sell fake Twitter followers

Why use twitter? It sounds more and more like that fight club speech WRT doing work at jobs we hate to buy things we don't need to impress people we don't like. Is there anyone still using twitter who is not a bot, bot dealer, or PR shill?

Re:Why use twitter (1)

jkflying (2190798) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907579)

Politicians...

Re:Why use twitter (1)

cfulton (543949) | more than 2 years ago | (#40908279)

Is there anyone still using twitter who is not a bot, bot dealer, or PR shill?

Politicians...

I don't know I would qualify those who work for politicians as PR shills so maybe they were covered.

What idiots. (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906361)

A better way to garner likes/follows is to offer something for it.

"Chance to win a free (item of desire), just retweet this and follow!"
"Receive free in-game armor for liking our game!"

or the one I actually make a fake facebook account to do on my defensive driving course...
"Like this service on Facebook and get the audio tracks for free!"

You can buy followers for FRIENDS or ENEMIES (0)

DontScotty (978874) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906381)

You can buy followers for FRIENDS or ENEMIES.

As such, someone may have bought you followers.

Imagine as a jr. high bullying move - buying 5000 twitter followers for the unpopular kid.

Then - announcing that unpopular kid has paid for followers.

Ha ha for everyone but the victim. (On the bright side, unpopular kid now has 5000 followers in addition to the kid's mom!)

Re:You can buy followers for FRIENDS or ENEMIES (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907545)

You can be more subtle than that. For example, buy a load of followers / friends for a Republican candidate that spend most of their time posting Hitler quotes, or for a Democrat candidate that spend most of their time posting Stalin quotes. Then use the same 'look what crazy people support this candidate' technique that worked so well on the Tea Party and OWS.

Of course, this assumes that anyone cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40906407)

I really couldn't care less about Twitter...and it surprises me that so many other people do. Ah well, to each their own.

Isn't this just how advertising works? (1)

DeTech (2589785) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906413)

Companies can already buy-in to get time, space, words or street creed in every media format. How is this different than Mittten's coughing up an ad during your favorite futurama episode?

The actual problem (4, Insightful)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906435)

is advertising. It needs to be pretty much removed from modern life. Attracts the slimiest motherfuckers.

Re:The actual problem (1)

unsanitary999 (2482414) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906755)

That sounds like a bug zapper that doesn't finish the job.

Re:The actual problem (1)

gottabeme (590848) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907933)

Advertising, per se, is not the problem (as much as I hate ads). The problem is greed. The problem is evil.

Re:The actual problem (1)

V for Vendetta (1204898) | more than 2 years ago | (#40918323)

Advertising, per se, is not the problem (as much as I hate ads). The problem is greed. The problem is evil.

Advertising is a problem, because advertising is just en euphemism for lying.

Re:The actual problem (1)

zentigger (203922) | more than 2 years ago | (#40908007)

Yeah, but then we might actually have to pay for things ourselves. Biliking large corporations from their advertisign dollars to allow users access to a service without having to undertake a monetary transaction ("free") is really the only sort of taxation we can expect these days. There will always be cons, shills and marks. As long as you accept that, then you have a pretty good chance to avoid being one of the latter.

Re:The actual problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40915367)

Yeah, but then we might actually have to pay for things ourselves.

Advertising pays for nothing; it just changes the payment plan and costs not only money but time and attention as well. Unsolicited advertising is a scourge on modern society destroying social trust and causing millions to make poor decisions.

Re:The actual problem (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40922351)

Yep advertising can be good, a great way to fleece stupid companies into supporting things that we like for no good reason. It's the bread and butter of free online services and a lot of sports.

Re:The actual problem (1)

Mansing (42708) | more than 2 years ago | (#40910239)

It needs to be pretty much removed from modern life. Attracts the slimiest motherfuckers.

