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Spam The Internet China Technology

Internet Water Army On the March 137

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-on-the-wade dept.
New submitter kermidge sends in an article at the Physics arXiv blog about what's called the "Internet Water Army," large groups of people in China who are paid to "flood" internet sites with comments and reviews about various products. Researchers at the University of Victoria went undercover to figure out exactly how these informational (or disinformational) floods operate, and what they learned (PDF) could lead to better spam-detection software. Quoting: "They discovered that paid posters tend to post more new comments than replies to other comments. They also post more often with 50 per cent of them posting every 2.5 minutes on average. They also move on from a discussion more quickly than legitimate users, discarding their IDs and never using them again. What's more, the content they post is measurably different. These workers are paid by the volume and so often take shortcuts, cutting and pasting the same content many times. This would normally invalidate their posts but only if it is spotted by the quality control team. So Cheng and co built some software to look for repetitions and similarities in messages as well as the other behaviors they'd identified. They then tested it on the dataset they'd downloaded from Sina and Sohu and found it to be remarkably good, with an accuracy of 88 per cent in spotting paid posters."
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Internet Water Army On the March

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  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @11:24PM (#38144478) Homepage

    Your first thought was cyber-payback for "EU says water isn't wet."

    • by Nursie (632944)

      Nope.

      My immediate thought was "Buy our tasty Internet Water!*"

      *(warning, may contain troll faeces)

    • by rossdee (243626) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @12:46AM (#38144982)

      No, my first thought was internet over water pipes, since they have already tried internet over power lines, and other 'utilities (phone companies, cabletv companies) bundle internet with their services (if you get your internet, phone and cable from us you only pay $25/mo for each...

      • TDMA is "Time Division Multiple Access". In other words, we use time slots to control pipe usage.

        This will definitely work as long as the time slots are big enough. The city sends water for an hour, drains the pipe so that it can serve as a waveguide, transmits ultra wideband internet for an hour, then fills the pipe back up so that water can be transmitted again. Throughput will be excellent.

        • TDMA is "Time Division Multiple Access". In other words, we use time slots to control pipe usage.

          This will definitely work as long as the time slots are big enough. The city sends water for an hour, drains the pipe so that it can serve as a waveguide, transmits ultra wideband internet for an hour, then fills the pipe back up so that water can be transmitted again. Throughput will be excellent.

          No need to drain a water pipe to move RF through it. Water pipes really could be used, although I wonder about signal degradation especially around bends.

          • by Vegemeister (1259976) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:27AM (#38146464)
            No, you'd definitely have to drain the water. Water attenuates RF like the dickens. It's usually slightly conductive, and the Van der Walls bonds give it a large permittivity at low frequency, and a large imaginary (lossy) permittivity at high frequency. To communicate with submarines, they have to use extremely low frequency signals in the hundreds of Hertz. At one point, Britain had a plan to turn an entire island into an antenna.

            Another way to observe the effect is to put a cup of water in a microwave oven.
            • I knew about submarines and their massive retractable antennas and I've used a microwave but never mentally connected them before.

              But does it have to be EM? How about sound?

              • by greed (112493)

                Right, and there's prior art using soundwaves as memory: mercury delay-lines.

                Just don't close the loop and, instead, you have a point-to-point sound transmission system.

                In the Real World, that nasty place that makes all our math hard, you'd have to deal with reflections and "impedance mismatches" (where pipes of two different sizes meet). How it would work if you went with an Aloha-net style multiple transceivers on a shared medium I'm not sure, but... I could see a decent RFC coming out of this for the da

              • Wikipedia says the speed of sound in water is about 1500 m/s, so be prepared to deal with some latency.
        • We have alternating current, you know.
      • by gv250 (897841)

        No, my first thought was internet over water pipes ...

        Been there, done that. [google.com]

  • by mugetsu37 (1485997) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @11:25PM (#38144482)
    I was paid to leave this new comment.
  • by nomel (244635) <turd@ino[ ]t.com ['rbi' in gap]> on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @11:28PM (#38144518) Homepage Journal

    And, the moment this detection software is for sale, it will be inserted into the paid posters submission workflow.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      a.k.a. game theory [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      but to counter this method you need to be more unique i.e. put more time into each post, it is an economic weapon increasing the cost of abuse significantly and therefore reducing post quantity and number of sites economically target-able.

      • by tqft (619476)

        or evolutionary pressure could cause the spam masters to write semi-intelligent software to bot post useful on topic information

      • Re:Feedback loop... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by N1AK (864906) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @06:17AM (#38146630) Homepage
        In some ways this isn't as much of a benefit as it might seem. Currently the spam reviews/emails etc are of such low quality that it is easy to mentally filter them out. Systems like this that require the quality to improve may decrease volume but will make it harder to spot the ones that get through.

        Ultimately this is why the 'social web' is becoming so important. If I know the people who are telling me something is good then I know they aren't paid for posters. Obviously one side affect of this is that companies are realising that 'influencers' (users who drive adoption amongst their social group) are more valuable and trying to buy their love.
        • by skids (119237)

          Except the "ability" to build webs of trust across social networks is a step backwards compared to when sites were small and actually had moderators who cared to keep the quality up. Mainly it is because this "ability" has not been developed beyond an infant level. There has been an incredible dearth in progress on interactive federated trust systems, both for encryption purposes, and for anti-troll/spam purposes. Can you tell a piece of software "I trust this guy to post good stuff, but I trust this oth

          • by N1AK (864906)
            Actually, in a sense the old days with sites that were small and had decent moderation was a social network where you trusted the other members. We will see a massive move towards linking things like ratings to individuals in the next few years. In a social web system the effort to produce effective market swings by astroturfing is vastly increased and can always be amalgamated with the results of typical rating systems to provide a better result.
      • Even so, some organizations seem to consider it worthwhile even at elevated prices. In the forums of www.Spiegel.de (a German news magazine), I sometimes notice first-time posters who defend $CORPORATE_POINT_OF_VIEW with rather eloquent wording. To me that looks a lot like professional advertisers being paid to influence the discussion.

        • by thejynxed (831517)

          Nah, what that is, is the PR Department (or hired PR firm) of the firms in question (the ones mentioned in the articles) assign the equivalent of interns to trawl such websites for articles about their company, and to "upvote" or post "positive" messages in support of the company (and do the opposite against negative messages).

          It has little to do with the Marketing Department (usually). We normally refer to those people as "astroturfers" or "shills" when being polite. I normally refer to them as "lying assm

    • Re:Feedback loop... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2&gdargaud,net> on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @02:49AM (#38145734) Homepage
      Not necessarily. I think one important point when dealing with website trolls and spammers is not to delete their messages, but display it only for them if you can log their IPs / username. This way they see their own messages, but nobody else can. Kind of hard to do when the attack is distributed, though.
      • by fa2k (881632)

        I think one important point when dealing with website trolls and spammers is not to delete their messages, but display it only for them if you can log their IPs / username.

        The effect on legitimate users if they get banned in this way is very bad, and I consider this practice to be immoral. It should definitely not be automated.

        Just to check, can anyone see this message?

  • SPAM race (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoeMerchant (803320) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @11:33PM (#38144554)

    It's just another SPAM arms race, the fact that nobody is challenging the reviewers yet is why it's so easy.

    • Re:SPAM race (Score:5, Insightful)

      by formfeed (703859) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @12:19AM (#38144834)

      That's why I love /. !!

      A thorough review process makes sure that only the best and top quality posts make it to the front side, where intelligent and well educated people can add their remarks. A volunteer group of unbiased moderators that show the almost dream-like ability to not mistake witty irony for trollish flamebait then judges the comments purely on their merits. Wonderful!

      • by jhoegl (638955)
        Then how did I get such good karma? o.O
      • by symbolset (646467) *

        </sarcasm>

        You forgot to close your tag. You would think the AI folks could at least teach the bots how to html.

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        First mod in the door goes for "insightful" rather than "funny". Meta-humor or anosognosia? You be the judge!

      • A thorough review process makes sure that only the best and top quality posts make it to the front side, where intelligent and well educated people can add their remarks. A volunteer group of unbiased moderators that show the almost dream-like ability to not mistake witty irony for trollish flamebait then judges the comments purely on their merits. Wonderful!

        My sarcasm detector just clocked itself and started on fire. Damn you... I just got it replaced too...

  • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @11:33PM (#38144560)
    Well, at least we'll be safe in the English speaking world. Legitimate user reviews are always so intelligent and well-written I could easily distinguish freelancer's bullshit from the thoughts of intelligent users. Just look at the comments on Amazon and Youtube!
    • by gearloos (816828)
      Umm yeah.. good luck with that. I'd be a little more careful. Even Bablefish is pretty good now a days. Just saying...
      • by Terrasque (796014)

        Umm Yeah .. and good luck. I will be more careful. Even Bablefish is pretty good, now a days. Just saying ......

