Forum Thread

Does slickdeals run bot accounts?

tnor 1,119 314 May 24, 2016 at 05:30 PM
I realize that some level of automation might be necessary for creating posts, but I have recently noticed that there are what look to be bot accounts interacting on threads ... posting things like "good deal" and voting for threads.

Check out these accounts all created in Feb of this year (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, etc...) for an example of the type of posts and activity.

A few threads to observe this strange behavior are:
Page 2 of the today'sfront-paged levi's deal. There are 4 sketchy posts in a row to start page 2.
Four of these posts in this Olay thread.
Page two of this deal, almost the entire page appears to be bots.
Again on page 2 (sensing a theme here), there are four more on this HDMI deal. In this case, three of the bots claim to have given reps (though it doesn't appear so from their account pages) and two of the bots thumb-up'd the deal.

If you dig into the accounts, there are many more of these examples. They appear to be focused on frontpage deals, inflating both the post count (always in with positive impressions of the deal) and the number of thumbs up. This diminishes the integrity of the peer-reviewed process most users think they are getting when they see deals in the forums or on the front page. They also post deals (see account details for any of the bots above for examples), which seems to me the only positive contribution of bots on this site. However, a quick sample of the deals posted revealed none with more than two thumbs up or with any substantive user feedback - more like spam than meaningful contributions.

Does slickdeals run bot accounts that conduct the activities mentioned? Perhaps this was made clear to users at some point and I missed the memo? It would certainly explain the common refrain from users about the increase in terrible deals on the front page.

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#3
Quote from tnor View Post :
Does slickdeals run bot accounts that conduct the activities mentioned?
No, absolutely not.
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Joined Aug 2004
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#4
We do not have, nor allow bots on Slickdeals. We are aware that perhaps some accounts may look suspicious, and we have some sophisticated and advanced tools that allow us to detect and punish these fake/bot/shill accounts.

Not to mention, our deal editors look at the very things you've looked at when considering an FP deal, so it also gets a manual check.

I really cant divulge any more than, don't worry we're on it Smilie However, if you do suspect an account of being a bot or shill, please dont hestitate to mod alert their post, or mention it to us here so that we can investigate and deal with it appropriately.

Some people wonder why various merchants are blocked, one of the reasons is because they engage in this kind of activity Smilie

Thanks!
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#5
Quote from cgrady View Post :
No, absolutely not.
These accounts appear to be following an algorithm that appears to devalue the peer-reviewed nature of deals and contributes spam to the posts to the website, making it harder to sift through. Slickdeals has helped me through the years on a lot of deals, so I don't mind spending a solid few hours today tracing this out to get to the heart of this.

I have a hard time seeing what a third party would be getting from this set of bots as the deals they are interacting with are from a variety of sellers, but I'll take your word for it. That said, this seems like something to track down as there are a lot more of these than I posted examples of, and they are all over the front page deals.
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#6
Quote from tnor View Post :
These accounts appear to be following an algorithm that appears to devalue the peer-reviewed nature of deals and contributes spam to the posts to the website, making it harder to sift through. Slickdeals has helped me through the years on a lot of deals, so I don't mind spending a solid few hours today tracing this out to get to the heart of this.

I have a hard time seeing what a third party would be getting from this set of bots as the deals they are interacting with are from a variety of sellers, but I'll take your word for it. That said, this seems like something to track down as there are a lot more of these than I posted examples of, and they are all over the front page deals.
As bryantq mentioned, we do have tools that we (mod team) use when we suspect or are alerted of an account that looks suspicious. We are always on the lookout for what we call shills, or fake accounts, being used to reply to deals or vote them up. In many cases, the tools provide us with enough evidence beyond a doubt to remove those accounts. In some situations though, there is just not enough proof to be certain. For that, we try to find a line between protecting the site and our users from these suspected fake accounts. We do not want to ban a real account by mistake because that obviously does not provide a good user experience for the banned person.

In any case, member involvement is very helpful in rooting out these problems. We have a few members who are always sending us mod alerts when they see something suspicious and that is appreciated. I handled a few of your alerts this morning and I hope you continue to do so as you come across something that seems suspicious.
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#7
Quote from tnor View Post :
These accounts appear to be following an algorithm that appears to devalue the peer-reviewed nature of deals and contributes spam to the posts to the website, making it harder to sift through. Slickdeals has helped me through the years on a lot of deals, so I don't mind spending a solid few hours today tracing this out to get to the heart of this.

I have a hard time seeing what a third party would be getting from this set of bots as the deals they are interacting with are from a variety of sellers, but I'll take your word for it. That said, this seems like something to track down as there are a lot more of these than I posted examples of, and they are all over the front page deals.
Attempting to establish historied accounts with posts, reputation, and votes to avoid detection when they use them to shill vote.
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#8
Quote from bryantq View Post :
Attempting to establish historied accounts with posts, reputation, and votes to avoid detection when they use them to shill vote.
I could see that, though the only voting thumbs up is a bit strange - but perhaps there is more of a tendency to do that, especially on front page deals, than to thumbs down. I spent some time this morning flagging more that rayzac helped with (thanks!), but it definitely got to a point where I was finding more and more but had to get back to my day job. I'll see what I can do later and will definitely keep an eye out on this.
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#9
And don't feel the least bit guilty for mod alerting any post you consider suspicious. The mods will judge it. I've done this a bit, just in the last few days.
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#10
As VorlonFrog said, please don't hesitate to mod alert any post that's suspicious. We don't like the bots/shills/spammers any more than you guys do, but we may not see them all so any help from users is appreciated Smilie
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#11
This is getting so out of control!
Maybe someone needs to talk to your Google placement company (or whatever the firm is called) you are using. It's just way too obvious.
Credibility goes down ALOT when these posters practices are observed.
They post up a bunch of non-deals (most seem to use same format).
They vote up deals.
They comment in short brief snippets that often don't exactly correlate with product in OP, often obvious English may not be their first language.
These type replies seem to appear in multiples when there has been a less than favorable comment made by a member, or seemingly to otherwise bump stagnated FP deal threads.

I see more and more members mentioning the phenomenon within threads.
This is bad. Very bad.

Is increasing site traffic, thus increasing ad revenue really worth totally sacrificing the core site's credibility?
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Last edited by iluvthebeach May 31, 2016 at 03:42 AM
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#12
I just reported a string of somewhat suspicious posts this morning.
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#13
Thanks for reporting them when you see them. We don't like that here anymore than anyone else. We rely on the community to let us know when they run across suspicious posting.
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#14
Every single Amazon deal I've seen has a wiki with the same advertisement about joining Amazon Prime. I assumed those were bots placing them in a wiki.
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#15
Quote from alphacow View Post :
Every single Amazon deal I've seen has a wiki with the same advertisement about joining Amazon Prime. I assumed those were bots placing them in a wiki.
It appears that as deal threads are "QA'd" by SD staff (all new deals posted in Hot Deals theoretically are supposed to get QA'd) if they are Amazon.com as seller deals, it is "automatic" that the Prime sales pitch is inserted in the wiki, replacing wiki comment instructions, etc.

It is even inserted in Amazon S&S threads which do not require Prime membership for orders to be placed.
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