I got notified of some new followers a moment ago. That happens, maybe not as often as I would like but with reasonable frequency.
I noticed however that there was something unusual about this new follower. Some users on Medium choose not to have their face in the profile pic, instead showing trees, or a logo, or a dog, or whatever.
In the case of Diane however, it appeared to be only her breasts, covered by a bikini top that was several sizes too small. I don’t tend to see this much on Medium, so my curiosity was piqued.
Perhaps this was someone who specialized in stories about proper bathing suit fitting, or the struggles involved in finding clothing to fit exceptionally large breasts…
Okay, I knew it was a spam bot. It’s only the second to hit my Medium followers since I started though, and both were in the last few weeks.
Her account (should you use preferred pronouns for people who don’t exist and never will? I’m not really sure. Even their seems like a stretch and its sounds weird after using a name) profile consisted of the picture and an admonition to follow a link to “see more of me”
Well, clearly I had to see more of her… no, not that at all. Instead, I clicked the arrow next to follow and then clicked report.
Apparently the account signup process at Medium has gotten cheap enough for bots that they are able to manage it. I suspect that this is the tip of the iceberg, but that many of us will end up with Diane’s in the near future.
Of course, Medium can change the signup process, adopt new captcha tech, make most actions require a paid membership, a lot of different options, but right now it seems like there is a hole in the defences.
It could always be a manual join. Instead of a bot, a human could have handled the signup. It’s unlikely since that tends to be a money-losing proposition for spammers. It might work if they only need human intervention for the signup and then the rest of the operation is automated.
Either way, the best option is to report these spammers as soon as we see them. When we report them it raises the cost, and if we all do it every time it will be incredibly hard for them to get a foothold.
I’ve seen this on a number of platforms in the past. So long as the platform evolves to handle the threat it doesn’t become a big problem. If that doesn’t happen, well, it can be more of an issue. I’ve seen sites fail under the weight of all the spambots.
Then again, maybe I’m judging poor Diane unfairly.