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How a shadowbanning reputation system will backfire.

laboratorymikeSep 17, 2018, 9:40:56 PM

    As of late there has been quite a big fuss about demands for Minds to implement a reputation system that not only lifts people up, but also gives the option to tear particular users down. While this post is about the situation, is is not about any particular person so much as the general question of how such a system will profoundly backfire, and probably could profoundly backfire on the very people who are demanding it.

    For myself, I'm a coder by trade, and I've engaged in some white-hat hacking such as load testing and vulnerability scans. Along the way i learned a few others things, namely social engineering, and training people how not to be tricked into downloading malware.

    I didn't want to get into this fight at first, but what set me off was a case of a member threatening other members with whatever he thought he could get away with. This is an example of how ugly it could get, and this is why I wanted to write on just how a downvote/subscriber weighted system could backfire.

Minds tokens are great just as they are

    When reviewing different social media sites, what makes Minds particularly good is that it works on a "positive contribution" basis. You write engaging content, people interact with it, and the more you interact and encourage interaction, the bigger the reward. There are ways to game this, of course, but you cannot forcibly exclude others in this kind of system. Instead, you are going to get groups of people who like each other's content, and they will seek such groups out. This means of spreading out is what humans did for millenia, but unlike Earth, Minds can expand to be as large as needed to accommodate everyone. Sometimes you will have to block certain people, but that's OK - we do not have to all get along, all the time.

What will happen with a negative rep system

    Reputation gamers think they are a king, in reality they do not have enough Internet knowledge to rate as a court concubine. Because of this, I hope the rep gamers will allow themselves to be educated on how this beloved plan is going to bury them:

Bandz A Make Her Dance

    A couple years back there was a rap song called "Bandz A Make Her Dance" by Juicy J, in which he acted like he was a king because he could throw $10,000 bricks of cash (100 $100 bills, aka a "band") at a stripper and make the stripper dance. In reality, that ain't impressive - getting a modest girl to dance for you, for no money, for 20+ years in a passionate marriage, is. Overpaying someone to do an advertised job is not.

    And yet, with a reputation system, particularly one that can be junked with downvotes, someone will figure out pretty quickly that "bandz a make her dance." And since you can buy on-chain tokens cheap, you can get hundreds of tokens for less than $100. Once you have them, you can offer... oh I don't know, 0.5 tokens per subscription, and artificially boost your subscriber count.

    What the poor rep gamer doesn't realize, is that "bandz a make her dance" only attracts people who have stripper-level ethics and below. That also means, no loyalty whatsoever if someone you go after turns out to also have a credit card that is just as big as yours, and can offer more tokens per subscription, block, and so on.

Pissing off Hackers

    Since Minds is an Internet site, I also wanted to show you one realistic scenario that could come about under a reputation system that is tied to subscriber counts or up/down votes. Any hacker can buy a dozen servers in different locations, throw Selenium and Scrapy on them, and create a little script that automatically creates accounts. The script in turn can ask the hacker to decode CAPTCHAs, and in an hour of work you could have a couple hundred accounts. Or you can pay Bangladeshi subscriber farms $5 per 100 accounts to do it for you. There are people who do that on Twitter and it is disgusting, but if we're looking to get ugly it does work.

    Either way, armed with your fake accounts you use your dozen (or several dozen - unique IPs are cheap) servers to slowly take up the offer of 0.5 tokens per subscription and 1 token per account block, and while some reputation gamer is singing "Bandz a Make Her Dance!" and exclaiming his awesomeness because he can "hand out tokens like candy," he doesn't realize that he's handing all the tokens over to his enemy, who is handing them out to the people he blocked. Once a solid 40-60% of the reputation gamer's accounts are your fakes, you throw the switch, mass downvote everything, and finish up with hundreds/thousands of account blocks. If done at the right time, a user could walk away from his computer, come back, and find a thoroughly trashed account. And with all these fake accounts, the hacker can mass-subscribe to any block list too, thus reversing a reputation gamer's position in just one day.

Let's make an end to the drama

    Once when I was young and arrogant, a guy pissed me off and I told him I was going to cut him, and he immediately whipped out his on knife and said to me "Fucker, I taught you how to knife fight! If you fuck with me I can fuck right back!" Now it just so happened I knew another knife fighter, who had 4 black belts in kung fu, and at that moment I remembered his advice: "Nobody wins in a knife fight." So, the whole situation leading up to it aside, I said sorry, I backed off, and planned to resolve the issue peacefully instead of trying to prove I was some kind of badass. And funny enough, the next day we did.

    This is what I'm going to suggest to everyone on this topic - do not ask for systems that will enable Internet knife fights. Nobody will win. Let's focus on making great content and great communities.