A hive of villainy

“I think you’ve been hacked,” comes the email from a friend. It’s a semi-regular occurrence these days, ever since my account genuinely was hacked some time ago. Except spammers didn’t leave a stream of crap in my sent mail; instead they lifted my address book, and every now and again somebody who’s bought the list afresh spoofs my identity and sends everyone I’ve ever corresponded with some dodgy link.

I hate it, but there’s nothing I can do.

Yesterday I got a text message from what claimed to be Buzzfeed. Except I don’t think Buzzfeed have changed business model from listicles of other people’s tweets to telling randomers about PPI claims. At some point, my phone number was sold to someone unscrupulous and now it’s clearly doing the rounds of people even more unscrupulous. I get these texts semi-regularly and I log every single one with the Information Commissioner’s Office because I’m a pedantic and vindictive bastard at times.

I hate it, but at least it’s one thing I can do.

One of the ways I pay my bills is as a comments moderator. You know, one of those poor sods who has to read everything poured out below the line. It is, shall we say, instructive. But all the racism, all the misogyny, all the homophobia doesn’t enrage me as much as one particular type of spamming.

I spend a few hours a week working on a site for people with health problems. It’s a support site for an illness. Some of the people on there are dying, or someone close to them is dying. Most of them are going through a terrible time. All of them are under pressure. So why wouldn’t you, as a spammer, join up simply to post advertising about buying fake documents, or drugs, or a new kitchen?

These people are the scum of the earth. And they are people: bots can’t post to this site. Somewhere, in a darkened basement in Indonesia or China, is a hive of villainy, deliberately interrupting a heart-rending discussion about pain or mortality or grief with links to online share dealers. Most heinous of all, if a user has ticked a certain box, it lands in their inbox as a notification of new site activity.

Actually, no. I’m being unfair. The people posting this stuff probably don’t realise what they’re doing. I can’t imagine they spend time trawling Google for online forums to disrupt. They probably can’t even read English well enough to understand what they’re trampling on.

It’s whoever’s paid them who are the real cunts. Somewhere, in a conservatory in Hampshire, is a businessman transferring funds for these darkest of arts, perhaps with a list of target sites. Or he knows that the spam sweatshop he’s paying has a list of regular targets. And he doesn’t care what they might be.

I was once so incensed that I checked up on one of the serial offenders. It all ties back to a legitimate business in the UK, but the owner is notoriously dodgy. I find it very hard to believe he doesn’t know what’s happening, particularly as this spam has been posted for over three years and I’ve found examples online of people having called up the company HQ to complain. The owner is attempting to make money off the back of vulnerable people. The owner is a waste of oxygen. Every now and again I Google him, hoping to read that a gangster rival has offed him in spectacular fashion.

I hate it, but it’s the one thing I can do.

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