Crowdsource + Ethics + Labor
Tracking issues related to crowdsourcing and crime. Also see Internet Sock Puppet

A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception within an online community. In its earliest usage, a sockpuppet was a false identity through which a member of an Internet community speaks with or about oneself, pretending to be a different person, like a ventriloquist manipulating a hand puppet. In current usage, the perception of the term has been extended beyond second identities of people who already post in a forum to include other uses of misleading online identities. For example, a NY Times article claims that "sock-puppeting" is defined as "the act of creating a fake online identity to praise, defend or create the illusion of support for one’s self, allies or company." The key difference between a sockpuppet and a regular pseudonym (sometimes termed an "alt" which is short for alternate, as in alternate identity) is the pretense that the puppet is a third party who is not affiliated with the puppeteer.

Youtube Video
Avril Lavigne - Girlfriend
Inflated Viewership
According to ReadWriteWeb, Avril Lavigne fans gamed the system, attracting additional views through deception and controversy. The discrepancy exists in the ratio of Youtube views to add to favorites. An artificially inflated video like Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" is the 16th added favorite video on the chart, while Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love" is the 9th added favourite on YouTube of all time. reported that a special web page was designed to ramp up the number of Youtube views. Every 15 seconds this page would automatically refresh adding 1 view to Girlfriend’s YouTube total each time it does. Fans were encouraged to keep this page open while they browsed the internet, study for exams, or even sleep. For extra viewing power, they could even open up two or more browser windows at this page! It was estimated that if they had 86 people keeping two windows open for 10 days straight, they would be at 10,000,000 views... which they already exceeded. As the most viewed Youtube video, it also had front page presence, which attracted the general public viewing as well. The special viewer page is located at
Crowdsourced Crime
Successful escape from armored bank vehicle robbery.
A bank robber got away with a bag full of mucho money from an armored truck after successfully pulling out a perfect escape plan, straight out the final scene of the Thomas Crown Affair. The criminal—who was wearing a yellow vest, safety goggles, a respirator mask and a blue shirt—used Craigslist to hire a dozen of decoys to confuse the police and the public around the scene. Mike, one of the hired decoys, gave the full details: "I came across the ad that was for a prevailing wage job for $28.50 an hour. He said to meet near the Bank of America in Monroe at 11 a.m. Tuesday. (He also was told to wear a yellow vest, safety goggles, a respirator mask… and, if possible, a blue shirt)." See Gizmodo report / King5 News Report
Amazon Mechanical Turk
Paid Astroturfing
iPhone app developer hoped to cash in by paying for 5 star reviews in the iPhone app store.
The developer of Santa Live, a jokey iPhone app for kids, appears to have posted a listing on Amazon's Mechanical Turk offering to pay $4 for the highest-rated reviews on Apple's iPhone App Store. In September 2008, independent developer Steve Demeter announced earning $250,000 in just two months with his iPhone game Trism. Many other programmers are reporting similar success. Apple has been changing the review process to prevent fraudulent reviews. See WIRED: iPhone Developer May Be Bribing Reviewers
Video Game: "Tomb Raider: Underworld"
Negativity Censorship
Increase launch sales of video game
Eidos UK's PR firm has confirmed that British sites planning on posting Tomb Raider: Underworld reviews with less than an 8.0 score are being asked to hold off posting them until Monday. “Just that we’re trying to get the Metacritic rating to be high, and the brand manager in the US that’s handling all of Tomb Raider has asked that we just manage the scores before the game is out, really, just to ensure that we don’t put people off buying the game, basically.” See Kotaku: "Eidos Trying To Fix Tomb Raider: Underworld Metacritic Scores"
Facebook: Pre-jacking "Class of 2013"
Crowdsourced Cybersquatting
Pre-emptive name-jacking of Facebook college groups. Free labor via interns.
Brad J. Ward blogs about the mass registration of school groups on Facebook (e.g. University of Michigan Class of 2013) by a College Guidebook company. The company games Facebook group registrations by enlisting free labor by way of college interns via Craigslist. Brad organizes an investigative smartmob and compiles results via Google Docs. News of this reaches mainstream news media.

