I have been a member of the community since 2007. For anonymity’s sake, let’s call it BlackLight. I stumbled across BlackLight when I was 10 years old… I was a lonely, weird goth kid and I found a website full of people just like me.
A little over a year ago, the founder of the website decided to shut it down and move on with his life. We were devastated, but the moderation team was understanding. Another long term member, Kane, opened up a temporary board under BlackLight.net so members who googled the website to try and find again would be able to find us.
He has been working with several members of the old site and its moderation team to rebuild BlackLight. I’m an admin, but have no knowledge of coding or site building. I could alter a snazzy Myspace layout back in the day, but that’s about it for my coding expertise.
I’m mostly Public Interaction and Group Coordinator. I make sure people know what’s going on and what needs to be done before we can proceed. I also answer questions from the rest of the community about the status of the website, rumors, etc.
One thing I can help with is removing spambots. They make a profile (the ones that can get by the captcha), leave all of the defaults, and then post about their AwESoMe DeAlS!!!. I used to Google the abused email addresses on CleanTalk and similar spambot search engines, but after a few months, I was able to pick them out of the member list pretty easily. The names are pretty typical: GeorgeHar12, TywanaRone, AllisonK854, TPGBucky; so on and so forth.
At the first of the year, there was a spambot swarm the likes of which I have never seen. I was checking the site hourly from my computer at work and deleting, on average, six bot accounts every time. I left a message for Kane, bitching about the sudden overflow, and then forgot about it.
Over the next week or so, I noticed the flood not decreasing in the slightest. Every single day, I deleted upwards of 30 spam accounts in the 8 hours I was working. Some of them even used the same name; and I particularly enjoyed deleting them when the system registered them as online. I prayed some shitty programmer in the depths of the internet was being forced into putting in a little bit extra work to find out why the posts weren’t going through.
This past Monday, when I logged in and opened up Firefox to check the site, my heart skipped a beat.
After a moment of fear, I clicked through to the admin panel. Sure enough, all of the signs of a spam account were there. Default timezone, default web settings, a strange email with a strange web link. I deleted the account, giggled about it, and then forgot about the whole thing until I logged in again after lunch. I had half of a fried cheese stick hanging out of my mouth and had just set my bag on my desk when the page loaded up and I saw it.
The back of my throat went dry. I checked the page again and it was all typical bullshit. I searched the web address and it came back with nothing. No spam sites, no reports, no stolen accounts, nonexistent. I rolled my eyes at myself.
For a second, I thought about leaving it.
I kind of wish I did.
But instead, I deleted it, and went on with my day.
Tuesday, there were 14 new spam accounts created:
I called Kane’s phone (international) and accused him of pulling some stupid prank. I tried to sound mad at first, but a few tears leaked free. When he kept denying, I finally just asked.
“Then, how do the spam account know who’s deleting them?”
“What are you on about?” he asked.
“ALL THE SPAM ACCOUNTS HAVE MY FUCKING NAME IN THEM.”
I screenshotted the admin member list and sent him the photo — it was quicker than waiting for him to load it himself. I heard him rustling around to his computer and saw him come online on gmail.
“Oh, fuck. That’s freaky,” he said.
“Listen, there’s no way for the spam accounts to know which admin deleted them. Once you delete their account, it just tells the program that it doesn’t have an account anymore. It’s all just a program. Who knows, you might have glitched it with how many of the fuckers you’ve been deleting lately. Almost no one else sees them before you get to them. You’re like the John Carter to their Skynet.”
“Har har.” I groaned, staring at the list. Others were being created, but they were all pretty much the same.
“Look, I’ll try to change some settings and change the captcha. Maybe I can deter them for a while,” Kane suggested.
“I’d appreciate anything you can do.”
Kane made a mumbling sound and I lifted a brow. “What?”
“We can make you a new profile?” He barely spoke it. Smart man.
“No,” I said.
“Allie. Listen. You’ve always been Clementine. It’s —”
“No,” I interrupted. “I wasn’t Clementine until 2009. But I’ve been that way for ages and I’m not changing for some freaky spam. This name means a lot to me, where and when I got it are memories I’m very attached to.”
“I know, I know. I know all of that. I’m sorry.” Kane sighed. “It’s stupid to be that attached to an online moniker, for the record.”
“Oh yeah, CitisenKane?”
“Shut up,” he said and hung up.
I tried not to think about the site for the rest of the day. I didn’t log in when I got back from lunch. I didn’t even stop long enough to think about the leagues of spambots clogging the series of tubes that was our dark little corner of the internet.
My job outside of BlackLight is tech heavy, but not web-tech. More machinery and medical uses. I’m able to keep myself busy if I really want to and I did exactly that for the entirety of Tuesday. I crawled through my front door after almost four hours of overtime and fed my cat while I ran a bath.
I laid out in the tub, lit a joint, and finally succumbed to the gnawing need to check BlackLight. I was exhausted and checked out — I didn’t think there was anything that could work me up. Firefox loaded up my favorites and my auto tabs and I clicked over to BlackLight.
At first everything seemed normal. The board was active, little green flags up on each section to let me know where people had been chatting. I checked the admin action logs and saw Kane had deleted almost 50 accounts in the wee hours of the morning.
I took a deep breath and loaded up the user list. It was about two pages longer than it should be, but with a growing weightlessness in my chest and two long dragon tendrils of pot smoke drifting from my nose, I started reading the names.
Don’t worry, helpful reader. I’m not an idiot. I see it, and I know you see it too. This wouldn’t have bothered me too much in my current state, I might have even had a chuckle. Maybe. Maybe if it weren’t for the last name on the list.
