Web Vigilantes being banned from social media sites.

November 17, 2010

Cyber crime and Twitter scams make good headlines but somewhere underground there are a few concerned citizens that take a vigilante approach to dealing with these scammers and fraudsters. For instance http://www.419eater.com/ bait scammers using highly creative methods to engage Nigerian conmen, waste their time and then attempt expose them. There’s also the Salty droid who names and shames would-be conmen who utilize Twitter and other channels to exploit consumers. But it turns out that life of a digital freedom fighter is not easy.

imageHere’s the problem : Many scams consist of intelligent, organised individuals and groups. They syndicate and they collaborate, and they actively wage a reverse war on the people trying to expose them. Ironically scammers are using the same processes created to report spammers to shut down the people trying to expose them.

Sadly YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo accounts etc belonging to web vigilantes trying to alert people to scams are being shut down faster than than those belonging to the scammers. How do I know this?  Read on:

The Sad Story of the SaltyDroid

imageI’m not sure how I first came across the Droid on Twitter but I became interested in the Droid’s outspoken ‘attacks’ on certain individuals. Some of the people it was targeting had HUGE followings on Twitter, some with high profiles and. SaltyDroid had no qualms in confronting them directly in public view and alerting other users. I have no reason to doubt that SaltyDroid’s only purpose was to expose people it believed were engaged in unethical practices (such as this one which was exposed). 

I noticed a few months ago that SaltyDroid (which had a few thousand Twitter followers) just ‘vanished’. The blog was still alive and kicking so I wrote an email to find out what the story.

Me: “What happened? Where did your accounts go?”

Salty Droid: “I lost. I’m basically banned from the Internet.  Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo, Bluehost, Youtube, etc. Everywhere I go the scammers file false complaints and horrific lies about me.  The web companies all default to caving in and banning you rather than risking "trouble".  Most of them, and especially Twitter, do it with zero notice, process, or chance to respond. It says sad things about the state of free speech on the all important fringes … IMO.

I don’t have time to fight the web companies and the scammers … so I just gave up on the web companies.  I’m on a special free speech server where some really great people take special care of me … and otherwise I’m silenced.

And the Twitter bannings are not as bad as the death threats, the private investigators, the plots against my personal life, etc.”

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The Droid also let me know that although he began his pursuit anonymously it wasn’t long before a syndicate of scammers found him at which point the he decided it would be safer to unmask the droid. Revealing himself as a lawyer it  gives the whole saga an even bigger sense of irony.

In summary, it’s easier for a scammer to have a web vigilante shut down than vice versa. The Droid is now absent from all social networks and yet the people being named in his blog continue to tweet freely etc. In an age where consumers are able to interact so easily with anyone from close friends to complete strangers there is no easy and quick way of distributing warning messages to others in the case of genuine scams. That’s a service SaltyDroid was attempting to provide before being shut down in social media circles. The internet at present sometimes appears lawless and wide open territory for the scammers, and the presence of government and local authority is limited, and at best slow moving. I’m not condoning Salty droids methods or even agreeing with all his posts but freedom of speech is important so I certainly don’t want to see people prepared to take on these issues disappear especially with the bad guys roaming free so easily.

Beware wolves in birds clothing: Currently I know of one major Twitter account belonging to a convicted spammer in Australia with close to 100,000 followers. This person appears free to be able to act on Twitter regardless of their history. Sadly the only way you are likely to hear the name of this person is via someone like SaltyDroid.

What can you do?
1. Send this link on to people in the industry.

2. Copy and paste this story – reproduce it in your own blog.

3. Help Re-activate or read the Saltydroid: If you know someone who works in Twitter or Facebook etc ask them to reinstate the banned SaltyDroid accounts eg:  http://twitter.com/saltydroid

4. Support freedom of speech but don’t be a web vigilante. Salty Droid is a lawyer in real life and is better equipped to deal with bad people on the internet. Report web crime here:
http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx – USA
https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/content/index.phtml/tag/reportascam/ – Australia
http://www.met.police.uk/fraudalert/ – UK

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Above: Clearly Charles Bronson wouldn’t have lasted long in Facebook or Twitter.

Cheers,

@eunmac

Disclaimer to be quite clear: The opinion above is that of the author only and does not represent the views of Amnesia Razorfish etc.


User-generated electioneering

April 8, 2010

Every election these days is called ‘the internet election’, and not surprisingly since each election brings new innovations in social media. Howard Dean did really well out of e-campaigning in 2004, although he was probably less enthusiastic about it once ‘the scream’ appeared all over YouTube. MyBarackObama.com was a cracking success, expanding into a SMS programs, 2,000 YouTube flicks, 3 million online donors, 5 million ‘friends’ across Facebook and other social sites. In Australia, Labor claims a lot of its success is due to marshalling support through digital, and the Coalition admits they didn’t make the best use of it, falling before the bold and youthful Kevin07 brand.