Amazon Mechanical Turk
Paid Astroturfing
The Daily Background found evidence that Belkin Bizdev guy, Michael Bayard, is paying folks 65 cents to write good things about Belkin routers. (via Crunchgear)
Here is one of the requests on the Mechanical Turk: Positive review writing.
  • Use your best possible grammar and write in US English only
  • Always give a 100% rating (as high as possible)
  • Keep your entry between 25 and 50 words
  • Write as if you own the product and are using it
  • Tell a story of why you bought it and how you are using it
  • Thank the website for making you such a great deal
  • Mark any other negative reviews as “not helpful” once you post yours
The link below leads to a product on a website. Read-through the product’s features and write a positive review for it using the guidelines above to the best of your ability. I have also provided the part number for this product and you can click on the links below to see it on several alternative websites. In order to post some reviews you will need to create an account on the site. You can use your own email address or open a new free webmail account (gmail, yahoo…) and use it to post with.
Amazon Mechanical Turk
Paid Astroturfing
The Shorty Awards is a twitter popularity contest. @dhollings used a Mechanical Turk listing to buy votes for $.48 each
Full investigation at
Facebook, MySpace, Gmail, etc
Paid CAPTCHA Cracking
USA Today: Cybergangs use cheap labor to break codes on social sites
Human captcha-solvers work piecemeal. They have shown up in Internet cafes or in sweatshops filled with Internet-connected PCs in China, India, Russia, Brazil, Argentina and Nigeria, working long shifts deciphering streams of characters forwarded by an unseen coordinator, researchers say.
"At least one major operation is being run out of Pakistan," says Adam O'Donnell, director of emerging technologies at messaging security firm Cloudmark. "I suspect similar operations are being run anywhere that has bandwidth and cheap labor."
Cybergangs typically pay captcha-solvers a half-cent to a penny for every captcha they complete, according to online recruitment ads on hackers' forums that reflect how captcha-solving has become a growing underground business.
"You can pay a business for captcha-breaking services, and they'll make it happen," says Patrick Peterson, chief security researcher at Cisco. "You can have the captchas solved in the Internet cloud as you create each new account."
Academic Journals
Academic Shilling (not crowdsourced)
Merck Makes Phony Peer-Review Journal: Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine
The Scientist has reported that, yes, it's true, Merck cooked up a phony, but real sounding, peer reviewed journal and published favorably looking data for its products in them. Merck paid Elsevier to publish such a tome, which neither appears in MEDLINE or has a website, according to The Scientist.
Emailed Photos
Gullible Media
Bolivian TV falls for Air France crash hoax via emailed photographs.
As our networks yearn for speed, verified news becomes forgotten commodity. Bolivian TV channel PAT has been left looking a bit daft after broadcasting extraordinary images of the last moments of Air France flight 447, lost over the Atlantic on 1 June. Images were taken off the pilot episode of LOST.
Twitter Astroturfers
AT&T astroturfers go onto twitter to defame Gizmodo's Matt Buchanan
external image mattcuchannnaaaaaan.png
On second thoughts, it could be @Jordan_Faulkner's original tweet simply being replicated by spammers. It's now a common occurrence on twitter.
7/27/09 &
Crowdsourced News Faking
4Chan coordinates psychological cyberattacks designed to plummet AT&T stocks. Reports fake news CNN's iReport, and promotes it via Digg, Reddit, other user-filtered news sites.
iReport article captured by The Business Insider
iReport article captured by The Business Insider

4Chan pranksters fakes news on to kill AT&T stocks for censoring them, but mainstream media didn't buy it. The offline crowd learns to be more discerning. On October 2008, iReport was the victim of a prank in which a more believable user-submitted story reported that Apple CEO Steve Jobs--who has a well-publicized history of health problems--had suffered a heart attack. It wasn't true, but it was online long enough that Apple's stock took a dip (.

Via CNET News: AT&T said to block 4chan; pranksters fight back
"Reports began to surface Sunday charging that AT&T had blocked broadband access to parts of the notorious (and powerful) Internet forum site 4chan, which the telecom company confirmed on Monday. Late in the evening, a fake story surfaced on CNN's iReport citizen journalism site alleging that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had been "found dead in his multimillion dollar beachfront mansion" after a cocaine overdose."