TwACORN Busted for Massive on-line Fraud
October 22, 2008 14 Comments
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.
(photo credit: David Alston)