There’s one month of furious electioneering to go in the UK before folks head to the polls, and we’ll see how the parties make best use of digital and social in particular in these next few weeks. Already, my Facebook news feed has changed. Status updates allow everyone you know to see your opinions, comment, and get notifications of others’ comments.  It wasn’t that long ago that these were about X Factor, but political conversations are taking their place – people are linking to opinion pieces on the economy and social policies, and the same political discourse is all over twitter too.

But what I’ve found most interesting is how user-generated content has already made a big splash. Following the launch of (Conservative leader) David Cameron’s much mocked airbrushed billboard campaign, Tory-bashers are giving those ads an amusing PhotoShop once-over at mydavidcameron.com.

davidcameron1

davidcameron2

Labour had an official crowd-sourcing poster competition won by a 24 year old’s entry depicting ‘Nice Dave’ sitting on a 1983 Audi Quattro (below), recalling a character from recent BBC drama Ashes to Ashes in which a police officer inexplicably wakes up in 1981.

davequattro1

The ad was launched last Saturday by Labour’s agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, but immediately repurposed by Euro RSCG (the Tories’ ad agency) to great effect (more on this here).

davequattro2

Clearly crowd-sourcing hasn’t paid off in this example (more of an own goal really), but I’m looking forward to more UGC in the coming weeks.


List of Australian Domain Name Disputes 2002-2009

November 25, 2009

Since 2002 auDA have been handling disputes over domain names (brands and individuals who believe they have the right to a domain/URL but are not the registered owner). Whilst some disputes appear to be clear cases of cybersquatting, others are just co-incidental making for an interesting debate.

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Above: It’s not always cyber squatting. But if it is, auDA is here to save you* 🙂

“GIVE ME BACK MY URL!”
In all about 160 cases are in the system which is not many considering this covers the last seven years. Although it’s a cost effective option (usually between $2000 and $4500 AUD) many companies still use a below the counter/direct approach and simply buy out a domain direct. Having been involved with quite a few of these direct URL ‘transfers’ there are sometimes good reasons to go direct – for instance if you lose the case at auDA, you may end up having to pay a LOT more as a result – so it pays to do your homework first to decide which route will work best.

Some interesting brands in the list below that have used auDAdrp: Facebook, Neilsen, BT, WhitePages, IBM, Telstra, Calvin Klein, Virgin, True Local, Hey Hey it’s Saturday (to name just a few). Current records show that roughly two thirds of cases were won by the complainant.

List of Domain Names that auDA have handled and resolved 2002-2009:

