'Dream Network' Manipulated Reddit Posts to Promote Crypto Projects, Investigation Finds

Neil Dennis

A Reddit user has published the results of an investigation into the manipulation of cryptocurrency sentiment and statistics.

The user published a list of 50 accounts it dubbed the "Dream Network" which used particular types of manipulation that have become common on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Indeed, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have broadcast a series of videos that explain the phenomenon and the types of manipulation used. The Reddit users' investigation focused on two distinct methods - astroturfing and vote manipulation - which were both used to promote projects on the website's "r/CryptoCurrency" and "r/CryptoMarkets" discussion threads.

Astroturfing

Creating fake accounts to post messages that present the illusion of grassroots support for a project is called Astroturfing. Using this method, members of the so-called Dream Network allegedly published posts on Reddit intending to manipulate readers into believing an organic discussion was taking place in praise of a particular project.

The author of the report said that accounts from the Dream Network "shill all the same projects and companies". These included: Dreamr, Bitmax, Moozicore, Bora, Contentos and Ultra Token. The report added:

While this is not smoking gun evidence that these projects solicited the Dream network's shilling services, I would not say I have ever seen a legitimate project wrapped up in astroturfing at this level.

Vote Manipulation

Registered Reddit users can vote all links up or down based purely on whether they like them or find them interesting. 

Vote manipulation is against Reddit rules and, again, the Dream Network is said to have used its multiple accounts to increase vote scores on the various projects it was promoting. The report said:

It's not hard to see the profit motive and value present in manipulating crypto stats, sentiment, and discussion. As you can imagine, this is a lot of work that crypto mod[erator]s do.

Manipulation Increasing

Various subreddit administrators have noted they will ban the Dream Network accounts to prevent them from manipulating their communities.

Social media companies are taking an increasingly serious stance against manipulation - particularly following allegations in the past couple of years that rival parties, or even foreign powers are using such techniques to manipulate opinion during general elections.

In a report by Oxford University's Oxford Internet Institute published in July, 2018, it was suggested that much of the growth comes from political parties who have learned such techniques and strategies that were deployed during Brexit and the 2016 US Presidential election. Co-author of the report, Samantha Bradshaw, said:

We estimate that tens of millions of dollars are spent on this type of activity. Some of the money may be spent on legitimate advertising on social media, but there is certainly a growing industry for fake accounts, online commentators, and political bots.

Featured image by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash