Social media bots related to the sale of GameStop shares and other meme stocks

Cybersecurity experts at PiiQ Media report detecting a social media bot campaign that has been promoting “meme stocks” like GameStop Corp, suggesting that a hacking group might be behind the recent purchase frenzy powered by Reddit.

After a group of users organized through Reddit forums, the price of GameStop shares skyrocketed, in an attempt to empty hedge funds that had opted for the company’s bankruptcy. Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit, mentions that detected bots (artificial accounts for publishing content in an automated manner) did not play a prominent role in this incident.

Researchers analyzed posts from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, concluding that bots used these platforms to drive GameStop and other meme stocks, although there is no way to determine the exact influence these programs had on increasing these stocks.

The report mentions that activity patterns very similar to GameStop-related publications were detected, beginning at the beginning of trading days, followed by an increase at the end of trading days: “This behavior is easily identifiable as bot behavior,” added researcher Aaron Barr.

“Artificial behavior was detected on these four social media platforms; organic content is variable on a day-to-day basis, it is not possible to detect similar patterns in legitimately published content,” the report says. PiiQ has a scoring system about the authenticity of social media content, concluding that there are thousands of bot accounts paid for by GameStop and even Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency of recent popularity.

Although experts did not analyze the data on Reddit, they anticipate that potential analysis would yield similar results, indicating that this was a complex campaign and required great strategy. At the moment no statements have been reported about YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, although these platforms are known to seek to eliminate these practices.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are investigating this campaign, as it believes that the sale of GameStop shares involves complex attempts to artificially inflate the company’s value. Up to six company-related transactions were recently discontinued due to ongoing investigation.

To learn more about information security risks, malware variants, vulnerabilities and information technologies, feel free to access the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) website.