Inside Telegram’s Crypto-Bot Ghost Towns

Push the cobwebs off the Telegram group “BitGo Cryptocurrency Exchange” and you’ll find a ghost town populated by bots.

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Once, BitGo Cryptocurrency Exchange (a rogue channel that aims to lure customers away authentic and legitimate crypto exchange named Bitgo, who did not respond to an opportunity to comment) welcomed a vital group of actual people, glorious in their liveliness. Members discussed business strategies, unwittingly sent large sums of money to fake addresses, demanded moderators tell them why they had added them to the group—a kaleidoscope of deliciously risky retail actions. Not anymore.

Today, the “BitGo” Telegram group consists almost entirely of spam-spewing bots. The bots only talk to each other, in circular riddles and incomprehensible non-sequences. We wonder how everyone’s day is going; another responds by asking if anyone will marry him as soon as possible; another thanks Jesus and Satoshi Nakamoto for the opportunity to invest with BitGo; another asks what time it is.

They are robo-shillers with no people to rip off, except for the occasional confused person who wanders into their midst. It’s like watching an animatronic carnival show gone wild.

“I’m looking for a man to support me,” announces a female bot named “Qingrong He” minutes before the call and account disappear. She has asked the same question a dozen times before; as usual, no gallant knight accepts the offer.

“Karoline”, meanwhile, announces good news: “I received countless earnings from this platform, thanks to Agent Morrison, I don’t know how to refund you”, she declares without grammar. In quick succession, four more bots praise her using auto-generated variations on the same answer.

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

“Wow,” affirms “Alishia Bethe.” “My heart is full of joy and happiness right now, I have great respect for this company for its sincerity and honesty. I got my winnings back.

Etc!

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

The fate of the unauthorized BitGo chain is typical of many cryptocurrency groups – “communities” originally developed around a coin, scheme or trading strategy, which over time and many market corrections eventually die out. These places are no longer filled with retail vacuums, only robots designed to cheat them.

Boot Confirmations. Image: Screenshot of BitGo Cryptocurrency Exchange Telegram

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

As far as I can see, the only unauthorized human member of “BitGo” appears to be its moderator, a person who identifies himself as “Morrison Bernard” and spends most of his time answering questions from bots about his group.

Bernard told me that his channel was an investment platform that guarantees 600% returns and invited me to create an account. When I asked why the band’s demographic leaned toward, uh, algorithmic, Bernard denied that there were any bots. The eerily similar posts from different accounts are actually “different writings and different accounts,” he telegraphed to me. “That [sic] are all real people.

Would anyone respond if we messaged them?

“Yes,” insists Bernard. “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 some “members” of the group. “Think about investing.

Alas, no one has answered yet.

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

He once told me, robotically, “Cryptocurrency trading is a wealth creation tool and it requires people’s knowledge of the operating system to get the best result. on this platform we have well-trained professionals and appropriate trading software to carry out the trading operation.”

Asked about the proof of his humanity, he simply trusted the bots to sing his praises: “The statements in the group chat are proof [sic],” he said.

Well, I believe it!

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

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

Rami James, a human who spent years fighting bots on a Telegram group he moderates told me that the botification process begins when the token in a thriving community crashes quickly enough. This is usually when the issuing company is no longer able to fund mods to get rid of bots.

“Generally,” James mused, “if a project can’t fund or manage its funds and can’t afford a counter, then the chat will be a breeding ground for scammers.”

After the human mods run away, the automated mods can try to hold the fort for a while. But soon the malicious bots, manipulated en masse by a remote operator, will overwhelm them. Keeping bots away requires community participation, which won’t work if no one is around.

I’ve looked at dozens of these small-cap groups, each with tens of thousands of existing members, and many have been swamped that way. This is where you see the weird 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 loyalists together (and the bots at bay) with a heady combination of information.reports and news e.gwhich “soothes” them.

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

But keeping the group afloat is a never-ending battle. Bots have gotten smarter and better resourced, he said, and “now use human psychology to avoid being seen as bots to trick people into divulging private data.”

Hence the calls for crypto romance and the odd attempt at the occasional call and response. Armies of these bots are often controlled by a few people, James added, and all it takes to make money is for one gullible human among the sea of ​​automatons to fall in love with a human post. “The failure rate is astronomical, but not zero,” he said.

Apparently, some of these robots are realistic enough for humans to tolerate working with them. The moderator of a group centered around a blindingly valuable altcoin called Ravencoin, which has lost 70% of its value in the last 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 active members exhibit the same robotic awkwardness as “BitGo” bots. Nevertheless, the mother — who identifies herself only as “RVN_Announcement,” likely not his real name — seems extraordinarily happy with her job. “I love my counter work,” he said. He loves it so much that he does it for free, he added, because he really doesn’t need the money. “I got more than enough from the purchase,” he said. “The bonus received during participation allowed me to earn large profits.”

Admittedly, some of the bots provide a decent mock conversation, especially if you’re used to pale tributes from crypto bag holders.

True love. Image: Screenshot of BitGo cryptocurrency exchange Telegram

“Love how everyone here is engaging in conversation and promoting good news about this beautiful project,” reads a post on a Telegram group for the Harmony One cryptocurrency — to a chorus of responses from automated identikit, each claiming the value of a worthless coin.

Does that sound familiar?

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