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.”

image 

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

image

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.


No! You can’t enter our social media competition

October 28, 2010

I just had a rather interesting experience with a guy from Vodafone Australia looking after the Android Man Social Media comp. The problem – I tried to enter with a photo of Android Man and an iphone:


Full size image and actual caption here.

The story goes like this:

I went down to checkout Vodafone Australia’s Android Man competition. The game: locate Android Man from his cryptic tweets, take a creative photograph, upload it to facebook and you could win a HTC Desire HD.

My idea for the ‘creative photograph’ was to give Android Man my iphone in the hope that he would give me a shiny new HTC Desire HD in return. However, after I took the shot I was approached and encouraged to delete the shot. The conversation went something like this:

Vodaman: “You can’t take a photograph of Android Man and an iPhone”
Me: “Why not? The competition is take a creative photo. That’s creative”
Vodaman: “I want you to delete the photo of Android Man and the iPhone”
Me: “Sorry mate, it’s user generated content, social media, my phone, my picture and a public space”
Vodaman: “Delete the photo or I can help delete it for you”
Me: “Seeing as you put it so nicely … Sorry I’m not deleting it”
Vodaman: “Look if you upload Android Man and the iphone to the Vodafone AU facebook group it will be removed and you won’t win the competition”
Me: “Fair enough … You know. You sometimes see dolphins here some times. Seriously. I’ve seen one once.”
Vodaman: “Just one?”
Me: “Just once. It was looking for something.”
Vodaman: “Maybe some food?”
Me: “Yeah maybe”

Well … yeah …I made the dolphin bit up, but the rest actually happened.

I love social media competitions like this. In fact I helped create The Smirnoff Secret Party Treasure Hunt a few years ago. However, this incident highlights just how important it is that everyone from the ground up is aware of just how transparent social media is. Your people are your brand and they need to know that everything they say and do can be repeated and tweeted and be the make and break of such campaigns.

Just sayin 🙂

@handypearce

Update (16.54 on 28/10): Nice response from @vodafone_au


Torrent Town?

August 10, 2010

If you were the owners of a big, shady, money earning torrent site – what would you do with all that potentially ill-gotten cash?

Buy yourself a small town in Russia, obviously.


View Larger Map

This is exactly what torrent and P2P news site TorrentFreak announced that the large file-sharing facilitator TorrentReactor had done. TorrentReactor claimed to have made the purchase, and that with their financial backing, the quality of life in the township of Gar would improve for its 300+ citizens. Not only that, I’m sure they’d be trying to carve out a file-sharing haven for themselves – though whether this would work under Russian law, I’m not certain.

As it turns out though, the town has not yet been purchased. This may have begun as a prank, however it looks like it will end well – for the people of Gar at least. You see, they’re actually interested in the possible investment. TorrentReactor claimed to have bought and renamed the place for approximately $164,000 AUD and the ambitious folk in Gar are keen to see that cash. Apparently all that’s needed is approval from the President.

Apparently they can’t rename the town, but the folks over at TorrentReactor now feel “obligated to help” in some fashion or another, which can only be a good thing. Whether they buy it or not remains to be seen.

As amusing as this idea initially was, I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of organisations purchasing towns outright – I worry about what it means for the future. How about you? Or… do you know of any instances where it’s happened before? If so, has it been beneficial, or is this a downward spiral?

~@tali3sin

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Crust Free Pizza Fail

July 14, 2010

When talking about Twitter accounts which do it well – which engage users, spark conversation and create evangelists, I’m usually not one to go past @Crust_pizza, who do it right.

Their Twitter account has risen to huge popularity using the Weekly #crustfreepizzafriday competition which – every Friday – is practically viral.

Their day-to-day content is targeted at the younger audience, with videos drawn from the vein of Funniest Home videos, music tracks which they’re into, movie trailers, in addition to a sprinkling of corporate news like store openings. And, perfectly, they respond to customers in realtime.

However, today they tweeted this:

What, did they put the Work Experience kid on Twitter for the day?! More on this, after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


New Facebook Privacy Tools: A Cunning Ruse?

May 19, 2010

Everybody is mad at Facebook for destroying privacy all the way across the Internet. Here’s the thing though, they’ve recently had this meeting, right? You’ve probably heard about it. Only two things appear to have come out of this meeting so far, and neither address the issue at hand.

In essence, the two new tools described here allow you to give specific devices (your phone, work computer, and home computer for instance) the authority to log-in to your Facebook account. While this is fantastic for account hacking prevention, and are therefore important for privacy, they’re barely related to the reasons an angry mob has formed at Facebook’s gates.

My rant after the jump.

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Moshtix Needs To Sing Their Sorry Song

May 6, 2010

Update 17/05 at bottom of post, after jump

Splendour in the Grass went on sale today, and Moshtix had a pretty good go at ruining absolutely everything. Quick summary for the uninformed:

  • 8:45am Everyone in Australia who loves music preps their computer
  • 9:00am 32,000 tickets go on sale
  • 9:01am – 2:14pm It all goes horribly wrong, site outages, mass complaints, Aussies take their complaints to the social space, Moshtix disable comments on Facebook, realise their mistake some hours later and switch comments back on
  • 2:15pm All tickets are sold out, thousands of people are filled with rage

After the jump I’m going to lay out a few examples of the kind of negative sentiment Moshtix have been receiving over the course of the day, and then lay out some blunt advice for what I’d like to see them do now. Yes, there will be swearing.

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Indie Game Bundle – Choose Your Own Price

May 5, 2010

Everybody likes finding a good bargain, and that’s exactly what this is. Wolfire Games is an excellent indie game developer, with a couple of wins tucked under its belt. All five games are cross-platform (Win/Mac/Linux) and DRM free. This is a sales model that’s becoming established, and I like it – more on this after the jump.

The games they’re bundling are:

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