Crowdturfing, the crowdsourcing doppelganger

Feb 2, 2012
Crowdturfing: The Dark Side of Crowdsourcing Explored - Buying Audiences and Positive Ratings Worldwide
Crowdturfing is an idea that feels like it could have originated in Brazil, a land known for its "jeitinho". Resourceful individuals are using crowdsourcing platforms like Amazon Turk and ShortTask to buy audiences and positive ratings worldwide.
In essence, crowdturfing is the evolution of spam. Over the past decade, network traffic has soared, with spam seeing the most growth. Spam detection mechanisms have improved as bots struggled to bypass certain obstacles, such as captchas. Crowdturfing sidesteps these barriers by employing human labor, which can outsmart any tool. According to an article in Technology Review, crowdturfing is growing exponentially, mirroring spam's trajectory. The only limitation is the lowest payment someone is willing to accept for a task.
These tasks vary enormously, from creating accounts and posting politically biased opinions, to producing false positive reviews for products and services. Some new tools can detect "fake" campaigns, but more subtle operations are nearly undetectable. On some crowdsourcing sites, crowdturfing activity reaches 95%. On Amazon Turk, due to Amazon's own controls, the rate is 12%.
Professor Filippo Menczer of Indiana University suggests that the only way to combat this phenomenon is to target those who fund it. Professor Menczer is involved in projects that detect crowdturfing on Twitter. His research uncovered two Twitter accounts that sent 20,000 tweets in support of John Boehner, the Republican leader in the U.S. Congress. Other crowdturfing campaigns were identified within Republican circles, a hotbed for the most extreme factions in American politics. Professor Menczer believes that penalizing those who hire these services is the most effective solution.
This phenomenon mirrors various digital scams in other sectors, such as buying audience portfolios from high-traffic sites to inflate their own traffic ratings. The risk of not regulating this sector is as high as over-regulating it based on the interventionist interests of industries that have been upended by the digital revolution. This discussion still has a long way to go.

© Cassiano Gobbet 2023 - 2024