Redditor Exposes Crypto Astroturfing On Reddit And Bitcointalk Forum
If you are a crypto enthusiast on social media, you would have obviously seen the shadowy world of spam marketing. The omnipresent crypto giveaway scam has targeted people ranging from Vitalik Buterin to Elon Musk to even Pope Francis. Although lesser known is how this complex shilling operation functions on sites like Reddit and Bitcointalk, which are even more critical to the success of crypto projects.
Redditor Aaron Exposes Astroturfing
Reddit is such a popular destination for a crypto ecosystem for its perceived image of organic viral posts. However, this might not be the case. One person focused on augmenting certain posts and topics on Reddit has been trying to hire more influential users, according to multiple Reddit moderators. Documents then shared by one of those moderators provide a blueprint of such an operation—upvoting Reddit posts, especially those focused on specific cryptocurrencies, distributing flattering blog posts, and attempting to circumvent the site’s security protections.
Upvoting a post on Reddit has the same effect as “liking” a public tweet or a Facebook post, in that it ensures that more viewers will see it. In the absence of heavy-duty human moderation, the Reddit content algorithm only has upvotes and downvotes to go with as data markers for what to hide and what to promote. This, unfortunately, creates an obvious incentive to game the system by obtaining illicit upvotes to boost a post, or downvoting a post unfairly to hide it.
“We’re able to give any project access to thousands of potential investors through mass-promotion. If any of these services interest you, please get in contact with me,”
a post on the Bitcointalk forum written by “Aaron,” the spammer, reads.
Aaron is not only active on Reddit but also has a presence on Bitcointalk, where according to his own post on the forum, he is trying to recruit more users to join his vast sock puppet marketing network. His astroturfing tactics include orchestrating upvoting campaigns for posts he has been paid to promote and distributing positive articles and blog posts about the crypto project he is shilling using his network of dummy handles and affiliates.
A Reddit mod reached by Aaron to help with his conspiracy further revealed that he even provided a detailed spreadsheet listing out his operations across r/Cryptocurrency and other sites including Medium and Bitcointalk. Worse still, when contacted for comment by Vice, Aaron did not deny running the operation but instead asked: “Will I get paid for this interview?”
The spreadsheets are well organized, with columns for each account’s proxy IP address—if too much suspicious activity comes from any single IP address, Reddit may block it, so the spammer seemingly uses a unique IP for each account. A single account using a slew of different IPs, with its owner seemingly jumping all over the place, can also be suspicious.