TwACORN Busted for Massive on-line Fraud

A-list Bloggers and Twitterers caught up in Widespread Scam

During what was expected to be a routine call to check on the report of an honest poll worker in the Richard Daley Memorial Electioneering Institute, Chicago police uncovered a massive on-line fraud operation that has shaken the blogging world to its core.

“We had gotten this anonymous call from a community organizer that there was an inside operative actually counting real votes and screening out fraudulent registrations,” said Sgt. Frank Mulcahey of the Chicago PD. “We can’t have that around here, as everyone knows…so after cracking down on that guy, we took a look in the basement and found this amazing underground operation hiding there, calling itself TwACORN.”

TwACORN turns out to be a secret organization whose sole purpose is to inflate the rankings of bloggers and Twitterers by generating fake subscriber numbers. Their technology infrastucture consists of slick programs they call RoboRSS, RoboComment, and RoboSub. With these tools, they have managed to play “kingmaker” to scores of unwitting digiterati, who were led to believe that they actually had an audience.

Chicagoland technology guru (and TwACORN victim) Todd Andrlik examined the programs and reported, with mixed admiration and dismay, that they were first-rate. “Here I thought I had all these engaged readers, who subscribed to my blog, read my tweets, and made interesting comments. Turns out that 90% of them were Robos from TwACORN. Now I see that a former high school friend, one second cousin, and some plumber in Nebraska are the only ones reading my stuff. Plus, my entire Top 3,000 blog ranking system with AdAge just got flushed!”

TwACORN Chief Obfuscating Officer Guy Yamaha explained from his jail cell; “We got our inspiration from MarketingProfs Daily Fix, actually. We thought – what could be more fun than to “fix” the numbers for all these self-absorbed bloggers? Just wait until Scoble finds out that only 14 people actually follow him – and three of those are in Iceland. Ha!”

Twitterers were scrambling to identify which of their subscribers were actually homeless folks, deceased, or Disney cartoon characters. The flood of confirmatory DMs was about to bring the system to its knees and launch a huge Fail Whale display, until it became clear that there were only 300 actual, breathing users of Twitter. Worldwide.

TwACORN was formed by pulling from the ranks of local community organizers, political activists, Robo-call tech folks, and Swiftboat veterans. “Look, all this blogging stuff is political anyway – we all know that. It’s a popularity contest, just like our national elections. So why not bring together the best minds from that field to help create a little chaos here?” declared Yamaha.

Meanwhile, a pall was cast over the glittering MarketingProfs Digital Mixer event in Scottsdale, when it was discovered that keynote speaker Arianna Huffington’s blogging property actually has only 33 readers. She was immediately pulled from the stage by Q-list blogger Ann Handley, and replaced by Tina Fey, who did a dead-on impersonation of Sarah Palin unsubscribing from the Huffington Post.

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Prior spoofs:

New TwIndependent party springs up overnight

Well-known Blogger Demoted to “Q-List”

Meaning of Life Unveiled!

Twitter Rockstar Half-Year Calendar…Tweeet!

(photo credit: David Alston)

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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

14 Responses to TwACORN Busted for Massive on-line Fraud

  1. Gavin Heaton says:

    Isn’t “unwitting digerati” a tautology?

  2. zebrabites says:

    LMAO! Thanks for brightening my morning.
    : )

  3. tony dee says:

    Thanks for bringing the sun to a somewhat gloomy time in America.

  4. Don’t forget to add yourself to this *Yet Another Twitter Top 100 List* for everyone who has not been on a top 100 list yet

    http://snarkytwitter.wikispaces.com/

  5. Todd And says:

    Nice one, Steve. That explains why 99% of my comments are from “Mickey Mouse.”

  6. Paula Drum says:

    I wondered what all the comotion was about on the stage. Now I know the full story. ;)

  7. As my ego is entirely pegged to my ranking, authority, followers and winged minions (which are a little like cocktail onions, though not quite as tasty) I find this new information extremely disturbing.

    While my pontifications and proclamations still hold the weight they have always had, I probably need to let go of the FAIL label if I should find dis-cognoscenti who are unfamiliar with my cannon of work.

    In addition, my entire t-shirt wardrobe is engineered to display my social and professional currency. This will now need to wind back to merely proclaim my importance.

    e.g.
    “Important and highly influential- get in line”

    will now read

    “I am a brand”

  8. Edw3rd says:

    Where’s Strumpette when you need her?

  9. Poor Ann Handley. Seems like every time I do a spoof she gets dragged into it. Oh well – notoriety beats invisibility, I guess?
    @Katie – I checked with my sources, and you are one of THREE bloggers worldwide whose numbers are actually true. You remain important, influential, and most importantly, incandescent.

  10. So this explains why 4,000 some odd people allegedly follow noted hat wearer David Armano.

    Chicago. Fraud. Twitter.

    It all makes sense now Steve. Thanks for continuing to be The Watchdog of The Internet.

  11. I have had reports that you can perceive my thinking from space.
    Thanks for the affirmation, Steve, that my light is equally making its impact in your Northern Hemisphere.

  12. Ike says:

    Steve, you’re still ducking the most vital issue: you’re admin page info.

    We’ve seen copies, but until we can examine the official Vault Version of your Admin Panel your authenticity is in doubt.

  13. Pingback: Five in the Morning 102208 « StickyFigure

  14. annhandley says:

    Steve — Thank you for this PSA and important piece of investigative journalism.

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