Your Fly Is Open

Netmenaces and Other Internet Stupidity

You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy...

2021-04-11 4 min read twitter

That pretty well sums up Twitter.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that Twitter has its good points. It’s just that I’m not sure that they outweigh the scum and villainy that you encounter there.

Sometimes, I get a little bored. Most people would watch a movie or read a book.

I mess with Internet idiots.

The idiots du jour are (once again) my buddies profiting from academic dishonesty by selling term / research paper writing services.

To bring you up-to-date, thus far I’ve:

  • Chronicled the magical happenstance of links to term paper service storefronts somehow appearing on hacked sites, creating a search engine boost for their sales.
  • Written extensively on how these same skeevy term paper services are rehabilitating their reputations (and boosting their search engine position) by paying a PR firm to place press releases on the site of the Associated Press.

Yesterday’s adventure was based on some Twitter searchin' that I’ve been doing. You see, I’m more than a little bit peeved about this whole Associated Press thing, and I’m trying to figure out some way to get it the attention that I think it deserves. I really want to find a way to hold the AP’s feet to the fire to get them to cut this crap out. (Seriously, if anyone has a notion on how to make that to happen, please let me know…)

Anyway, one of the things that I noticed when I was doing Twitter searches for academic integrity was an odd response. Someone was responding to a Tweet by saying something like, “That could get me an academic integrity violation.” Obviously, that was too intriguing to pass up, so I dug into the conversation to see what was going on.

What I found was appalling.

A college student, facing an impending deadline for a paper had simply been venting. This young lady said something akin to “I’ve been procrastinating about starting the big research paper I have due in two weeks.” Based on the timestamps on the tweets, it took less than 5 minutes for her to receive a response from what appeared to be a Twitter bot associated with some a skeevy research paper service. They were offering to produce a paper for her.

If that young lady could accidentally trigger a response, what if I tried to trigger me some bots.

So, I tweeted:

A tweet

I timed it.

I’m just that way…

It took 47 seconds for the first response to hit… Then another, and another, and another, and another, and… All in all, I received 8 responses:

Skeevy replies

I received responses from Assignment Help (@Assignment204), ParagonWriters (@WritersParagon), Academia Pro (@_Academia_PRO), Elena essays (@ElenaEssays), Isabell_Writer Pro (@isabellchloe95), Essay Writing Services (@Essaywritin_USA), Premium Academic Writers (@premiumwriters5), and OXFORD WRITERS (@oxfordwritr).

Obviously, any organization that just pops up when you mention something on Twitter is probably not the place to spend money, just sayin'… But, you gotta figure that these folks represent the crème de la crème of the term paper writing service industry, because what says fine, upstanding company quite like a business model that includes sniping keywords on Twitter? Unfortunately, the fact that they continue down this sleezy path means that they’ve likely bagged more than a few academically struggling college students this way.

The brazenness of these clowns seems to be unlimited - they facilitate academic dishonesty, get SEO benefit from hacked websites, and use the Associated Press to legitimize their utterly illegitimate businesses. It’s like they’re pond scum with Satan’s marketing team.

So… I’ve decided I need to do something about it.

I’m not saying what I’m going to do - yet - but trust me, it’s going to be fun.

Developing code to use the Twitter API is actually relatively easy - the hardest thing seems to be keeping up with overall ambiguity that seems to constantly swirl around Twitter’s developer program. I’ve had what I thought was a developer account for years. In that account, I even have apps listed (for a long time, I ran a honeypot that I wrote that tweeted whenever it was attacked). I have keys. I have secrets… the whole nine yards. But when I went to use Twitter’s streaming API, apparently I have some sort of old fashioned developer account and I can’t be trusted with the full power of the Twitter API. Twitter has been pulling this stuff for years: changing the rules in the middle of the game.

So I’ve applied for a new-fangled developer account… We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Keep checking back - I’ve got something interesting in mind…

Tom Liston
Owner, Principal Consultant
Bad Wolf Security, LLC
Twitter: @tliston
April 12, 2021