Tuesday, November 26, 2013

People are shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that Twitter is riddled with fake accounts

Anyone that has used twitter for more than a week could tell you that fake accounts have flooded this service in the past year.  Companies have figured out that people follow the twitter trending topics very closely.  Now if you are Toys R Us you can pay twitter boatloads of cash to be the top PROMOTED topic of the day and sit at the top of the "trending topics in NYC" page.

However, everyone has grown to ignore these promoted pages because we know they are ads.

Enter the bots.  Power spambot companies know that early in the morning it might only take 1,000-1,500 tweets with a certain Hashtag to become a trending topic.  Almost every day at some point during the day Walmart suddenly becomes a trending topic in NYC.  Now this is particularly odd since there are no Walmart's in Manhattan.  Are all of these Manhattan tweeters suddenly getting jazzed about a trip to the Secaucus Walmart at the same time?

Unlikely.

However, a bot can have 10-40 different little phrases
"Need to pick up milk at #Walmart?" 
"Does #Walmart have any sales this week?" "
"Anyone seen this Black Friday ad from #Walmart?" and blast twitter with them in a fraction of a second.  Instantly, it gives the appearance that Walmart must have something interesting going on because it is trending.  However, it's just another type of advertising that is not a promoted ad, just an artificial level of interest created by spambots.

Anyway, the point here is that we are entering a very dangerous time as it relates to these start-ups and their desire to get rich quick.  The next wave coming is self-destructing/private messaging - snapchat (whose messages don't really disappear - make sure you tell everyone you know about this fact), wickr (encrypted person to person messaging), mail.ru (promises email not shared with NSA), etc.

Snapchat turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook and is probably going to raise money at a valuation between $4-6 billion soon.  That is a lot of incentive to cheat.  I'm not saying that snapchat and these other services are lying, but if you are snapchat and the only measure anyone cares about is messages sent would it be in your own interest to allow or possible even encourage spambots to send images to users and maybe even send messages to other spambots?

Imagine a day when someone builds a "hot new app" for messaging.  They get 10 users and then hire 500,000 robot accounts to send "encrypted" messages back and forth.  The robots send 10 messages/day for the first month, 20 the next, 40 the next and soon Wall Street thinks you are the next hot thing because you have 20 million messages per day going across your servers even though it's really just the same 10 people and 500,000 really active bits of software.  That leads to lots of free PR and then you hope actual humans start using the service, but it doesn't really matter because you can always just increase the robot message count to show growth and no one can ever test or verify your numbers because "it's encrypted".

A fake economy built on a fake platform sending fake messages to fake accounts.  Sounds like a $10 billion idea to me :)

Cheers!

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