Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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Distributed publication of the tools in use on your site can sometimes have unexpected results. Therefore I found myself in the annoying/amusing situation this month of the discontinuation of comment spam protection on one of my sites.

The spambots sing a bit of a different song nowadays. Cialis and Viagra have given way to cryptocurrency, gonorrhea treatment, random insults and bears. Sexually lively girls age 25 feature strongly. Episode Ignis and doxycycline and plantar warts.  All clad in a low-quality, unconvincing protective carapace of compliments, guest writer requests and browser compatability complaints, the webmaster's perennial favourite.

Mingled among them I saw something new and slightly piteous - little squeaks for help and understanding;  "I'm not doing this full time" and "I've been reviewing online" and "I been browsing online more" and "I am not sure where you are" - as poor Christen, Vada, Nelson, JamieVek, Jewli and their ilk understand what that amazing opportunity to earn money online actually entails. 

Nowadays, many of them read like a person is writing them, a deeply depressing thought. 

I pre-moderate (of course), so nothing ever went live. But it would be a sadness indeed if none of it ever saw the light of day, especially when I think of the person-hours involved, theirs and mine.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

21st century sexual abuse

I run a few accounts. It's notable that one gets a lot more likes and follows from the ongoing epidemic of automated porn accounts. I got to thinking, what makes this account different? It's popular, but no more so than others. Then I started to notice a few other accounts in my lists getting these likes and follows. I dug a bit. The forums contain a few more clues. I'm coming to a pretty difficult conclusion, but I think these accounts are trying to target children. Pictures of children, profiles mentioning children, statuses about children.

Why would this be? Is it deliberate, part of a strategy intentionally and persistently squirting sexual imagery at underage consumers, hoping that some will shift focus onto sexual activities in the early teenage years, and, with that single-mindedness only accessible to those who have just left childhood, become the future star consumers? 

It doesn't seem very plausible, but as anyone who observes the economic activities of criminals knows, it doesn't have to work well (or even at all) for people to do it. All it needs is a rumour that you can make money this way and a fairly low opportunity-cost. The toolkit for this is small; some text to copy-and-paste, a folder of clip-art undressed girls, an automated account creation tool, a list of people to follow.

That list was what previously lead me to think this was accidental. My presence on a follow-list is confirmed by the occasional appearance of minor celebrities who have presumably bought in a "social networking expert" to build a profile fast and with scant regard to netiquette.

But now, I'm not so convinced. This has a weirdly targeted feel. Further evidence comes from the content of these profiles; kiddy language, brightly coloured hair, each one a sparkly unicorn into DC comics and cosplay. These is not adult-facing marketing. These are the cloying tones of the candy cigarette merchants. They're after today's fresh innocent faces as tomorrow's clientele. They want to get them young, and keep them for life. To them, the word "children" in a description is a list-includer, not a list excluder.

Of course, I could just be imagining things. After all, I've been subjected to a steady barrage of unwanted and unwelcome online sexual imagery and language for months now. After a bit, you start to want to see some kind of meaning in all those ... bits.

But I think I'm going to set aside an hour or so to do some investigation, and then if I get the faintest hint of confirmation of this theory, do something rather more nuanced than pressing the report button Because if I am right, then I can think of a few other amazing moneymaking ideas that could sit in the same stable, that would very much need to be closed down.