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Computer Science > Computers and Society

Title: A black market for upvotes and likes

Abstract: Purpose: This research investigates controversial online marketing techniques that involve buying hundreds or even thousands of upvotes, likes, comments, etc.
Methodology: Observation and categorization of 7,426 campaigns posted on the crowdsourcing platform microworkers.com over a 365 day (i.e., yearlong) period were conducted. Hypotheses about the mechanics and effectiveness of these campaigns were established and evaluated.
Findings: The campaigns contained a combined 1,856,316 microtasks, 89.7% of which were connected to online promotion. Techniques for search engine manipulation, comment-generating in the scale of tens of thousands, online vote manipulation, mass account creation, methods for covering tracks were discovered. The article presents an assessment of the effectiveness of such campaigns as well as various security challenges created by these campaigns.
Research limitations: The observed campaigns form only a small portion of the overall "black market". This is due to invite-only campaigns and the presence of alternative, unobservable platforms.
Practical implications: The findings of this article could be input for detecting and avoiding such online campaigns.
Social implications: The findings show that in some conditions tremendous levels of manipulation of an online discourse can be achieved with a limited budget.
Originality: While there is related work on "follower factories" and "click/troll farms", those entities offer complete "solutions" and their techniques are rather opaque. By investigating a crowdsourcing platform, this research unveils the underlying mechanics and organization of such campaigns. The research is based on a uniquely large number of observations. Small, cheap campaigns, the manipulation of less significant platforms is also included, while the related work tends to focus on mass, politically motivated efforts.
Comments: 20 pages, 1 figure
Subjects: Computers and Society (cs.CY)
Cite as: arXiv:1803.07029 [cs.CY]
  (or arXiv:1803.07029v1 [cs.CY] for this version)

Submission history

From: Mihály Héder [view email]
[v1] Mon, 19 Mar 2018 16:39:57 GMT (87kb,D)