Boston Radio Station Shutters Online Contest To Meet Taylor Swift Because Of 4Chan Shenanigans

from the aw,-come-on dept

It’s a sad day, folks. A day in which we all shall weep with reckless abandon and cry tearful wails of hopeless dysphoria. I’m talking, of course, of Creepy Charles, the man the internet attempted to introduce to Taylor Swift so that he might lean softly into her personal space and waft the sweet, heavenly scent of hair follicles that have been dumped more times than the trash bin at an Old Country Buffet. 4Chan and Reddit teamed up to rig an online contest with spam bots so that the 39 year old Charles might vault himself over a mile-high wall of teen girls to claim his rightful place beside the queen of plastic-face.

Sadly, the radio station caught on once Charles “won” the contest and they decided to shut the whole thing down and allow for no winner.

Disappointingly, we have determined that the integrity of the “Taylor Swift’s Biggest Fan” contest has been compromised. In accordance with our contest rules, effective immediately, the contest has been terminated. We apologize to all of our loyal listeners who have participated.

Treachery! Two-faced, underhanded, sneaky and duplicitous Judas-ory! Yes, the rules of the contest state that Kiss 108 could pull the contest if they so chose, but I say let Charles have his day, damn it. They ran an internet contest and the internet is for tomfoolery. Tomfoolery, having ensued, he should be grandfathered in. Charles should get to serve as Swift’s unholy coif, if only for the photographic possibilities.

With that, I call on Taylor Swift to make good for this man where radio has failed him. She must meet with Charles and at least discuss the possibility of giving him the gift of her bangs. We, the internet, will be awaiting your reply, Ms. Swift.

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Comments on “Boston Radio Station Shutters Online Contest To Meet Taylor Swift Because Of 4Chan Shenanigans”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Well, the stale-cache logjam has partially broken. I now see this nearly-three-hour-old article in addition to the “217…” article since last evening’s Daily Dirt. I still don’t see the one to two other articles that should exist somewhere in the nearly-six-hour gap between this article and the “217” article, though.

On the topic of this article, it must be noted that Charles did stuff the ballot box. But a milder, more reasonable response would have been to disqualify him and accept the first runner-up that doesn’t seem to have cheated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Oh, and I’m also still not seeing the article that was likely posted around 1-2am either, after this article, given the usual pattern of about 1 new article an hour during workday hours and about one every 2 hours outside workday hours. As of 2:44am I’d expect normally to see the previous evening’s Daily Dirt, dated 5pm, possibly another article in the 5-6pm period, and additional articles around 7-8pm, around 10-12pm, and around 1-2am, but only the middle of those three is showing up for me right now for Wednesday evening/Thursday wee hours…

CommonSense says:

This is really stupid...esp for Techdirt

A bunch of online creeps want to set a special creep up with a celebrity who is trying to do something fun and connect with fans (isn’t that part of this site’s business model), but when it is tampered with in such a way to make it wholly unfair to real fans and participants, you try to call them out for not letting a rigged event continue? If reddit tried to get an assassin set up to meet her, but that got cancelled, would you also try to say we still need to get them in the same room?

The contest was supposed to be fair, spambots ruined that. Honestly, I would think this site would know better than to promote the rewarding of assholes for being assholes.

CommonSense (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is really stupid...esp for Techdirt

Well that response won’t help anything. I’m sorry if I offended you, it wasn’t meant to be personal…I usually get, appreciate, and enjoy your humor.

But, jest or no jest, I felt almost embarrassed for having read about this. It might be newsworthy if I were in the contest area, but then I would have heard about it on the radio. Maybe file it under don’t-waste-time-reading-this-one or speaking-of-attention-whores-look-what-reddit-did-this-time-IF-YOU-CARE but really giving it any attention at all is sort of a reward..

Maybe it’s just me, but I think this site is one of the more respectable news outlets on the web. I get that you need to have your fun too, I appreciate that, but please mark the trash more clearly… I mean, I haven’t commented in months and this was just such a waste of webspace that I couldn’t restrain myself from saying something…

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: This is really stupid...esp for Techdirt

@ “Honestly, I would think this site would know better than to promote the rewarding of assholes for being assholes.”