adra.com.au
globalcentre.com.au
globalcentre.net.au
cigarettes.com.au
tobacco.com.au
discover-tasmania
paconsulting.com.au
gatekeeper.com.au
esat.com.au
esat.net.au
petsmegastore.com.au
singaporeairlines.com.au
abebooks.com.au
partymob.com.au
bluechip.com.au
internet.com.au
mgm.com.au
bt.com.au
people.com.au
abclearningcentres
abclearningcenters
quiznos.com.au
overture.com.au
swin.com.au
campertrailerswa
unimelb.com.au
carecredit.com.au
supre.com.au
lampeberger.com.au
netratings.com.au
13flowers.com.au
billiingbureau.com.au
justcars.com.au
rnbsuperclub.com.au
flowerfast.com.au
fastflower.com.au
jaccuzispas.com.au
jaccuzi.com.au
premierfire.com.au
premierfire.net.au
archicad.com.au
justcarfinance.com.au
bigbanger.com.au
luxilon.com.au
aru.com.au
sellbuyyourself.com.au
sellbyyourself.com.au
jjdavies.com.au
hytorc.com.au
startcorp.com.au
zte.com.au
hia.com.au
airtowel.com.au
espn.com.au
jasham.com.au
velocityrewards.com.au
migrationsolutions
countrykithomes.com.au
partymob.com.au
truelocal.com.au
truelocal.net.au
trulocal.com.au
flowersonly.com.au
newcars.com.au
melways.com.au
cairnsskyrail.com.au
kurandaskyrail.com.au
yellowbook.com.au
yellowbook.net.au
spiegelau.com.au
buyaustralian.com.au
whitepage.com.au
astonmartin.com.au
australianpenthouse.com.au
freeparking.com.au
pfd.com.au
freetv.com.au
australianmedicalinstitute
advancedmedicalinstitute
impotencyanonymous
healthservicesformen
sydneynewyearseve.com.au
seekbusiness.com.au
adjustit.com.au
adjustit.net.au
doteasy.com.au
sandisk.com.au
napoleonperdis.com.au
clubjenna.com.au
seekfinance.net.au
seekhouse.com.au
seekinsurance.com.au
seekproperty.com.au
seekrealestate.com.au
seeksuper.com.au
zillow.com.au
mapquest.com.au
tinaarena.com.au
australiantooling.com.au
toolingaustralia.com.au
autronic.com.au
questacon.com.au
inventhelpaustralia.com.au
jjj.com.au
lullabyconceptions.com.au
3mlittmann.com.au
littmannstethoscopes
wow.com.au
princessyachts.com.au
googlebay.com.au
ecohort.com.au
darwindaytours.com.au
factoryseconds.com.au
gloriajeans.com.au
propertysecrets.com.au
databank.com.au
hmssydney.com.au
unitedenergy.com.au
greenmobile.com.au
barawards.com.au
bartender.com.au
netstarit.com.au
swarovski.com.au
tkl.com.au
whitepagesaustralia
yellowpagesaustralia
aastra.com.au
emirates.com.au
topfield.com.au
topfield-australia.com.au
topfield.net.au
i-topfield.com.au
i-topfield.net.au
facebook.com.au
clearvision.com.au
ivfsunshinecoast.com.au
scriptlogic.com.au
marinebusiness.com.au
channelweb.com.au
silvasspitroastcatering
justbikeinsurance.com.au
freelife.com.au
googler.com.au
vectorworks.com.au
holdenastra.com.au
justbikes.com.au
insureandgo.com.au
perthairport.com.au
calvinklein.com.au
domuslift.com.au
sitecore.com.au
sitecore.net.au
alphakids.com.au
13cars.com.au
(66 domain names)
telstraonline.com.au
earthmove.com.au
1300homeloan.com.au
1300accountant.com.au
1300electrical.com.au
1300fencing.com.au
1300hampers.com.au
1300plumbing.com.au
1300printing.com.au
1300sparky.com.au
1300weddings.com.au
1800locksmith.com.au
engineer.com.au
navico.com.au
ibuypower.com.au
lufthansa.com.au
greenerydesign.com.au
heyheyitssaturday.com.au
heyheyitssaturday.net.au
adelaidecasino.com.au
transportworkersunion
tonysheldon.com.au
twunsw.com.au
twunsw.net.au
wayneforno.com.au
perpetualhomeloans

You can do a search here and see who won what and why:
http://www.auda.org.au/audrp/search/

Post by:
~@eunmac

* UPDATE:
Since posting this article I’ve had several people contact me complaining about auDA and its process. One person explained to me that they were told by auDA that their case (their registered business name taken) had been “investigated” and denied even though the domain had not been used in seven years, no trademarks, no business name, noe events etc. This person also claimed to have discovered a direct connection between the board of auDA and the holder of the domain. The following article “auDA a Law unto Themselves” goes into other issues with auDA.

http://www.domainnews.com/en/auda-a-law-unto-themselves.html

Any more stories? Post them in the comments.


The Mystery of Kevin Rudd’s/Kyle & Jackie O’s new Twitter followers. Solved

July 17, 2009

We were wondering how Kevin Rudd had managed to gather over 100,000 new Twitter followers in under 10 days. It was a bit of a mystery because as you can see, on the 6th of July something strange happened following a very consistent pattern of Twitter growth for a user. In fact the pattern below is something normally associated with people who are manipulating their follower count (see this article).

 imageimage

Where did they all come from?
So what happened? The answer is actually quite simple. Twitter just added the @kevinRuddpm and @kyleandjackieo accounts to be amongst the exclusive 241 twitter accounts in the world that are “recommended”. See this article on “Who Twitter Loves the Most”. Anyone new to Twitter will potentially be given Rudders account as a suggested account. It’s free and very valuable promotion for him.

Here’s an article on what getting on this list means (here) – and it is controversial, many have remarked that the spots are unfair. Jason Calicanis offered to pay $250,000 (here) to be on the list citing the spot as the next “superbowl ad”.

One might argue Twitter has provided Rudders an unfair advantage for any future elections, but hey… that’s a story for someone else to take up!

Update: Julian Cole pointed out to me via Twitter that this may also seems explain why http://twitter.com/kyleandjackieo had a massive leap during the same period. This would debunk the SMH article claiming Kyle and Jackie O have been buying followers: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/kyle-and-jackie-o-accused-of-faking-followers-on-twitter-20090707-dbie.html

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Posted by @eunmac