        English -> chinese -> english again, in google translate

    • Your comment is erudite and ermine. We would like to subscribe to your newsletter, please sent it postpaste with the next monorail.
    • by lonecrow (931585)
      I host about 100 websites on my web server and pretty much one of them are harmed by blocking china in my firewall. All I want now is a service to provide an update of their ip ranges once a month or so.
  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @11:36PM (#38144576)

    This "army" has been a staple of the CCP for years. They're usually pretty easy to spot on Chinese language sites and (increasingly) on English language sites. The name comes from the reputed 5 mao (or 1/2 of a Chinese yuan) they're paid for each message. That's about 7 US cents. For the Chinese psyche, it's much more satisfying to see a large number of shill posts that "agree" with the party line than to "waste" effort on even a thin veneer of truth.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This "army" has been a staple of the CCP for years. They're usually pretty easy to spot on Chinese language sites and (increasingly) on English language sites. The name comes from the reputed 5 mao (or 1/2 of a Chinese yuan) they're paid for each message. That's about 7 US cents. For the Chinese psyche, it's much more satisfying to see a large number of shill posts that "agree" with the party line than to "waste" effort on even a thin veneer of truth.

      Isnt' it a tad racist to classify an entire large group of people as having a certain, characteristic, ascribed "psyche" or tendency on the basis of nothing more than having the same genetic race in common?

      I don't think you hate them or anything but I don't think you've really thought about why you believe this.

    • by chad_r (79875)
      The CCP?? Do you really think the Communist Party is paying for these ads? Or was "China" too long to type?
      • by abigor (540274)

        The 50-Cent Army doesn't actually post ads so much as disinformation. If a news site publishes a story that is somehow critical of China, the comments section will be filled with "50-centers" defending China mostly by way of deflecting criticism back onto the west somehow. It's quite common on Canadian news sites such as the Globe and Mail, to the point where the editors starting mass-banning obvious 50-center accounts. It's widely accepted that the 50-cent army is paid by the Chinese government.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      What do you expect from a country that uses toddlers as speedbumps?

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/23/chinese-toddler-death_n_1027153.html [huffingtonpost.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 22, 2011 @11:36PM (#38144582)

    I like Slashdot. Very good website.Soulskill best editor ever.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hsien-Ko (1090623)
      slashdot.org the best news site for apple!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      To be fair it's better than a goat sea hurricane army. But still dishonorably dirty at sugarcoating enough praise to give web sites diabetes.
      • Well I was still trying to make sense of that one right up to the word "diabetes".

        Good God I'm easy....
    • Re:Slashdot Good (Score:5, Interesting)

      by symbolset (646467) * on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @01:17AM (#38145156) Journal

      Have you ever used it. Dont brag, I am an iPhone lover, but WP7 is good. Used all three platform now . No doubt WP7 is better. I am not a fanboy of anyone though. Try reading the reviews you will understand why eveyone is behind WP7. I think Microsoft has learned a lesson and turned around.

      - A verbatim reply to one of my recent posts somewhere else. Hmm... 7 cents for that? They overpaid.

  • 88% to spot paid posters? Stick around the internet long enough and you can recognize them with better abilities then that software.

    This post was a paid poster. Peddling a product that is less effective then other means available to people with a half decent but also half lousy reasoning as to why we need it.

    Jim

  • by gearloos (816828) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @12:17AM (#38144820)
    Slashdot Very Good Super Big Fun Site! Very Like Much Good For You Fun! Rate 5 Star Posted.
    • Hey! I see what you did. You're sneaking a very favorable /. review of Slashdot into your comment.Clever.

      The mods should be more careful. I suspect you might be one of the spammers. You have 2.5 minutes to respond.

  • by Hognoxious (631665)

    Michael Kristopeit is cowering.

    China = sluicegated.