New to Techdirt, eh? You’ll find it doesn’t get any better. Not only is Timmy serious here (despite denial), but Mike isn’t hiding some brilliant new “business model”, only trying to justify schemes to grift off value that others produce. — But once you get expectations right, it’s fun to snipe at them, ’cause they think they’re SO clever!

CommonSense (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is really stupid...esp for Techdirt

LOL. I’m not new here, I love this site and have for years. Tim has written a lot of funny stuff about a lot of things, and I normally enjoy his posts.

I’m just a little bitter because I feel like he wasted his time and ours by writing anything at all about this one. It’s not his fault, it’s just my opinion, but I felt it strongly enough I wanted to express it. And it could have been anyone in the contest (though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a crush on Taylor Swift) that wasn’t the point… Stupid things that stupid people do on the internet are stupid.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: This is really stupid...esp for Techdirt

there’s a kickstarter to assassinate taylor swift ? ? ?
that would be AWESOME… i would contribute…
snark off

lighten up, sparky; you can’t imagine some celebutards YOU would like to put on such a list in jest (or perhaps in earnest) ? ? ?

oooo! OOOOO! i just had a GREAT idea for a harsh reality show ! ! ! can you guess what it is ? ? ?

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

aldestrawk says:

Re: This is really stupid...esp for Techdirt

Ok, I thought this was pretty funny but let’s take a serious look at what is going on so it doesn’t appear that the Techdirt community is really as stupid as they are.

-What is the purpose of the contest?

Marketing. Both Taylor Swift and the radio station are marketing themselves. The naive explanation that they are just giving some fan the thrill of a lifetime is BS. That may happen even amid all the marketing and that’s OK. Even the marketing is fine. I mention this because the true motivation is what influences the rules and how the contest is set up.

-The contest was rigged by the radio station!

Look at these rules:

Conduct and Decisions.
“By participating in the Contest, participants agree to be bound by the decisions of Company personnel. Persons who violate any rule, gain unfair advantage in participating in the Contest, or obtain winner status using fraudulent means will be disqualified.”

“If a contestant receives multiple and/or irregular votes from the same user or users, regardless of the source, the Station reserves the right to disqualify the Contestant its sole discretion”

What is an “irregular vote”? It is not defined, so it is whatever the radio station says it is even after the contest is finished. They have reserved the right to disqualify anyone that doesn’t fit THEIR idea of who should win. How is that fair? What if there really was a 39 year old man, who really loves Taylor Swift so much that he dresses up as her in his apartment every night after getting home from work as a longshoreman? Should we disqualify him because he doesn’t fall into the right demographic or society’s rigid concept of proper gender roles? What about his “thrill of a lifetime”?

-How does one win?

A unique URL is assigned to each contestant. A person can vote for that contestant by clicking on that URL but only once per day at most. A single person is identified as such by the source IP address in the HTTP request. These votes accumulate over a period of days. At the end, the contestant with the most votes wins. A “fair” winner depends upon generating a community of supporters. The winning contestant will have the largest set of supporters who religiously vote every day for their biggest Taylor Swift fan.

-How does one win fairly:

These days one clearly must use social media to recruit supporters for a contestant to win. I assume this is considered fair and was a major part in 4-chan/b/ and Reddit’s efforts. How was the contest structured to enforce the fairness of voting within the one vote per contestant/one person/one day regulation? I did not partake in the voting so this is partly speculation but informed by the Reddit discussions. The radio station required resolution of a CAPTCHA, used cookies (maybe, this hasn’t been confirmed) to restrict multiple votes, and filtered multiple votes via identification of source IP address.

-How does one game the system?

1). Opponent disqualification:
You get all the top contestants, apart from your chosen one, disqualified by intentionally violating the rules while voting for the opposition. This was actually discussed on Reddit. The radio station could have avoided this type of shenanigans by simply discarding votes recognized as illegal. Understanding this type of manipulation is important, in general, because any security system can be vulnerable to it (e.g. swatting).

2). Paying off voters:
A contestant, or prime supporter, could buy or extort votes. This particular contest doesn’t seem to have a valuable enough reward to justify such a tactic. Then again, maybe I misunderestimate the appeal to Taylor Swift fans. Oh, but we’re thinking in terms of the U.S. economy when this contest resides on a global internet. What seems a pittance here is not in other countries. The reality of differences in scales of economies across the globe already make possible such, warm body required, things as gold farming and CAPTCHA resolution, so why not votes in Taylor Swift fan contests.