My name is Allie Little, and my date of birthday is April 4, 1989. I screamed. I screamed at the top of my lungs until I thought my throat was bleeding. I kicked the stopper out of the drain and curled up in the fetal position in my empty tub.
This was by far the freakiest thing to ever happen to me and it wasn’t even that freaky. They’re fucking spambots, Allie. Get your shit together.
I pulled my laptop into the tub with me on a towel, and I deleted every single one of them. I shut down my laptop, closed it, and stared at the side of my tub. It was 3:04 AM for Kane. I couldn’t call him.
I left my laptop in the bathroom, walked to my bedroom, shut and locked the door, and laid in bed for six hours until it was time to go to work.
I called Kane as soon as I was at my desk on Wednesday morning. I sent him screenshots and told him to check logs and tried not to cry.
“Holy fucking shit,” he said.
“Right? You see it?”
“’We know who you are, Allie.’”
“What the fuck, Kane?!”
“I…. honestly don’t know. Let me look into it. I promise I’ll find something. Maybe it’s something with the moderation logs, maybe I can track account crea —”
“— Anything. Anything you can do. I have to work.”
“Go, Allie. I’ll message you with anything I find.”
I worked like a madman on all day. I couldn’t talk to anyone at work or in my real life, I would sound insane. I jumped every time the phone rang, I jumped any time someone said my name. A few coworkers poked fun at me and I almost cried.
After 11 hours, I crash-landed right onto the futon in my living room. My cat curled up on top of me and we slept.
I woke to the sound of my phone ringing and grappled for it in the black apartment. I was blinded by the screen when I hit the accept button, not even checking the name or number.
Kane’s voice was defeated. “I can’t make it stop, man.”
I couldn’t speak. I rubbed my face and cleared my throat and lifted myself off the futon. I meandered through my dark apartment, to the bathroom, and pulled the laptop out of its place in the tub.
I opened it, pulled up Blacklight, and stared numbly at the screen.
I let out a noise that was a mixture of a bark and a sob. It was almost funny. My hands were shaking and my chest felt hollow, but somehow my brain was able to find a little piece of itself not consumed with fear that went “heh.”
“Allie, I think you should delete your profile. I think you should delete all of your profiles.” Kane said in my ear. I had almost forgot he was there. “It’s been going like this for hours. I’ve deleted 776 profiles. I don’t know how, or why, but it won’t stop.”
“This is such bullshit.” I said as I wiped my face. I highlighted the aforementioned 10 profiles and deleted them. Then, I opened up the Introductions section of the forum and opened a new topic.
Title: I’m back, motherfuckers.
Body: WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT.
Kane made a noise like he might have a stroke.
“What, afraid that I’m going to provoke the gods of internet spam?” I spat at him, too tired to scrape the bile and vitriol out of my voice. The clock on my laptop said 2:37 AM.
“I don’t know what you’re going to provoke, Al.” Kane’s voice was hollow. the sound of it perked me up slightly and I furrowed my brow.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean these accounts aren’t coming from anywhere. They don’t originate. I can’t IP track them, I can’t block them. I can only delete them.”
I stared at the userlist, chewing holes in my fingernails. “What does that mean?”
“I have no fucking idea.”
Kane sat in silence on the phone for almost 10 minutes, letting me trash my bathroom and scream at no one and cry. At that point, with no replies to my introduction post, I hung up the international phone call so he could still eat this month.
I moved my laptop and myself to the bedroom and smoked from my bong until the world was blurry. I wrapped myself in my biggest, warmest blanket and I refreshed the screen. No replies to my topic still, great. There were new topics in Introductions besides mine, so I decided to back out and read them while I waited.
! NT ! Title: Hello
So, I clicked.
Body: clementinehelloclementineclementinehelloclementineclem entinehelloclementineclementinehelloclementineclementinehello clementineclementinehelloclementineclementinehelloclementine clementinehelloclementineclementinehelloclementineclementine helloclementineclementinehelloclem
I deleted the topic and the user without flinching. I waited. Another one. I checked the time on my laptop clock. 2:55 AM. I deleted the new one after opening it.
I must have dozed off at some point. When I opened my eyes again, I was slumped over in front of a dim laptop screen with a low battery warning. It was 4:55 AM.
I shut the laptop, rolled over, and slept until 6 AM.
So, that brings us to today. By now, you’re probably hoping I’m smart enough to go dark and delete every trace of myself off the internet. Maybe that I stay home and close my online banking accounts and all of my social media accounts.
I went to work and instead was immediately sent home for being ill. I tried to explain I wasn’t sleeping well, just a bout of insomnia, but I work in the medical field, so they gave me a handful of natural and man-made “sleep assisters” and kicked me right out the back door.
I went back home and I practically threw my laptop down on my kitchen table. I plugged it in and loaded BlackLight and i went on a spree. I deleted 112 accounts, whether they had my name in them or not.
I left messages in the moderation-locked part of the forum where admins could chat letting them know what had been going on and asking for ideas. I went onto other administration boards online and asked for help. I even went to the Google help forums and posted a topic there.
I contacted everyone, everything, anyone I could at all.
And now I’m here. I’m here because I just checked my topic in the Google help forum.
welcomeallie: nous vous verrons bientôt
“We’ll see you soon.”
BillYEvret4546: nous savons qui vous êtes
“We know who you are.”
I live in Troyes, France. They really do know who I am and where I am. They’re coming for me. And I have no idea what they are.