Hey, Annalee Newitz has a great article in the new Wired about people who try to run reputation scams online.
In other words, the crowd matters. Today we harness the masses for everything from choosing the next pop star on American Idol to perfecting open source software and assembling Wikipedia articles. But perhaps the most widespread and vital uses for group input online are in scoring systems. In addition to eBay feedback, these are the customer ratings that Amazon.com and Yahoo Shopping post with product reviews. They’re the feedback scores that Netflix tallies to help subscribers decide which movies to order. And they’re the up-or-down votes that sites like Digg and Reddit (part of the Wired Media Group, which also includes WIRED magazine) rely on to determine which stories to feed Web surfers.
But as rating systems have become more popular — and, as Resnick shows, valuable — there has been what some would say is a predictable response: the emergence of scammers, spammers, and thieves bent on manipulating the mob. Call it crowdhacking.
In some cases, crowdhackers are looking to boost sales or increase traffic to their Web sites. In other instances, they’re simply ripping off unsuspecting consumers. Either way, the more we base decisions on the wisdom of crowds, the greater the incentive to cheat.
As trust becomes a bigger and bigger deal online, this is a major issue.