Posts Tagged ‘sockpuppets’


Her likes are real, but she is not

OMG cant wait 2 have sum Kraft Anything Dressing & Welch's Fruit Snacks 4 dinner lol

Facebook’s business model, like that of Amazon, Google and myriad other network-driven companies, depends to a great extent on having good predictive algorithms for what their users will respond positively towards. Amazon uses characteristics about you and your past purchases to show you things that maybe you’ll want to buy; Google and Facebook want to show you ads that will be relevant and effective.

But with Facebook, it’s not just ads; they also use algorithms to determine what things you might want to like, what events you might be interested in, and which people you might already know. Generally, when those people come up for me, they’re people who have some connection to my family, school and work networks — I may know this person, and Facebook tells me we’ve got 12 mutual friends. Occasionally, though, I get people that I have no clear connection to, and sometimes I’ll click through to see if it’s someone I’m connected to locally or through some group.

Today I got the one seen in the screenshot to the right (names and images obscured). Who is this? It’s a young lady who apparently graduated from Lyndon High School in Lyndon, KS, in 2010; she has three Facebook friends. She has an extremely common last name, which is shared by two of her friends. Two of her friends are also part of the Lyndon High School network. Now that seems weird. Needless to say, I don’t know her. I’ve spent a total of about nine hours in the state of Kansas, and none of it in Lyndon, which is about 30 miles due south of Topeka.

But check out the things she likes: PetSmart, Honey Bunches of Oats, Seattle’s Best Coffee, etc. Everything she likes is a retail store or a consumer product in the food and beauty sectors. How many 20-year-olds do you know that have three Facebook friends and like Snausages? So I’m pretty sure this is a bot, designed to get slow-witted, 30-something men to check out how Country Time Lemonade can bring a little excitement to their lives. This is a pretty interesting tactic if that’s what it is, but you’d think a cross-promotion with a record label and a TV network would make the thing look a lot more realistic.

Filed: aka Syscrusher || 16:52, September 10 || No Comments »


I agree with that extremely smart, good-looking previous commenter

Apparently creating corporate-friendly sockpuppets is now Big Business:

After I last wrote about online astroturfing, in December, I was contacted by a whistleblower. He was part of a commercial team employed to infest internet forums and comment threads on behalf of corporate clients, promoting their causes and arguing with anyone who opposed them. Like the other members of the team, he posed as a disinterested member of the public. Or, to be more accurate, as a crowd of disinterested members of the public: he used 70 personas, both to avoid detection and to create the impression that there was widespread support for his pro-corporate arguments. I’ll reveal more about what he told me when I’ve finished the investigation I’m working on.

But it now seems that these operations are more widespread, more sophisticated and more automated than most of us had guessed. Emails obtained by political hackers from a US cyber-security firm called HB Gary Federal suggest that a remarkable technological armoury is being deployed to drown out the voices of real people.

The piece goes on to describe the process by which “persona management” companies provide “pre-aged” fake personae, which have built-in histories of social media use, various profiles and accounts, etc. Apparently the Air Force has just signed a big contract for these types of sophisticated sockpuppets, which is seems have “the potential to destroy the internet as a forum for constructive debate.” Really? I kind of can’t imagine that anyone of note takes newspaper site comments that seriously. If the past several years have taught us anything, it’s that online discourse is a powerful tool for political organization, but probably not much in the way of a discursive public sphere. Has there ever been an instance of public policy deriving from the balance of blog posts favoring one side or another? Of sentiment analysis driving legislation? No matter how many sockpuppets elite organizations deploy — even if that number were zero — we have better ways of measuring public opinion than looking at what people are saying online. And if our concern is providing a productive environment for learning about policy issues, well, online discussion already doesn’t do that.

Filed: aka Syscrusher || 22:51, February 23 || No Comments »