3). Use of Proxies:
A single individual can vote multiple times per day by deleting cookies and using or changing a proxy before voting again. TOR can be used by ensuring that each vote uses a separate exit node. The use of proxies is fairly well understood by teens and tweens to get around parental and school internet filters. 4-chan/b/ & Reddit admit to some proxy use. They also heavily suspect that, at least, the other two top candidates in the contest were also using proxies to stuff the ballot box.
rumor has it that voting on your phone when it is “airplane mode” will act much like changing proxies.

4). Automated voting scripts:
Ideally, a single machine could crank out millions of votes by using a tool like Burp Proxy to alter the source IP address for each vote. This is prevented for most people because ISPs routinely delete packets intended to be sent out of their network that contain a source IP not in the range assigned to them. This may even happen on a finer level by deleting packets sent from your gateway that don’t mach your leased IP address. There are those who aren’t subject to this restriction but the use of CAPTCHA keeps them from automating the voting. I don’t believe anyone involved in this contest was able to get around reCAPTCHA and fully automate the voting. The claim of 500 spambots came from misinterpreting the post on Reddit from one gentleman who claimed to write a script that enabled him to use, through his company, 500 machines throughout the world to vote in the contest. Unless he got around reCAPTCHA he still had to sit there and resolve 500 CAPTCHAs a day (or pay someone in a 3rd world country to do this). I don’t think scripts played a major role in this contest.

The end result from the contest shenanigans is that;
-Both Taylor Swift and the radio station get more publicity than they ever hoped for.
-The 14 year girl who trolled 4-chan/b/ & Reddit into helping her win as “Charles”, still lost.
-Much help was given to those book reading bots that depend upon reCAPTCHA to get them through the hard stuff.
-All those involved in violating the rules of the contest will be prosecuted under the CFAA.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is really stupid...esp for Techdirt

Rumor has it that voting on your phone when it is “airplane mode” will act much like changing proxies.
And rumour would be incorrect. Airplane mode disables all your phone’s wireless connections so you can use them on a plane. Works with some airlines, but jobsworths on others will still bitch at you to switch it off completely.

aldestrawk says:

Re: Re: This is really stupid...esp for Techdirt

I am going to do another take on this because I was just viewing trailers for the upcoming Hunger Games sequel and ran across a music video done for the movie that I thought was rather good.
As I was watching it I thought that the woman singing looked like the pictures I had seen, while putting together the above comment, of Taylor Swift. It was. Now, I have never heard or seen anything else she has done so I have nothing to compare it to. I am partial to female singers with a certain quality like; Sandy Denny, Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Tori Amos, and Loreena McKennitt. This particular song fits that esthetic.
So, it is conceivable that a grown man could actually be a sincere fan of Taylor Swift. Apparently, there was one with a sense of humor and still entered the contest despite being fully aware that he did not fit the normal, teenage girl demographic, for Taylor Swift fandom.

Charles Z. entered the contest before anyone at 4-chan/b/ was aware of him. He was definitely the underdog in this contest so two stalwarts of social media took it upon themselves to help him out in a grass roots campaign to recruit supporters and votes. Together they were able to overcome the immense social media support for other, more typical, challengers and he won the contest. What could be a more classic American success story?

It would be classic except that 4-chan/b/, the nursery of Anonymous and practically the inventor of epic internet trolling, was one of these stalwarts. They started the campaign by inventing a persona for Charles as a creepy old guy into sniffing Taylor’s hair. It is entirely conceivable that 4-chan and Reddit support united behind one contestant could overwhelm the Facebook/Twitter juggernaut that organized the traditional Swiftian fanbase but was split among multiple contestants. If this was truly a fair contest, I would have expected that result. However, it appears cheating was involved in the form of proxy use. It is suspected that cheating was done on behalf of several contestants. It will never be known how much influence the use of proxies had in this contest. 4chan has a reputation for their skill in the use of proxies, but one could view their use of proxies here as leveling the playing field.

