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Social Media Fluff: A Problem with Internet Bots

GRAPHIC: Legion Productions/Youtube

In April, Procter & Gamble announced some details of its $12 billion or so cost-cutting binge over the next five years. It includes slashing $2 billion in advertising expenditures — more specifically, P&G is moving away from ads on Facebook that micro-target key consumers. P&G found that micro-targeting specific consumers based on the data Facebook collects actually reduced the company’s reach and generally wasn’t working.

CFO Jon Moeller explained the gist of it: The Internet is crawling with with fraudulent bots.

“In the fourth quarter, the reduction in marketing that occurred was almost all in the digital space. And what it reflected was a choice to cut spending from a digital standpoint where it was ineffective: where either we were serving bots as opposed to human beings, or where the placement of ads was not facilitating the equity of our brands.”

So P&G cut more than $100 million out of its digital advertising budget in the fourth quarter, and this is what happened: According to Moeller, “We didn’t see a reduction in the growth rate.”

He touched on the two most common complaints about digital advertising scams:

  • Advertisers are paying for ads that are viewed and clicked on by bots, not humans.
  • Ads are placed by thousands of automated “ad exchanges” that are out of control of the advertiser on sites and pages that don’t match the advertiser’s products.

The entire vast space between legitimate advertisers and legitimate publishers is populated by a murky, slimy world of often-invisible entities, usually automated, that try to extract their cut and, in the process, further dilute the effectiveness of advertising expenses.

In the realm of social media, a Digital Forensic Lab study using a behavior-based model estimated that 9 to 15 percent of active Twitter accounts are bots, which is a lot more than Twitter reports.

Incredibly, the practice of buying Twitter, Instagram and Facebook followers and likes is considered acceptable. The trick is to fool the cognescenti into believing an account is popular. The public perception of popularity is as good as gold in our inverted world.

This type of fake activity can be found across a spectrum of social media forums. On Reddit at times, discussion there is almost entirely owned by bots. Additionally, power resides in individual subreddits. In the most popular ones ,there was a power grab to become moderators of these subreddits. In terms of how this works, The New Nationalist (TNN) is not permitted to post in r/news and many other “mainstream” subreddits. In others, we are frequently met with bot attacks. Other subs, where our articles are welcome, have been banned.

Of particular note was the heavy presence of discourse disrupting paid-bot activity during the Pizzagate (aka pedogate) discussion last year before those subreddits were banned by Reddit. For example, TNN shared this article at Reddit and became a prima-facie and rather comical example of a bot trying to disrupt the conversation on Pizzagate (aka Pedogate). “Clovize” is TNN and, of course, “Jpop” is the non-human bot. Jpop made the first comment within minutes of the post.

Who funds this type of operation?

Naturally, the Reddit moderators take all this down after five hours, but here is what transpired.

jpop23mn 0 points an hour ago

oh, c’mon! This is clearly the fake news that makes us lol bad

clovize[S] 2 points an hour ago

Given your garbled syntax, I have a capcha to determine if you are a human or a bot. Answer this question: are dominos played on cheese or pasta?

jpop23mn [score hidden] 59 minutes ago

I’m still not convinced

[–]lemonyfresh3667 [score hidden] 57 minutes ago

A bot lol, gives the same comment to every pizzag8 post

jpop23mn via /r/conspiracy sent 9 minutes ago

bot? Shill? That’s original

[–]clovize[S] 1 point 4 minutes ago

Wow, first hand glimpse of a non-human bot in action.

TNN learns a little more about jpop23mn:

Here are even more stark examples of organized and fraudulent bot-wave operations on the Pizzagate/Pedogate issue. The messages are identical for the multiple bots. Notice that a number of the bot avatars also show up in the second canned message.

Definition of fraud: Act or course of deception, an intentional concealment, omission or perversion of truth.

2 Comments on Social Media Fluff: A Problem with Internet Bots

  1. On an individual level, people with a high number of followers — called “influencers” — can actually turn their popularity into cash. Businesses are willing to give them freebees to “like” their products or services. On a business level, bots = revenues. Ad revenues used to be based on click throughs or completion of some action, like signing up for account. Now, it’s increasingly based on “impressions,” meaning that all somebody has to do is view the social media page or website. In other words, mere followers/traffic/feed volume = money for the ad seller. There’s no oversight for fakery and a high level of monetary motivation to use bots.

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