In a futuristic American city, Firemen no longer put out blazes – they start them – and the prime target for their arson are the great works of literary history. In the society of Fahrenheit 451 people fill their days by driving recklessly, watching wall-to-wall television, and listening to music through their portable iShell’¦er’¦Seashell radio sets. The pervasive nature of vacuous entertainment is such that the citizens of this dystopian city have become wholly apathetic to the literal holocaust of the great authors carried out by Firemen. Book-burning is a repellent act and ought to be opposed by every civilised person. Not only is it a public display of censorship, something we all find offensive, but it also represents the destruction of ideas – an attempt to erase important concepts from public knowledge. No one who claims the inheritance of the enlightenment could support such an act.
VidCon 2010, a conference themed around the rising internet video media phenomenon, takes place this coming weekend. I know, it’s the World Cup Final and British Grand Prix, so you won’t be seeing much of me over those two days, but something that should be of interest to all Leaguers is that Communist-Nazi-Liberal-Nazi-Scumbag LiberalViewer will be attending as a panelist to discuss the state of Copyright, YouTube’s policies, and what “fair use” really means with YouTube’s own Head of Communications and Community Policy, Victoria Grand (as well as a former EMI representative Joe Felice).
This is a great opportunity for LV to bring forward questions on behalf of the community, and that’s exactly what he’s offering to do (what a scumbag!). Even if you don’t have any questions you would like to hear asked, please head over to the video embedded below and support it. It is my hope that popularising this discussion will increase the pressure on Google to address its policy surrounding anonymous abuse of the DMCA, flagging system and rating system.
If you can cast your memory right back to January of this year, you may remember that I posted two videos on the subject. The first received widespread attention thanks to Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist) and PZ Myers (Pharyngula) but despite us remaining the top “technical issue”, Google have stayed suspiciously quiet.
Content owners who file copyright infringement notifications under the DMCA do so under penalty of perjury. When we receive a DMCA notification, we remove the posted video, send email to your registered address, and provide notice in your account. Sometimes individuals abuse the process, or are simply mistaken, because determining copyright ownership can be tricky. If you believe your content was misidentified as infringing or is a fair use, you may file a DMCA counter-notification.
Wow. Don’t they understand the word “anonymous”? We know full well how the damned thing is supposed to work Google; we’re telling you that it is open to abuse when anyone can use an unverified identity to file the notice. You know if anonymity wasn’t an option when creating an account to file such a claim, the vast majority of censorship-inspired, false DMCAs wouldn’t be filed, right?
I will be contacting LV directly with this background, just to make sure he knows how YouTube has utterly failed to respond to this issue properly in the past.
This is the Internet.
“Woah! Slow the fork down! What does that mean?”
It means that when you try to get someone’s opinion removed, instead of constructing a mature response, said opinion will come back with force. There is no bullet to the head of popular internet content. It appears, it thrives, and if it suspiciously disappears, memefication occurs. Yes. Memefication.
If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine
Many moons ago, a YouTube user named DannyMendlow posted a comical advertisement parody entitled “Religion!”. You can tell where this is going, can’t you? The video became hugely popular, making Pharyngula and other blogs if I recall correctly. I can’t remember exactly how long ago it was originally posted, but I’m willing to wager that it was quite some time as I’ve seen this video all over the place.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with Digg. It’s a website designed to direct people to popular internet content. By Digging something, you increase its ranking on Digg, increasing the likelihood that it will be brought to the attention of the Digg massive.
DannyMendlow’s video was Dugg (Digged?) to the extent that it reached the front page. Let me make this abundantly clear: that means the video in question was well liked by a large number of people, who felt that others should see it. By some magic shortly after its arrival on the front of Digg, the video was pulled by YouTube as being ‘inappropriate’. Stupidity abounds at the YouTube HQ (which I have on good authority is manned by a crack team of ducks) because the only thing inappropriate about the video is that it’s so depressingly true. Yesterday, DannyMendlow reposted the video for the first time, and in my opinion it deserves support. I urge you to head over and favourite/rate/comment the original. Oh, and why not Digg it too? Enjoy…
I’m sure most Leaguers (especially those who frequent chat) have heard of my creationist archive project FundieVideoHell or FVH for short. As the name might suppose, FVH is a treasure trove (or virtual hell, depending on the user) of creationist and fundamentalist seminars, presentations and other assorted videos.
