A Reddit user by the name /CryptoMaximalist recently revealed the results
of an investigation into manipulation within the online cryptocurrency community. The investigation looked into how a group of certain users has been hijacking threads in the r/CryptoCurrency and r/CryptoMarkets subreddits to promote and shill specific products and projects.
Manipulation, shilling, and self-promotion are no strangers
to the cryptocurrency industry so many will not be surprised by the news, but the investigation gives some interesting insight into the scope of these activities and how they are conducted. Throughout the investigation, the user managed to uncover 50 Reddit accounts which he dubbed the “Dream Network”. These accounts appear to be working together to perform specific types of manipulation known as Astroturfing
and Vote Manipulation
Vote Manipulation is relatively self-explanatory, and Astroturfing is the act of making the promotion of a specific project look natural and organic – when in fact the users promoting the project are all involved in the scam. In order to make a project look legitimate, several users will begin long and detailed comment threats featuring questions, answers, and discussions that all appear to come from separate individuals with their own opinions. While they may appear to be separate accounts, often the questions and responses are all instigated by the same person in real life or have been agreed upon beforehand.
Several big projects implicated
Crypto projects that have been implicated in the manipulation include Ontology, Bitmax, Ultra Token, OOOBTC, MOAC, Contentos, and Dreamr, amongst others. While it is not conclusive that the operators of these projects elicited the manipulative behavior, it makes sense that those conducting the manipulation stand to make a profit from the success of the project.
To discover which accounts are likely involved in manipulation the investigation looked into the historical behavior of the accounts. Many were found to have long periods of inactivity followed by a sudden change in personality – indicating the account had likely been sold to a ‘shill
‘. Shills will often buy existing accounts with high karma and a long history so that they appear more authentic. Other questionable behavior includes ‘karma farming’ – posting comments in popular threads like r/aww that typically accrue karma with very little effort.
As mentioned above, manipulation is not exactly a new concept in cryptocurrency, but hopefully, this investigation will help some newbies not lose money by investing in rubbish ‘pump n dump’ schemes.