Verification as Opportunity: a Blue Ocean Devoid of Bots
There's enormous opportunity in a social media network of trust, a blue ocean because the current social media giants clearly don't care.
Donald Alonso — crypto trader, Forex options trader, and professional market analyst who — allegedly working for binaryciphers.com is, if nothing else, a friendly guy.
Donald has 94,200 Twitter followers when I first stumbled across him on Feb. 28, an impressive feat since his account was only a month old.
Donald, you spelled my name wrong. Anyway, I ran with it. I believed his account might be a bot and he clarified he’s “a binary manager and I’ve a lot of people trading under my signals”
Chatty bot Donald got to the point and, surprise, he had a “lucrative business offer to share.”
Bitcoin? I’ve heard of this Bitcoin. Tell me more, Donald.
Ugh - my “fears and insecurities” were getting in the way of a very lucrative trade. I could’ve told him about the geriatrics I saw in Florida foreclosure courts in 2010 telling the judge they didn’t have a mortgage only to find out the “award their grandchild won,” that required their signature to fund, was actually a mortgage now deeply in default.
I let Donald go on. I mean, who could resist “investing” a mere $150k into bitcoin that will yield $123,000 “within a few days,” right?
So he went away, right? Hell, no! He tried harder.
Donald sought to reassure my fears and insecurities with some rock-solid documentation.
The US passport office apparently decided to go crazy with the fonts. Also to change the number of years a passport is valid. Usually, the photos aren’t cropped to look like, well, Twitter profile pics. But it wasn’t just the passport he offered but also a certificate from the “CryptoCurrency Certification Consortium.”
I asked for more.
Ah, a crypto trading license. That’s … reassuring. I’d have preferred one signed by Satoshi himself and, at this point, surprised Donald’s wasn’t. Of course, the photo matches his Twitter profile and all his other documentation.
I finally tired of Donald telling him I’ll likely write our convo into an article — which he was fine with — and went off to do more productive things, a broad basket of tasks that included pretty much anything including read the news or going to the bathroom.
Not long after, I started receiving genuinely verified security alerts from various accounts. Folks: turn on your multi-factor authentication if you decide to chat with the controller of a bot farm. Come to think of it, turn it on anyway.
Getting around to writing this, Donald is down to 46,600 followers. Twitter must’ve pruned but not chopped, Terms of Service being for … I dunno, non-bots? As before, I didn’t need to scroll very far to find the vast majority of his followers have zero followers and many that do have followers have had countless followers with nobody following them.
While I found Donald vaguely fun there’s a fine chance he’ll stumble across the occasional mark and, no doubt, take some or all of their money like those people I saw stumble out of foreclosure court, leaning on walkers, into homelessness.
Which leads to the question: why don’t social media networks do something about this? Anecdotally, Twitter is better than Facebook but both are littered with easily identifiable scammers, scumbags and fakers. When Donald’s user count went up like a rocket, full of followers with no followers, you’d think his primary account and all the phantoms would quickly disappear. That didn’t happen.
I get that social networks need numbers to satiate their advertises and Wall Street — is it any wonder that Facebook’s Daily Average User count declined by such a small amount, after all? — but is hosting a bot army really economically sustainable? I suppose the answer is yes or they’d have done something about it.
I’ve advocated many times a universal human identifier, a system that turns us all into blue-checks, preferably with a system that enables us to ignore non-verified accounts. Given the amount of misinformation in the political space, the opportunity sounds obvious. It seems like a social network of only verified accounts, even if they chose to use pseudonyms, could do exceptionally well. Eyeballs would be vastly more valuable to advertisers than paying to advertise to Donald and his bot network.
Eliminating the fakes and reducing overall user count while raising the quality of each seems like a blue ocean no-brainer yet nobody’s willing to go there.
Donald’s scam isn’t new; as long as people have been trading financial instruments fraudsters have been right along with them. Granted, he’s more transparently stupid than most but somebody must be falling for it or he wouldn’t take the time to keep going.
Most attention for bots is on the political influencers. Those are still around and often easy to spot. Lately, with the Ukrainian war, there are countless Facebook profiles that have had little or no activity since the fall of 2016. They came back to life like a mummy movie where the mummy loves Vlad Putin.
It makes no sense to enable, empower, and allow these people to continue. No store owner in their right mind would open their doors to known crooks, especially when the crooks are hostile to and alienate legitimate customers. There’s a good opportunity to make lots of money by creating an alternative forum with higher credibility.
Whether selling a fake political narrative or a fraudulent financial instrument, it’s impossible to understand why social networks tolerate this. More than that, it’s impossible to understand why nobody takes advantage of that opportunity and creates a social network where the people might still be full of bull but at least they’re real.