While I had anticipated support and thanks from my fellow rationalists, I was surprised to see support from creationists too. It seems that FVH is a common ground for both sides: rationalists can use it as a resource for material to debunk (though, sadly, I have yet to see it used this way), and creationists have a source of entertainment.
So why do I spend my time and hard drive space on the opponents to rationality, freethinking, and science? The answer is simple: as long as FundieVideoHell exists, they cannot (or rather, shouldn’t) claim they are being censored by us. Well, at least they cannot claim all atheists are censoring them.
Now, I have, so far, done this entirely on my own resources. I enjoy finding out what is new and happening from the other side. But when I came across the brochure for the “2010 Creation Supercamp,” which is only a few hours drive away, I realized something. Something that deeply frightened me: I wanted to go to this conference. I want to film creationist conferences. But I also don’t want to be an e-begger like VenomFangX.
So I was wondering, should I start a PayPal so that I can take donations from those who are willing to support FundieVideoHell? And would you (the lucky readers) be able to spread the word about FVH? I think there may be creationists out there who would help support the spread of their message, both by word-of-mouth and monetarily.
Well, well, well. What do we have here?
In the war against censorship, one of our forum members and Youtuber joshTheGoods is taking matters into his own hands, and I have to say I feel much safer at night knowing that at least one sensible codemonkey is working on the software weapons we need.
Josh posted the video embedded below on his channel today, demonstrating an early build of TubeGuardian, an innovative background application that monitors your Youtube channel statistics (or anyone else’s, for that matter) and if given access to your account, will sense when videos are targeted by votebots, and automatically react to protect them. This does not involving counterbotting – which would only be stooping to the level of those free speech-hating cowards – but rather the act of defending your videos by disabling ratings. Check out the video for the full lowdown from Josh himself. It’s set to play in HD, so be sure to embiggen it with the fullscreen function for maximum effect.
Since I began writing this post, it appears the above video was itself votebotted! A nice demonstration of the effectiveness of TubeGuardian, which disabled ratings after just five 1-star votes. Note that it is not the number of ratings that triggers TubeGuardian‘s defence programme, but rather a suspiciously high number of ratings when compared to views.
As Josh mentioned in the video, he is open to suggestions as the software is in development, so if you have any, or can offer any help, please send him a PM on Youtube. If anyone can port the software to OS X, I’d certainly appreciate it (and let’s not forget our friends on Linux). Once it reaches a stable release, we will be sure to host the install files officially here at League of Reason.
In the meantime, check out joshTheGoods’ channel and subscribe to him for video updates about TubeGuardian.
As many of you may know, in addition to votebots that rate down videos there are also bots that mark all the comments on a video as spam. Although the comments can still be read when you click the “Show” button, it’s quite annoying and a direct attack against free speech. The problem would be easy to solve by simply clicking the “Not Spam” button above every comment. Unfortunately, as many things on YouTube, the button doesn’t work.
It’s still possible to unmark comments as spam by going through the page source, but that can be rather time consuming. But now there is an easier solution, a program that does this automatically.
There are, however, a few objections to using the program. For one, is it right to use a bot against a bot? Here’s why I don’t think there’s anything wrong about it:
- You can only moderate comments on your own videos.
- You can do the same manually, it only takes a lot more time.
- It would be about as fast to do manually if the “Not Spam” button worked properly.
- You are defending free speech and harming no one.
Could the program be used wrong, for example, modified to mark comments as spam in other people’s videos? Here’s what the programmer has to say:
“Only if the user has pretty intimate knowledge of decompiling/editing compiled programs. A malicious programmer could look at the source code as an example of some general principles one might use to create a spam bot, but a programmer with enough knowledge to understand my example would not need it (it’s exceedingly simple).”
What about YouTube’s Terms of Service? Section 4.H. says the following:
“You agree not to use or launch any automated system, including without limitation, “robots,” “spiders,” or “offline readers,” that accesses the Website in a manner that sends more request messages to the YouTube servers in a given period of time than a human can reasonably produce in the same period by using a conventional on-line web browser.”
In the program you can set the time period between actions. In my opinion, 1 second is a reasonable period of time for unmarking comments as spam. Of course, you could set a longer time period if you feel like it.
As long as the “Not Spam” button is non-functional I see no problem in using the program. If I was hit by a creationist spambot, I would certainly use it. But this is just my personal opinion, not necessarily the official position of the League of Reason.
