A Front Page post from @anyx used 95+ Bot Accounts to Upvote his own content. Fair Game or Not Cool?
I noticed today on the front page a post from @anyx:
It was a great post about cheetah and other bots in relation to the upcoming reputation system. What I found however is that @anyx used 95+ of his bot accounts to upvote his content. In the following I will discuss:
- Why Vote Manipulation is Bad
- Implications of Vote Manipulation
- Present and Discuss the Evidence in the Case of @anyx
Why Vote Manipulation is Bad: Higher Hot Ranking
The more users or bots upvote content the higher it will ends up in the hot category. This will helps to get more visibility and get even more votes. The following example shows the first page of the Hot category. You can clearly see that in spite of a much lower vote weight (payout value) some posts rank higher because of more votes being cast:
In the above image we see that older content with a lower payout ranks higher than content with a higher payout. The reason: More Total Upvotes
Why Vote Manipulation is Bad: Imitating High Minnow Support
A second effect is that users will think that the upvotes represent real users and assume that a post has a high minnow support. Something that a dolphin or a whale may want to support. In this case though these are not real minnows but only bots - this fakes support.
Implications of Vote Manipulation
If this is fair game than probably everyone should be encouraged to manipulate their vote count by using their own bots in the future. After all this would just level the playing field.
If @anyx uses 95 Bots why can I not use 5000 Bots to upvote my next post?
@anyx voted openly with his own bots. Next time (or already) a sophisticated hacker might just use names which appear as minnows instead. We cannot distinguish between Bots and Minnows. The degree of manipulation that is allowed on Steemit is undefined. @dantheman is working on a solution using a reputation system which is great! However, it may take a few iterations until it is released and it will likely not be bulletproof very soon; Processes like captchas, post count, comments can be circumvented using scripts built with mechanical turk to still create 1000s of Bots per hour with low financial investment. Given enough effort and resources most systems can be cracked or in this case flooded with bots.
In fact, just making it more difficult to create new verified accounts just makes vote manipulation more difficult for the average Joes which puts them at a further disadvantage.
This issue becomes a known philosophical / social problem: The Tragedy of the Commons. The only final resolution is that Bots and Minnows have the same degree of influence: None. While this would prevent vote manipulation once and for all it is likely a last resort as this would greatly harm steemit's democracy.
Case @anyx: The Evidence
This is not the first time this has happened, as you can see
Vote Spamming has happened before, but I have not seen it being done by a high profile steem member so openly and so often. I am not accusing @anyx of malicious intent, everyone needs to make up their own mind. These are the facts:
- @anyx used about 95+ of his newly created Bots to upvote his own content: Casting 95+ votes manipulates the vote count and visibility in the "Hot category". The average user and the system will assume minnows voted instead of bots.
- @anyx used bot names that are clearly associated with him: It is quite obvious that these are @anyx bots just by looking at the names. This was an open action for everyone to see. If it was truly done to manipulate his content to the top then he probably would have done it in a smarter way. However, this action still manipulated the vote count, ranking and as a result payout.
So there's been a lot of talk of bots, plagiarism, catfishing and deception on Steemit and a lot of it is probably to be expected. I'm actually surprised that there hasn't been more of it, but thanks to bots like Cheetah and enforcers in the community there has been far less abuse.
It almost sounds like a contradiction. @anyx created @cheetah to fight against spam and bots. He is someone who built a great deal of trust and is one of the most respected members; he also runs a witness node. Yet, the more surprising it is that he openly used 95+ of his own Bots to upvote his own content.
Is Vote Manipulation against the Steemit Etiquette? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments!
UPDATE: @anyx upvoted this post with 150 Bots to show how broken the system is:
This Post has little payout and most upvotes are done by Bots on this Post. As you can see in the above image it appears at the top of the Hot category - proof of how easily it can be manipulated by anyone at the moment.