Inside the Crypto-Bot Ghost Towns of Telegram

Inside the Crypto-Bot Ghost Towns of Telegram
Inside the Crypto-Bot Ghost Towns of Telegram

Wave aside the cobwebs of the Telegram group “BitGo Cryptocurrency Exchange” and you’ll find a ghost town, populated by robots.

Once, BitGo Cryptocurrency Exchange (an unauthorized channel that aimed to lure customers off real and legitimate crypto exchange called Bitgo, which did not respond to a chance for comment) hosted an important membership of real people, brilliant in their lives. Members discussed trading strategies, unwittingly sent large sums of money to fake addresses, and demanded that the moderators tell them why they had added them to the group—a kaleidoscope of charmingly uncertain minutiae. No more.

These days the “BitGo” Telegram group is almost entirely spam-spewing bots. The robots only talk to each other, in circular riddles and incomprehensible non-sequiturs. One asks how everyone’s day is going; another responds by asking if anyone wants to marry her, ASAP; another thanks Jesus and Satoshi Nakamoto for the opportunity to invest with BitGo; another asks what time it is.

These are robo-shillers with no people to actually scam, except for the occasional confused person who wanders into their midst. It’s like watching an animatronic carnival show run amok.

“Looking for a man to support me,” announces a female bot named “Qingrong He” just minutes before both the solicitation and account disappear. She has asked the same question a dozen times before; as usual, no gallant knight takes up the offer.

“Karoline,” meanwhile, announces some good news: “I’ve received countless winnings from this platform, thanks to Agent Morrison, I don’t know how to pay you back,” she declares ungrammatically. In quick succession, four other robots congratulate her using automatically generated variations of the same response.

“Congratulations,” writes “Mark Kidd.” “There is something special about this investment platform. I am happy when other investors invest and receive immediate payments.”

“Wow,” Alishia Bethe agrees. “My heart is full of joy and happiness at the moment, I have great respect for this company for their sincerity and honesty. Got my winnings back.”

And so on!

A conversation with Alicia Bethe. Image: Screenshot of BitGo Cryptocurrency Exchange” Telegram

The fate of the unauthorized BitGo channel is typical of many crypto-Telegram groups – “communities” originally developed around a coin, or a scheme or a trading strategy, which over time and many market corrections eventually die out. These places are no longer filled with outlets – just the robots designed to skin them.

Botting confirmations. Image: Screenshot of BitGo Cryptocurrency Exchange” Telegram

And yet it remains some signs of carbon-based life in these otherwise barren wastelands.

As far as I could see, the only human member of the unauthorized “BitGo” seems to be the moderator, a person who identifies himself as “Morrison Bernard” and spends most of his time answering questions posed by the bots on the group his.

Bernard claimed to me that his channel is an investment platform that guarantees 600% returns and invited me to create an account. When I asked why the group’s demographic skewed toward, uh, algorithmic, Bernard denied that there were any robots at all. The strangely similar messages from different accounts are actually “different write-ups and different accounts,” he telegrammed me. “There [sic] are all real people.”

Would they respond if we sent them a message?

“Yes,” Bernard insisted. “That will be their wish.”

I tried, “Hey what’s up – can I ask you about BitGo?” I wrote in a message the other day to a few “members” of the group. “Want to invest.”

Alas, no one has replied yet.

Maybe Bernard himself is a bot, like Bernard in Westworld?

He once told me, robotically: “Cryptocurrency trading is a tool for value creation, and it requires the knowledge of people with the operating system to achieve the best result in this platform we have well trained professionals and adequate trading software to execute the trading operation.”

Asked for proof of his humanity, he simply waited for the bots to praise him: “The testimonies in the group chat are proof [sic],” he said.

Well, I believe him!

The best time to buy is now. Image: Screenshot of BitGo Cryptocurrency Exchange” Telegram

On the other hand: Maybe Bernard just programmed all the robots? The do refer to him by name. Or has he been isolated from human interaction for so long that he can’t see where the brands end and the spambots begin?

Rami James, a human who have spent years fighting the robots on a Telegram group he moderates told me that the process of bot-fixing begins when the token held by a thriving community falls steeply low long enough. This is usually when the issuing company is no longer able to fund mods to get rid of the bots.

“Generally,” thought James, “if a project doesn’t succeed in funding or managing its funds, and can’t afford a team of mods, the chat will be ripe ground for scammers.”

After the human mods are gone, automated moderators can try to hold the fort for a while. Soon enough, however, the malevolent robots, puppets en masse of an external operator, will overwhelm them. Keeping bots out requires community participation, which won’t work if there aren’t any left.

I looked at dozens of these small business groups, each with tens of thousands of existing members, and many of them have been flooded like this. That’s where you see these bizarre bot-on-bot conversations.

Is today a good day to invest? Image: Screenshot of BitGo Cryptocurrency Exchange” Telegram

“James,” who I sincerely believe is genuine, moderates the “Ultra Discussion” for the eponymous token, which is the 189th most valuable according to CoinMarketCap. He told me that he keeps the token’s loyalists together (and the bots at bay) with a fierce combination of informationreports and news, for examplewhich “insures them”.

“For example,” he said proudly, “today we partnered with Swissborg to deploy a DEX to our network.”

But keeping the group afloat is an endless uphill battle. The bots have gotten smarter and better resourced, he said, and “are now leveraging human psychology to avoid being seen as robots to lure people into leaking private data.”

Hence the calls for crypto-romance and uncanny attempts at informal call-and-response. The armies of these robots are often controlled by a few humans, James added, and all it takes to make money is one gullible human among the sea of ​​automatons falling for a human-like post. “The error rate is astronomical, but not zero,” he said.

Apparently, some of these robots are lifelike enough for humans to tolerate working alongside them. The moderator of a group centered around a blindingly worthless altcoin called Ravencoin, which lost 70% of its value in the past year, told me he was an OG holder of the coin before he became a mod.

“Ravencoin Official” has over 21,000 members, but many of the active members display the same bot as the “BitGo” bots. Nevertheless, the mod – who only identifies himself as “RVN_Announcement”, presumably not his real name – seems to be exceptionally fond of his work. “I like my job as a mother,” he said. He loves it so much that he does it for free, he added, because he doesn’t really need the money. “I’ve gotten more than enough from the buyback,” he said. “The bonus received for participation has kept me in great profit.”

Admittedly, some of the bots provide a decent conversational simulacra – especially if you’re used to the wan panegyrics of the cryptobaggers.

True love. Image: Screenshot of BitGo Cryptocurrency Exchange Telegram

“I love how everyone here is engaging in conversation as well as promoting the good news of the lovely project,” reads a message on a Harmony One cryptocurrency Telegram group — to a chorus of automated identikit replies, each confirming the value of a worthless coin.

Sounds familiar?

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