You can download the program here. The program should run on Windows Vista and XP. It won’t yet run on Mac OS X, except via VirtualPC. Downloading and using the program is at your own risk. Neither I nor the League of Reason can be held responsible for any possible damage caused by the program.
Even if you have no need for the program please check out joshTheGoods’s channel. He also has many great videos about evolution, creationism and atheism.
Some of the software that can be used in order to perform a Votebot attack is in my opinion quite expensive at around $100 a pop, I don’t have $100 to spare, and I certainly don’t want to line the pockets of the people who make the software, but from researching demo’s, videos, information on the web and my own knowledge of web technologies I will attempt to explain how a person might perform an attack and how the software facilitates this.
YouTube currently does very little to stop you from rating a video more than once in a given period of time. When rating a video a cookie is stored on your web browser with a list of videos you have rated (I believe this is also the same for when viewing a video), I’m not sure if this only stores the last video you rated or all videos you have rated in that session, the cookie is encrypted so the information contained is not easily viewable. If this cookie is deleted, or you rate a different video or your session times out and then come back you are then able to vote on that video again. (Whether the repeat ratings get counted I’m not sure of, but it would make sense that they are due to the massive number of ratings some people get during an attack. Even if the repeat ratings are not counted, it’s possible that with enough Sockpuppet accounts the same result can be accomplished.) It is possible however that YouTube may do some sort of throttling on ratings if there is a large number coming from one IP address in a short period of time, or at least, I hope they do.
From what I can gather, the majority if not all the software being used to perform a Votebot attack essentially acts the same way as a web browser but automatically performs the actions needed to add ratings to a video the way you would if you were doing it manually, only the software is able to skip certain steps, like viewing the video, which is why most of the time someone who has been attacked will see a disproportionate number of ratings to the number of views (for the more technically minded, the necessary POST parameters are sent directly to the URL used by YouTube’s AJAX scripts when the rating is clicked).
When a Votebot user decides to start an attack in its most basic form, they find a video they don’t like, copy the URL to that video and paste it into the software, set how many ratings they want to add to that video and the star rating they want for each rating added (depending on the software you can set a minimum and a maximum rating to randomly add a rating equal to/between those two values), then click a button and leave it running whilst it does its thing.
Hi, this is my first blog post on the League of Reason. In case you are wondering who I am, I am the League of Reason webmaster, and as such, my main area of expertise is web based technologies (among other things). I keep the server running, the website up to date, and so on and so forth.
My scientific knowledge isn’t particularly good, my grasp of philosophy is almost non-existant, and my insight on religion is limited. So I think I’ll leave those things to those far more capable than I.
I’ve noticed that there isn’t a great deal of information on how Votebots actually work, and would like to give what information I know and any theories I have for what I don’t know about these how dubious bits of software do their dastedly work.
I’ll start by giving some information about the Votebot software and its origins:
For those who don’t know what a Votebot is, it is a piece of software or script that someone runs who wishes to drop a lot of votes onto a YouTube video to alter its ranking and thus its visibility in things like related searches. The name Votebot has actually been made up by the YouTube community who have been attacked by these bots, rather than have any positive effects from them (I say positive effects in the sense that a persons video has had its ratings increased rather than decreased. In my opinion, the use of this software to manipulate the rating of a video in any way is wrong and should not be looked at as a good thing regardless of its effects).
The original purpose of these software applications/scripts was to promote a persons own videos in order to gain exposure and make money through various means, and people do that, and can make a rather large amounts of money. Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s right, it gives the illusion of effort when there has been none or very little. The video in question may not even have anything worth watching, but can potentially out perform a video that is highly entertaining or informative.
Some of these software applications are not limited to simply casting votes on videos, they can also increase the number of views on a video or channel (YouTube have recently added a countermeasure that helps to prevent this, but also has some potentially harmful side effects to legitimate YouTubers which I will explain another time). On top of that they can automatically post comments, add subscribers to a particular channel using Sockpuppet accounts, favourite a video on said Sockpuppet accounts, and also help create these YouTube Sockpuppet accounts with very little effort. Apart from the voting part the other features can only be used for ‘positive’ effects (except for the views countermeasure side effect I referred to earlier and will reveal in due course).
Well, that’ll do for now, I hope this information so far has been of use to you. If you already knew all this, then good for you 😛
In part 2, I will go into more depth about how Votebotters actually go about performing their insidious tasks and the inner workings of the software and its interaction with YouTube’s system.