Thank goodness for Leeds-based Crisp, one of the companies that is cleaning up the world wide web..
Founding CEO Adam Hildreth set the company after his experiences of running his first company, Virtual World 4 Kids, which became a magnet for predatory adults. The company learned to spot the fakers and built up a data base of grooming techniques.
This was then used as the basis for Crisp, which is now one of the leaders in community management software.
Turns out groomers use the techniques employed by all conmen; they gain their target's confidence, then gradually ask questions that reveal details about his or her vulnerability. Posing as fellow kids, they will ask how the target gets on with their parents, whether they keep secrets or not and will attempt to find out their level of sexualisation.
This isn't remarkably different from the techniques used in marketing, you might think. There is a 10% month on month increase in spam targeted at the brand pages of social media sites such as Facebook.
With the world's biggest brands currently paying hundreds of thousands of pounds per year to protect their online communities from spammers and profanity, Adam argues that the widely adopted human moderation techniques are no longer scalable or indeed feasible when used in isolation. So hats off to Adam.
Talking of online crooks and soft targets, we are indebted to this piece of analysis from Microsoft, which explains why Nigerian scam letters are always so badly written.
Apparently, if the letter about a foreign philanthropist who wanted to share his multi-million pound fortune was too plausible, it would attract a broader spectrum of naive people, including the mildly gullible. These semi gullible types are likely to pull out of the transaction when it dawns on them that giving ten grand to a stranger might not be a safe investment. Which is a waste of time and money for the scam artist.
So, to filter out all but the most credulous customers, they make the original letter as badly written as possible. This helps to screen out the 'false positives'.
There is a lot we can learn from these scam artists!
Talking of unsolicited email, a message was found in the junk mail folder offering a deal on the City Flotation Centre in Canary Wharf. This is how they relax in Docklands, apparently. I'd have thought a Flotation isn't something you should treat lightly. Just ask a Facebook shareholder.
This was first published in June 2012