The evidence for the use of an automated script came from a single post to Reddit listing timestamp/city pairs and with the text:
“Just created a script using my company private stuff to vote from 500 different machines around the world every 5 minutes.”
This is suspect as there is no explanation as to why he or she needs 500 machines when, if each one is used every 5 minutes then each one has to be capable of altering the source IP via proxy use or otherwise. Why not just use a single machine to do all that? There is also no mention of how the script gets around reCAPTCHA and I believe that capability is very unlikely. There have been serious research attempts at defeating reCAPTHA over the past 5 years. A few have had some success but Google is also fixing these vulnerabilities as they are found. reCAPTCHA is pretty well vetted at this point.
Yet, The Daily Dot accepts this post as truth and Gawker references that and further distorts the situation by describing this as using 500 spambots. This supposed use of a script doesn’t even fit the definition of a spambot. Various media outfits, including Techdirt here, have repeated the term spambot without ever doing any fact checking. The end result is that even though Charles won he will never get to meet Taylor Swift because the contest was invalidated by the radio station. It’s a story all right, and an entertaining one at that, but it will never be the heroic upset by the underdog it could have been.

Chris ODonnell (profile) says:

This isn’t the first time 4chan has done this sort of thing to Taylor Swift. A couple of years ago they took over a “get Taylor to play your school” contest and won it for a school for the deaf. To Taylor Swift’s credit, she gave a concert ticket to every kid in the school, and donated $50,000 to the school too.

I googled the details, really, I’m a not big Taylor Swift fan. I actually thought she played the concert there before I fact-checked myself.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: This IS a new low in stupid even for you, Timmy.

@ “Oh, gee, OOTB didn’t like my article. Thank God I’ve been tempered in your distaste by, you know, every other article I’ve ever written in which you say essentially the same thing. Otherwise, gee, I just wouldn’t know how to deal….”

Yes, I’ve been trying to break it to you gently that you’re a lousy and trivial writer. You should admire my tact.

Glad to see you commenting more here despite saying some time back that you wouldn’t, ’cause all that you write reveals a basic childishness.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This IS a new low in stupid even for you, Timmy.

Yes, I’ve been trying to break it to you gently that you’re a lousy and trivial writer. You should admire my tact.

And we have been telling you, Blue, that you are a certifiable nut case whose half-baked notions are so far removed from reality that it isn’t even funny anymore.

I’m curious – since you don’t listen to anyone else, why do think anyone should listen to you?

Anonymous Coward says:

Common Nonsense

Not quite as good as Howard Stern’s 1998 campaign to have Hank, the Angry, Drunken Dwarf voted as People Magazine’s most beautiful person. Of course, that was a powerful, “Fuck Your Stupid Beauty Contest” statement.

At best, the statement from the creeps at 4Chan/Reddit is, “Your contest is creepy, but let’s show you how real creeps do it.” Also, as CommonSense said, this was supported by spambots, where the Hank campaign was done by real people madly voting over and over.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

There's more

There’s quite a bit more to this story.

After that contest was shut down, 4chan tried to get Charles into a couple other similar contests (supposedly without his prior knowledge). One of the other contests was a bit harder, in that the station was going to choose one of the top 3 winners. Well, one of the other top 3 contestants said some disparaging things about Charles, and as you can expect, his twitter account is hacked and other shennanigans occurred.

And their bots (accidentally) took down ClearChannel’s website.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is not the first contest 4 chan has taken over as a joke. I remember the one mentioned here about sending her to The school for the death but before that they sent the rapper PitBull to Alaska as a winner for a Walmart contest. They’ve gamed Person of the year, renamed a supposedly new Mountain Dew product(Diabeetus), sent Justin Bieber’s “My World Tour” to North Korea, and gotten Kim Jong-un voted Time’s Person of the Year.

While it’s mostly kids doing this stuff, there could be worse things they could be doing, so if this is what they are up to it’s better than sack of dog shit on the porch burning.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

4chan is just doing a public service by injecting hilarity into otherwise bland, predictable, and pointless marketing gimmicks.

In a sense, they’re doing the companies a favor — I would not have heard of a single one of these contests if 4chan hadn’t pranked them, so 4chan has increased their marketing reach.

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