On the Internet, what’s old is new again




Once upon a time in the cybersphere, I awoke many mornings to tidings from a Nigerian prince in dire need of my inestimable services as a funnel for his improbable wealth. “Dear sir,” the missive would begin, “I write to you today concerning a large sum of money. . .”

That booty was his and I stood to earn a big chunk of it the moment I forked over my personal banking information. 

It was, of course a scam, and, interestingly enough, not an especially novel one.      

Says one Lauren O’Neil writing in “Your Community Blog” on the CBC News website in 2013: “Also known as a ‘4-1-9‘ or ‘Advance Fee Fraud’ scheme, according to Snopes.com, millions of these emails are sent each year by spambots. So many people receive them, in fact, that the concept of the ‘Nigerian prince’ has itself become an internet meme.”

Ms. O’Neil consults knowyourmeme.com for this fulsome explanation: “This style of scam has been recorded as early as in the 19th century with a confidence trick known as The Spanish Prisoner, but the modern Nigerian 419 scheme began as a postal scam during the corrupt years of the Second Nigerian Republic between the late 1970s and early 1980s. 

“During this time, numerous variations of the scheme were discovered for the first time, many of which claimed to have been written by wealthy members of the royal family, businessmen or government officials soliciting for personal financial information such as bank account numbers.”

Still, I have often wondered why, if the fraud is so transparently obvious and ancient, those behind it even bother. Then, the other day, I came across the following “comment” in my own blog site’s spam folder:

“I see a lot of interesting content on your page. You have to spend a lot of time writing. I know how to save you a lot of work. There is a tool that creates unique, Google- friendly articles in couple of seconds. Just search in Google: k2 unlimited content.”

Intrigued, I followed the link and promptly entered the domain of “article spinning, text rewriting” and “content creation”.

To say that I was gob-smacked is only to say that I am an old fogey who doesn’t get around much in the truly hip neighborhoods of the webbed world of wonder. But apparently and increasingly much of what we read and imagine to be original word-smithing on the Internet is nearly as old as a 200-year-old Spanish-prisoner-cum-Nigerian-prince grift.

Here’s what k2seoservices.com helpfully informs:

“You don’t have to lose many hours writing content on your blog, you can rewrite articles from other sites and pass copyscape test.”

For those readers who, like me, are broadly unfamiliar with most online tools, copyscape is a plagiarism detector. By using k2seoservices.com’s promoted product, WordAi, “Google will love your new unique articles.”

As the good folks at WordAi, itself, declare, “Unlike other spinners, WordAi fully understands what each word content means. It doesn’t view sentences as just a list of words, it views them as real things that interact with each other. This human like understanding allows WordAi to automatically rewrite entire sentences from scratch. This high level of rewriting ensures that Google and Copyscape can’t detect your content while still remaining human readable!”

The website even provides an example of the software in action.

“Original sentence: Nobody has been arrested by the police officers, but the suspect is being interrogated by them. Automatic Rewrite: Law enforcement are interrogating the defendant, although they have not detained anybody.”

What’s more, says another service, Spinbot: “For you blog users, the newly added ‘Post Spun Text to WordPress or Blogger’ feature will save you from having to take the additional steps of copying and pasting your spun content into a separate (authenticated) web browser tab/window. You can now post whatever rewritten article you have created directly to your WordPress or Blogger blog from the same page you used to rewrite the article.”

Hey presto! Something for nothing over and over again. 

All of which, I suspect, explains why so much Internet content – apart from that which resides safely behind pay walls and the equivalent – is so numbingly familiar. Does this apply do various iterations of Nigerian princes?

Who knows, but here’s what just popped into my inbox:

“Dear Madam, I communicate with you on this fine morning regarding a fortune with which I would like to make you acquainted.”

Where have I heard that before?


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