Crowdturfers, Campaigns, and Social Media: Tracking and Revealing Crowdsourced Manipulation of Social Media

author: Kyumin Lee, Department of Computer Science, Utah State University
published: April 3, 2014,   recorded: July 2013,   views: 1735

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Crowdturfing has recently been identified as a sinister counterpart to the enormous positive opportunities of crowdsourcing. Crowdturfers leverage human-powered crowdsourcing platforms to spread malicious URLs in social media, form "astroturf" campaigns, and manipulate search engines, ultimately degrading the quality of online information and threatening the usefulness of these systems. In this paper we present a framework for "pulling back the curtain" on crowdturfers to reveal their underlying ecosystem. Concretely, we analyze the types of malicious tasks and the properties of requesters and workers in crowdsourcing sites such as, and, and link these tasks (and their associated workers) on crowdsourcing sites to social media, by monitoring the activities of social media participants. Based on this linkage, we identify the relationship structure connecting these workers in social media, which can reveal the implicit power structure of crowdturfers identified on crowdsourcing sites. We identify three classes of crowdturfers -- professional workers, casual workers, and middlemen -- and we develop statistical user models to automatically differentiate these workers and regular social media users.

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