  • by gearloos (816828) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @01:13AM (#38145138)
    Unfortunately this is the status quo. It's been long known companies like IBM, Microsoft, and Blockbuster, have been paying hordes to scavenge google or bing for posts like " Win 7 sucks" or Win 7 just as bad, and then post things like " I don't know, I have 3 computers running it and have zero issues like you say. Might be your hardware. This is just bringing it to the mainstreams attention IMO. I guess the days are coming to an end when I go to Best Buy to get something and look it up on my phone to get reviews. Now the kicker: How many times have you went to buy something from a non name brand and looked them up before using your credit card? Say you Google " mom and pop xx widgets R us" and the word scam or fraud. Well, when do the scammers start flooding the results to show stellar listings for the latest fraud sites? Kind of changes the whole community concept doesn't it? .. Just something to think about.
    • by Elbereth (58257) <krachtm@yahoo.com> on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @02:16AM (#38145524) Homepage Journal

      Just because someone never had issues with something that you dislike doesn't mean that they're a shill. This is something that bothers me a lot about modern discourse on the internet. You can't say anything without being accused of being a shill, troll, or fanboy. On the other hand, people credulously read outrageously biased review sites that give every single product they review 4/5 or 5/5. The absolute worst are tech and gaming sites. I forget which site it was (I think it was AnandTech), but a few years ago, one of the writers did a bit of investigative journalism and put out feelers to see how open hardware review sites were to the idea of paying for positive reviews. A small number of them (they refused to divulge who, unfortunately) openly agreed to it.

      The internet is full of trolls, fanboys, and shills, to be sure, but they're not hiding under every rock. Sometimes, it's just a normal person who's trying to express a legitimate opinion. Simply saying that you didn't have any problems with a product is not enough for any accusations, or else you risk labeling every single satisfied customer a shill (and, believe it or not, there a whole lot of easily satisfied people out there, and they simply won't be annoyed by the things that drive you fucking crazy).

      • (and, believe it or not, there a whole lot of easily satisfied people out there, and they simply won't be annoyed by the things that drive you fucking crazy).

        And this makes their opinion of a product no more useful than the 'opinion' of a spammer. Strain them out with the same filter, please!

  • I think I noticed it a bit. Just a tad.

  • Ni hao (Score:4, Funny)

    by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @01:44AM (#38145322) Homepage Journal

    They also move on from a discussion more quickly than legitimate users, discarding their IDs and never using them again.

    I bet not a one of them has as many IDs as Michael Kristopeit.

    • Since he couldn't make it here today, I'll fill in for him.

      Cower some more, feeb. Ur mum's face has as many IDs as Michael Kristopeit.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @02:35AM (#38145670)
    I thought it was Russian hackers [theonion.com] that got that water pump in Illinois [slashdot.org], not the Internet Water Army...
  • Never done the Twitter thing, I found the following posted on some humor blog, nice response to someone paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do the 7 cent thing.

    - @KhloeKardashian: "OMG! Wheat Thins has a new limited time sweet cinnamon flavor. Why am I so excited about this?”
    - @Kris_Humphries (Not Kris Humphries): "Because you’re an idiot."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have been commenting on a some Danish sites regarding tech companies moving go China. One thing I have noticed about China is that everytime someone points out the worker conditions(enviroment / pay etc) or mentions something about human rights, the comments are rated down if options exists and it is followed with answers like "have I efter lived there?", "don't believe the newspapers" etc. But when I become specific, like comments on internet censorship etc, the defense stops or becomes vague nonsense.

  • Where is the news here?

  • CorpSpeak is a program readily downloadable. Given a few keywords it can generate loads of nonsense that makes perfect sense. It would be easy to apply that program to the subject application.
  • Might as well use that stupid Great Firewall of China to do some good. Add "Free Tibet", "Ai Weiwei is innocent", and "Taiwan is a country" to your site to avoid this spam.
  • We should write smarter webapps. You can detect floods easily via ip address. It's real easy to block by ip address, even a caveman can do it.
  • The Chinese are using 700 club tactics! Were screwed.

  • I have been noticing this a lot more myself. I tend to skim over reviews with broken English, and it seems to be a good identifier if a review is legit or not. I especially skip ones that use texting shortcuts.
  • who are paid to "flood" internet sites with comments and reviews about various products.

    all other media outlets around the world? Oh... one word difference. Replace 'comments' with 'articles'.

  • That would explain some of the comments I've seen on Amazon recently for knock-offs made in China. The pattern is usually; several people make negative comments about the quality or usability of an item, or point out a flaw that makes the item practically useless. You then get several posts within a short span of time praising the product, and (usually) saying that the others didn't follow instructions or didn't know how to use the product. The praising comments are usually in questionable syntax and ten

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