Well, I would like to start with a disclaimer first: I did NOT discover a new type of malware or virus, this is a blog talking about some of type of users on our social networks.
So, what are these zombie fans/followers/friends(FFFs)? (Oh, please bear with me, this will take a while):
They are users on a social network who stay inactive, or post information which are very commercialized, or replies to a topic which are totally irreverent. There are some significant characteristics:
- the number of people they follow is way more than the number of people who follow back on them.
- most of their posts are commercialized, i.e. promoting certain products, or events.
- constantly “active” on their social networks, by “active”, it means that they post stuff on a daily basis, at least.
These are the main, and important characteristics to identify them, it’s not hard to spot them in your list of followers, especially on Twitter, and Sina Weibo.
Now, we know who they are, and let’s find out what they want.
Just like the good old day malware, spying in your computer, popping up random webpages, once you click those pages, the creator of that malware gets paid. Same idea for these new age zombies, they follow you, and hope that you would follow back on them, so that their status updates would show up on your timeline, or home. Most people won’t follow back, but however, based on the large number of people they follow, there is a good amount of people aren’t aware of what these zombies really want, and be kind to follow back. That serves the zombies purpose.
Or even one doesn’t follow back on the zombies, they can still post replies with embedded spam to your topic, and I won’t tell you that how easily it can be done by scripting (thanks to all the excellent API developers out there).
We have all seen those spams before, we just choose to ignore them, it’s human nature. However, the moment we think we really ignored them, but we didn’t, they sort of stayed in hour head, the next time we see them, we remember we have seen them before. And the cycle goes on and on. And that, my friends, is exactly what the spammers want.
Another purpose I figured out the meaning of those zombies is, to make someone’s reputation look good. Imagine this, 2 complete strangers added you as a friend, and one is with 500k followers already, and the other one is with only 50 followers. Which one of them looks like a spammer to you? Of course, you would say you don’t have to friend with any of them, but the truth is, you can’t deny that you would pick the one with 500k, if you had to pick.
And you would probably ask now, why don’t we develop a program to filter those spams? Well, I believe they did. But these zombie spammers get smarter. For example, not all of the stuff they post are spams, or, they post something that’s sort of related to the topic, but with some other non-related information in the same reply as well, just for the sake of confusing the spam filters.
Filtration is always a hard topic, no matter in research, academy and industry. It’s about AI, natural language parsing and across many other topics.