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4chan tricksters get in on the Twitter follower race

April 16, 2009 | 12:40 pm
Basementdad
The flier posted around the 4chan message boards, which encourages participation in the Twitter scam.

Another contender has entered Ashton Kutcher and CNN's race to 1 million Twitter followers. This one is backed by a legion of swindlers who frequent the underground Internet message board 4chan.

Members of the notoriously sordid forum have banded together to catapult a new Twitter user called @basementdad to more than 261,000 followers in less than 24 hours.

A 4chan user created a computer program that mass-produces new Twitter accounts, which then automatically subscribe to @basementdad. The user began disseminating the software to volunteers who agree to run it on their systems to support the cause.

While celebrity actor Kutcher is backed by the promise of a year's supply of video games from Electronic Arts to the millionth follower, and CNN's Twitter account is backed by the might of one of the largest news outlets in the world, 4chan is just a bunch of tricksters running very powerful computer scripts.

And it looks as if the Twitter grifters may have a shot. Since starting the charade early this morning, @basementdad has already broken into the top 100 users.

According to a stat-tracking page one anonymous 4chan user created to monitor the race, @basementdad is adding 150 to 250 new followers a minute -- compare that to Kutcher or CNN, who are moving at a pace of about five to 25 per minute (albeit from a much bigger base).

That is, until Twitter puts a stop to it. "Our spam and abuse team is aware of this," Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote in an e-mail.

The 4chan army is infamous for its gaming of online polls and legendary hacks. The legion of basement Web influencers is credited with sneaking anti-Scientology and anti-Semitic blurbs onto Google's search trends list, hacking the personal e-mail inbox of former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and, most recently, pushing the nickname of the 4chan founder, moot, to the top of Time's top 100 influencers poll.

-- Mark Milian [follow]

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