You got flagged #2: Bot-generated posts with bid bot votes

in #antiabuse2 years ago (edited)

After 8 months it is time for another anti-abuse post. Besides humans steem is also full of bots. There are good bots like Haikubot and Mechanicalowl(^-^) but there are also plenty of bad bots. This post will be about a specific type of naughty bot that deserves to be flagged.

path4183.png
Image made by me

Summary

In this post I will discuss an abuser-bot which was brought to my attention by @enforcer48. This bot is posting new submissions of the arXiv website on steem which are then upvoted using bid bots. It turned out there are a total of three bots using the same script. I will explain why I expected there were multiple bots and how I found the corresponding accounts.

First contact

A couple of weeks ago, Leonis aka @enforcer48 dropped the following account in the Steemflagrewards-discord:

2019-06-19 (3).png

As you can see it is posting a collection of recently submitted papers from the open-access e-print website arXiv. More specifically, it is posting the listing from the non-linearity section

As an example here is a post excerpt:
2019-06-19 (7).png

And, here is the corresponding arXiv entry:
2019-06-19 (11).png

The underlying post creation script is fairly straight forward. After having posted the bot procceeds by upvoting the post using bidbots.

Abusers are not stupid

If you are a bit experienced with coding I don't see why it would take you much more than a hour to write a script for this bot. But personally, I don't really see why you want to try to make money with this type of abuse when you are an experienced programmer. So I guess it probably was written by somebody who wrote the code in more than a couple of hours. The abuser wants to get as much STEEM as possible for their time working on the bot. So you can expect that the abuser has multiple bots active.

Finding more bots

So the key here are bidbots and arXiv. With a few lines of code you can go through the memos of bidbots to find posts containing the word arXiv. This leads to the following results (Alternatively, you can perform this search manually by going to the transfers page of bidbots.) :
2019-06-19 (2).png
As you can see from the above two new bot accounts were revealed. One account was posting papers from the arXiv condensed matter section and the other account was posting papers from the arXiv astrophysics section. Layout of the posts is exactly the same. In addition, both accounts had active bidbot activity. Hence, it seems likely that all these accounts are using the same script.

Conclusion

If you want to find abuse you need to think like an abuser. The main goal of abusers is to minimise efforts and maximise rewards. Therefore, if you see a type of abuse which can be easily reproduced then probably you can expect that the abuser is reproducing this type of abuse.


You got flagged 1: Flag target and abuser reaction

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Howdy @mathowl,

Thanks for uncovering this spammy stuff. I believe I had dropped a couple flags but going to check back on it. Best way for it to stop is by causing them to incur a loss on their bids if possible.

Glad we have another scripter to support the fight. We need more of us to really bolster the sophistication of abuse fighting. It's a shame that so many coders use their skills for the other side.

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Posted using Partiko Android

Thank you for your review, @anthonyadavisii! Keep up the good work!

Of course people can post whatever they like to Steem, but the rewards really ought to bear some relation to what people think of those posts. I expect these would have a very limited interest and it doesn't look like they were getting much interaction. They probably hoped to stay under the radar and collect a few dollars for no real work. Of course it all reduces what others can make from real effort and so it is valid to flag in my opinion.

Meanwhile there are others who get away with worse because they can threaten serious retaliation. The whales let that happen :(

Will HF21 make this behaviour less attractive? I don't fully understand the consequences.

I calculated the net profit since account creation for one of these bots. It seems to be running very deep into the red. So it seems like this type of abuse should not exist because it just isn't profitable long term. The only way that it would have been profitable is if this bot account would have been owned by one of the bidbot owners.

The only way that it would have been profitable is if this bot account would have been owned by one of the bidbot owners.

That's actually a pretty disturbing theory when you think about it. The idea that bot owners creating fake customer account to abuse and making it appear they are getting more business than they really are and/or securing their delegator payouts somehow.

Posted using Partiko Android

I only checked this for one bot. So I wouldn't consider it sufficient evidence for anything. I will check the other bots at another time. It requires a bit of manual stuff since there are bitbots and an abuse-network from which funds are received or sent.

People get so upset over rewards. Steem still remains the best data chain in existence. You can do so much more than just social media.

MOST disturbing.

But it is the most (only?) rational explanation

Posted using Partiko Android

It could just be plain old incompetence :P

I realised yesterday that there is a fairly easy way to check if a bidbot owner is performing some kind of ROI-control by using an automised Alt account. The bid placed by the Alt account would have to be placed after most of the bids have been placed. This is checkable.

Posted using Partiko Android

So the vote sellers just get bigger. It does seem the margins are low for those buying the votes and some make a loss. Some could make more with real engagement, but they keep on the vote buying path even when it earns them flags.

Thanks for the update.

That's too bad, because I am actually interested in posts like this. Forwarding to Steem is kinda useful to me, even if it isn't human moderated content.

I'd prolly have followed these accounts if they weren't buying votes. Since that's not generating profits (even without being flagged) it seems likely they'll be abandoned soon. That makes me kinda sad.

Thanks!

It has been determined that you are trash, therefore, you have received a negative vote.

PLEASE NOTE: If you engage with the trash above you also risk receiving a negative vote on your comment.

Thank you for your service!

And thank you for all the support and additional flags :)

Posted using Partiko Android

Hi @mathowl!

Your post was upvoted by @steem-ua, new Steem dApp, using UserAuthority for algorithmic post curation!
Your UA account score is currently 3.903 which ranks you at #3944 across all Steem accounts.
Your rank has improved 27 places in the last three days (old rank 3971).

In our last Algorithmic Curation Round, consisting of 189 contributions, your post is ranked at #161.

Evaluation of your UA score:
  • You're on the right track, try to gather more followers.
  • The readers appreciate your great work!
  • Try to work on user engagement: the more people that interact with you via the comments, the higher your UA score!

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