No, no, no! Advertising keeps all of them in single location! Much easier to target them!

the argument on anonymity is approached wrong (3, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906447)

there is a perception that anonymous accounts must be stamped out by google, facebook, twitter, etc. wrong approach

in truth, let anonymous accounts blossom by the ten, hundred, or thousandfold

instead, the option should be provided for people to choose one of their accounts to be certified as real, whatever that process may be (the process must be thought out, you can hack anything, but the process must be as foolproof as possible)

people who want real metrics, real voting, real value, real financials, etc., can therefore choose to refrain certian transactions to only certified accounts. then let the bilgewater anonymous drek do as it wants, not affecting those things which the internet holds great promise to do, but is currently held back to due anonymous douchebaggery

ps: of course there are valid uses for anonymity. i don't need to the hear the arguments for anonymity, i understand them. you need to understand i am making a place for anonymity in this scheme of certification, and you also need to understand that there is plenty the internet promises to do (such as voting and certain financial transactions) that anonymity ruins

so the emphasis then becomes on not negative proof: stamping out every anonymous account, which is impossible and a ridiculously huge undertaking. the emphasis becomes one of positive proof: self-chosen inclusiveness and opt-in. for those who choose not to be anonymous, certain new abilities on the internet become possible. for everyone else who chooses to remain anonymous, carry on, status quo unaffected

Re:the argument on anonymity is approached wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40908947)

This is a great solution, but not without its problems. In this case, the fraudsters would start using their botnets to create fake profiles using the personal information farmed from the infected computers.

This would greatly raise the bar to doing click fraud, and in many cases may even prove cost prohibitive for the traditional purposes of driving advertising revenue from a larger perceived audience; but it won't fully stamp out the problem. Even more troubling, the harder we push to eliminate the fraud, the more difficult it will become for us to detect it.

Twitter and short attention spans (2, Interesting)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906515)

I think conservatives prefer Twitter, because what passes for "thinking" for the Right are slogans and canned talking points that fit into 140 characters.

Might also explain why up-and-coming tory politicians on both sides of the pond keep getting caught buying thousands of fake Twitter followers. It boosts their credibility with those who swim in the shallower end of the gene pool, in a manner of speaking...

Re:Twitter and short attention spans (1)

Revotron (1115029) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907109)

Yeah, because "Hope", "Yes We Can", "Our Time For Change", and "Change we can believe in" are all totally longer than 140 characters. Partisan tool.

Re:Twitter and short attention spans (1)

jkflying (2190798) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907903)

Obama is also a Conservative, he just happens to be a member of the Democratic conservative party instead of the Republican neo-conservative party.

It's not an underground market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40906539)

It's a free market without pesky government regulations

The market will eventually sort itself out.

Businesses who stupidly buy into those fake accounts will lose money and eventually collapse, then the fake account sellers have nobody to sell to, and they'll go away (or find some other scheme to make money off stupid people)

Re:It's not an underground market (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907005)

Businesses who stupidly buy into those fake accounts will lose money and eventually collapse, then the fake account sellers have nobody to sell to, and they'll go away (or find some other scheme to make money off stupid people)

Except that doesn't happen. And I'd really be surprised if any business other than those already on shaky ground would go under because of buying fake accounts. If they did, then they'd have other, larger problems that led to their collapse, not buying fake accounts.

I highly doubt that IBM would go under from buying fake accounts any time soon.

Re:It's not an underground market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40907863)

I'm not saying business fail because of fake accounts. I'm saying they fail because they make stupid decisions (the "larger problem" you spoke of), such as buying fake accounts stupidly

Note the wording I said was buying "stupidly". I didn't say that buying fake accounts in and of itself is stupid. There may be ways to buy fake account which are NOT stupid

Is IBM buying fake accounts? I don't know, but if they are, and they aren't going under, then they probably aren't buying them stupidly.

Businesses hurt themselves due to their own stupidity happens all the time. People in general do that too.

Re:It's not an underground market (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40950877)

Is IBM buying fake accounts? I don't know, but if they are, and they aren't going under, then they probably aren't buying them stupidly.

1). I don't actually know if they are buying fake accounts or not; they were just an example of a company that is plenty big enough to buy accounts stupidly and not really feel any penalty for it.

2). Just because a company isn't going under doesn't mean that buying the fake accounts isn't stupid. Likewise, just because a company is going under doesn't mean that buying the fake accounts is stupid.

OT? Pls explain teen "share or like" posts on FB (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40906553)

For those of your lucky enough to have friended family teens on FB, or maybe you are one, but if you haven't noticed there are a ton of entities out there making teen-oriented versus-oriented info graphics that encourage "like" or "share" (i.e. iphone: like, blakberry: share). I figure this has to be a not-so-elaborate way of getting info on users preferences. But the teenage demographic seems targeted. And all this has to be a reason. There's also the get "2000 friends posts" just by liking this.

