Re-membering The Problem of Sybil Attack and the Internet

3 min readMar 12, 2020


“ In a Sybil attack, the attacker subverts the reputation system of a network service by creating a large number of pseudonymous identities and uses them to gain a disproportionately large influence.”

The internet is a great tool that changed the landscape of how we interact with others and use and share information. But this new frontier came with a weakness that on any platform there is the need to guard from the possibility of creating new and multiple identities.

In real life we each have one identity and if you die your identity’s capabilities cease (not sure I worded that well), however, on the internet if your identity dies or ceases to exist your in real life identity can continue to create more online identities.

Depending on the platform this process of creating new identities can be free or very cheap and yet the benefits of the control can be great.

This is something we need to keep in mind when we are trying to find truth by reading through discussions on social media sites. In fact we often should assume that much of the narrative of complex or controversial subjects have this problem.

I recently thought of the possibility that some viral meme, hoaxes, events etc maybe have been first perpetuated not by an attacker perpetuating one side of a/the debate but by perpetuating a false conflict between both sides.

Finding Truth is Not Necessarily Possible

“ Hearts have been breaking across the internet over a viral Facebook Live video of Quaden Bayles, a nine-year-old Australian boy with dwarfism who tells his mother he’d rather die than endure the bullying he faces at school.”

It was the story of the bullied Australian boy that caused me to think of this possibility and how strange it is that you can’t really determine the truth from the debates (for example on twitter). So people post links and videos and tell you to see the truth for yourself. But as damning as a video can be, if you are sincere and objective you have to admit when there are no facts in these videos grounded in real sources.

This becomes a clue to the accounts you should consider as passing truth or perpetuating lies (or confusion). The basic point here is that those that are ASSERTING either side of the argument cannot be trusted to be thinking and expressing beyond their own biases.

Intelligent people don’t assert truths especially in complex debates. They also don’t link to articles or videos that do the same. Intelligent trustworthy people pass grounded sources.

If this is taken as truth its easy to see that most of the accounts in these types of debates can be thought of as a single sybil attack on truth that exploits ignorance.

Other Clues to Sybil Attacks

Other clues I have noticed in the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency network wars include accounts that often spit vitriol without grounded sources, often say things in a very unclear obtuse and obfuscating manner, and especially those that use words with their uncommon meanings or even meanings that are the opposite of the common meaning.
These accounts pervade these types of debates.

Countering The Sybil Attack

The worst way to counter is to enter debate with an account like this. A perfect recounter for them is to bury your debate in a very long back an forth thread because any sincere person will tire of reading it.

These attackers are not trying to convince sincere intelligent people. They are looking for ignorant people that make knee jerk conclusions. Thus the best way to counter is to point out the difficulty of parsing their statements, their inability to use words with regard to their common accepted definitions, and to simply make a calm reasonable counter point and then not respond to their recounter.