It's about accounts that use a script to add ten thousands of deviants to their watchlist in a matter of days. Some people backwatch, that's how the script-account gains popularity and watchers (or points via donation if you want to). Even if they don't backwatch, some people will at least look at the site and may watch through your gallery or journal.
It's legal, I asked the helpdesk on this.
The problem is that the deviants being added by the script feel betrayed and disappointed. I want to inform people about this in the first place so they don't fall for those "traps". You can have a look at their gallery stats to see if there's something suspicious like ten thousands of watches. A profile full of "Thank you for the watch" comments is also suspicious.
Ideally however, I'd like deviantART to improve their security so those scripts stop working. I fear those scripts to get popular and watch-notifications to become meaningless. I don't want to visit a dA in which tons of people are automatically watched by programs and I want watching to stay something special and dear.
If you agree, please support this news and/or the original journal here. I hope that if enough deviants voice their complaints and support this news, dA will change their point of view and work on their securities.
If we're not successful in doing this, I hope we will still raise the overall awareness of bots and scripts used on dA for such purposes. This news is supposed to be informative first and foremost.
(You are of course also welcome to disagree and share your opinion alike, but please read the entire thing so I don't have to answer the same questions over and over again)
Okay so what's the whole story?
Four days ago I was added to the watchlist of ~akoye. I'm not sure about the gender, but I'll call the creator a him for simplicity. The account seemed off to me because the profile page was flooded with Thank you for the Watch! comments. The gallery stats revealed the account was watching ten thousands of deviants. At the moment I'm writing this it's 26,592 people. When I wrote the initial journal on this topic yesterday, the number was around 15,000 and the account has only been online for four days in total.
I could also see the numbers increasing rapidly when I refreshed the stats. Roughly one deviant per second is added when the script is online. What I did was writing a short text about how this account is likely using a bot and linked to the odd statistics. I copy and pasted that short text to a lot of people who thanked for watches on the profile page. Needless to say, they were sad and angry they were tricked, but also thankful I told them about it. I continued doing this in my spare time for two days.
New Account Activity
Yesterday, on day three of the account, the account creator got upset. On the one hand he threatened me to report my messages as spam, which I think is only the logical think to do if you don't want people to find out about your actions. I also warned people on his journal called Update! which is where he replied to me. We had an... interesting debate, but in the end I had numbers he couldn't disprove. He also invited me to a chat, twice, and promised me he would share the script with me. I denied his offer and tried to make him send me a note to gather hard evidence, but he ended up deleting his journal and all the evidence of our discussion with it.
With the data deleted, I can't prove the existence of the discussion nor its contents anymore, but there were some people that followed the discussion that can be witness. Sadly I don't remember who it was that followed.
On the other hand he uploaded a single deviation (can be seen here: [link] ), the aforementioned journal (in which he also begged for dA points for a subscription and said in bold printed letters that he was not a bot) and left a few comments to prove he's human, apparently to weaken my argument. It didn't change the insane gallery stats however, so I continued.
His deviation is perfect for showing how useful his method is for increasing the account's audience. There are some people on dA who will backwatch, meaning they add those people that watch them to their own watchlist, apparently to return the kind favor. These people become normal watchers and comment and fav on deviations and see journals. Some will most likely also donate a few spare points if it is requested in the journal like ~akoye did, but I don't have numbers for that.
To show you the relation between watches and backwatches, here's ~akoye's statistics:
He watches 26,592 people, while 619 people watch him.That's about one backwatch for every 43 watches. Doesn't sound like much, but look at how many watchers he gained this way in a matter of four days. It takes years and convincing high-quality art for other people to reach that number.
Today, on day four, ~akoye decided to give away his account because of the bad reputation and people obviously not very happy with his watching habits.
Yesterday I also got a reply from the helpdesk on this matter and I quote:
Hi,In other words, what ~akoye does is completely fine with dA's rules.
We don't have a limit on how many people one can add to their watch list, nor how many "thank you" comments they may issue. He's not shilling links to a website and none of the activity on the account warrants administrative action, bot or not.
My Personal Opinion
The article so far might have already given it away, but I'll write about it once more:
In my opinion, this should be forbidden. Not only is it dishonest to increase your audience by relying on people's naivity (or rush if they didn't take the time to study the site), it also makes people feel sad and disappointed when they found out they were automatically added. I've even had a case where the person wrote I felt touched by [the devwatch notification].
In my opinion, this is a huge scam and the vast majority of people commenting on my initial journal shows I'm not the only one with those thoughts.
I also fear this script might spread. It's completely legal as of now, so the only way to stop a possible script wave is an informed community that knows how to spot and deal with those accounts. Look at people's gallery stats and profile comments, they can give it away if something's fishy about the account.
In my opinion, deviantART should improve their security systems so that these scripts and bots don't work anymore. Ideally, I hope the attention I gather will make dA overthink their rules. Without better security, even if those accounts are shut down, people will just make new accounts.
I don't even want to go on a banning spree, I just want those scripts to stop tricking deviants. Contrary to what some people say, I also don't want individual accounts to be harrassed. I just want the potential victims to be informed (and, like I said, the script to be blocked). Even if dA doesn't change their policy, I'd like people to be more careful in the future and spread the news this way. That's the first and foremost goal of this news entry.
(Again, I don't want you to harrass these people, I just want to give out names so you know what it means when they add you)
~akoye isn't the only account that uses scripts to increase their audience this way. The same goes for ~Chaozimiya and ~CawkBlawk like many deviants told me. ~Dinoforms also informed me that ~CarneTiger apparently uses a script to give out tons of llama. I can't see the speed of llamas being given out, but 70,712 Badges sent sounds suspicious. I have also trouble checking the next example, but =TVD-Photography brought to my attention that *darkdex52 might have used a similar method to give out 228,477 favorites in one year. Sounds suspicious to me, too.
I personally think that llama script is much less material to worry about tho, seeing as llamas are a "random" thing of deviantART that don't have an inherent meaning like watches or favs.
~pand0rium also wrote this:
The script being used has been posted around the internet for a while now.. It was created by ~DivinityArcane, who has a whole archive of dA exploit scripts posted in a Rizon IRC chatroom.. This one's on pastie.org: *censored link*
Apparently a lot of people know this guy, but I've never heard of him. What's the deal, and how do we stop it?
I deleted the link that led to the script that is used. I feel bad about censoring it, but I'd feel worse if this news was used to spread what I try to fight.
Thank you, dA community.
DeviantART's reply and the threats of ~akoye were everything but encouraging for me. But I got a lot of bittersweet Thank you-replies for my work and creating the journal with the whole story brought a lot of people together. People like ~TheShadedFox or =wondering-souls continued to warn people on ~akoye's account after I went to bed. Countless other people passed on the news with links, journals or notes. Someone even said they would ask a friend with a lot of watchers to post a journal about this.
Like mentioned above, a lot of people also brought similar cases to my attention.
A few people said, like I also implied above, that what I did was just spamming and harassing people, but the reaction of the vast majority makes me feel justified in my approach. Again, taking down accounts or something isn't my main goal. I just want to prevent more people from falling for this. But hey, if deviantART bans me for that, I regret nothing.
I'd like to thank everyone that helped me to come this far and I hope we can go even further. I hope that we can change dA a bit to the better together.
And now I'm off to work on my own artwork again, these recent events made me neglect it too much. I hope I didn't make too many language mistakes or mistakes that lead to content misunderstandings, I'm a bit nervious about this. Have a nice day, everyone, and don't fall for those people.