I want to know what our family members are really doing by participating. How is this information being used?

Re:OT? Pls explain teen "share or like" posts on F (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40910837)

From what I understood when the feature first arrived, the receiver of the likes (businesses, at least) get access to demographic and friend-list data. In other words, the same info that is being harvested when you add a facebook app.

We reported this last year; Barracuda missed much. (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907269)

Our paper from November 2011, "Social is bad for search, and search is bad for social" [sitetruth.com] , covered this last year.

Barracuda Networks doesn't even seem to have published a paper. (The article linked in the Slashdot article is a scraper site for press releases.) The Barracuda press release [barracudanetworks.com] points to an "infographic" [barracudalabs.com] and a blog posting [barracudalabs.com] which, as their only outside source, links to a black hat site. [fiverr.com]

Barracuda doesn't seem to have discovered the extent of the social spamming ecosystem. We identified at least 6 levels:

  • Advertising agencies.
  • SEO firms. ("Google Places Guaranteed")
  • Fake review, "like", "+1", and "retweet" generators. ("Buy Facebook Fans with us today and watch your popularity boom.")
  • Fake account generators, both automated and outsourced to low-wage countries. ("Bulk Accounts is the largest mass account generator out there. ...Gmail, Myspace, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Hotmail and much more...")
  • Fake IP address proxies and fake phone numbers ("Premium Private Proxies", "Top Quality CL Phone Numbers used to create Craigslist PVAs")
  • Botnet operators providing proxies on compromised machines. Now we're down at the organized crime level.

This structure insulates the legitimate businesses who use ad agencies from the criminal activity at the bottom. Except for the botnet operators, everybody in that ecosystem has some kind of web presence, although towards the bottom, they usually have only Skype and Gmail accounts as contacts. I'm not going to link to them here, but our paper gives actual names.

"perceived popularity" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40907323)

I guess I missed out on this part of 21st century culture, but who the fuck cares about the "perceived popularity" of anything? Whatever happened to making up your own mind? Do people really even pay the slightest bit of attention to how many "likes" something has?

It's bewildering. Seems to be a substitute for thinking for yourself.

Re:"perceived popularity" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40908699)

The media.

Candidate A has 30 million Twitter followers. Candidate B has 300 thousand. Therefore, candidate A is "ahead" of candidate B among the online crowd. Online is cool, so candidate A is cooler than candidate B. So, if we want our stories to be seen by more people online, we should be favourable to candidate A.

Tons of fake followers, well, duh. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40907581)

That's why I never took Klout.com seriously.

There are 2 kinds of fake FB accounts (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40908431)

There are two kinds of fake Facebook accounts.

The first kind are ones that are just spambots.

The second kind are ones where the people using them, due to the pervy privacy-hating nature of Facebook, don't give personal information like their cell phone number or other data and refuse to let themselves be facially identified.

Please be precise.

There are also ones for children (like my sisters have for their kids, but only the mom knows the password and uploads pics and approves all postings), pets (similar, if you like pics of cats and dogs), and professional versus personal accounts (I myself have three accounts, only two of which you may be able to find).

I can't wait to mod this post +1 Interesting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40908575)

It's what alternate accounts are all about!

Idiots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40909463)

I'm sure Obama doesn't have ANY fake followers.

Seriously, Slashdot - stay the fuck out of politics and get back to your role.

Re:Idiots (1)

Donwulff (27374) | more than 2 years ago | (#40910677)

Yeah, I definitely think it's time for Slashdot to get back to its roots - "News for nerds, stuff that matters, unless it's embarrassing to the Republicans".
That said, the revelation in this Slashdot article is hardly news [theatlantic.com] or previously unheard of, as usual. Nor should the number of Twitter followers or Likes matter, but quite obviously there are many who believe they do.
Just to quote the above news article as a teaser, "We subjected Barack Obama's account, @BarackObama, to the same analysis."

But how much do 5 slashdot recs cost? (1)

hamjudo (64140) | more than 2 years ago | (#40909555)

How much do high scoring slashdot comments cost?

Every One Of My Accounts Are Fake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40911515)

The only time I'm actually posting as the real me rather than some artificial persona is when I'm posting anonymously.

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