PlayStation Players Are Harassing Each Other With Millions Of Spam Messages

Twitch broadcaster IronPhoenix87 was streaming Call of Duty on the PS4 for a few viewers late December when he was suddenly pummelled by dozens of random messages. "I have have hacked your twitch beware," they read, over and over. "Spam by https://spampsn.com - - -." IronPhoenix87 was playing an open game and doesn't know who sent the spam.

Messages from IronPhoenix87

Spam PSN is a free service that lets players barrage PSN inboxes with messages. Anyone can send up to 25 messages to any PSN ID through its website. After a three-minute delay, users can send 25 more, all from PSN IDs like Gretel-2_395648 and Sabina23_5-1670. But for a $US1 ($1.32) lifetime fee, players can add your PSN ID to the service's "blacklist", so no one can spam them (that feature is currently unavailable "for legal reasons", but still pops up on SpamPSN.com). Spammers have sent over 40 million messages through Spam PSN.

In some cases, the service has been used for harassment, doled out between bickering PlayStation owners or salty losers in competitive play. A common tactic is to send spam during high-stakes matches, particularly in Call of Duty. TBEConfusible told me that, when a stranger he played CoD with started losing, he received 25 messages telling him "You suck" mid-match. "I guess he camped somewhere on the map, pulled up the Spam PSN website and hit me with the spam," he told me.

An anonymous Spam PSN representative told me he made the service last August to play tricks on his friends. Eventually, he brought on developers from the US, Sweden, Algeria and the UK. "Our goal is not to annoy the players but to allow them to make funny jokes to their friends," they said. Because the service is anonymous, their goal is pretty hard to enforce, especially after its recent explosion in popularity.

Iscariot, whose Twitter avatar is an anime girl, received Spam PSN messages after a heated argument with a random Twitter user who does not like anime. The stranger kept mentioning him on Twitter, arguing that "people who like anime are the scum of Twitter," in Iscariot's words. About 20 minutes later, while he was playing Final Fantasy 15, Iscariot received 25 messages in quick succession telling him to "Screw off you anime weeaboo nerd".

He knew his tormentor had used Spam PSN because the service advertises itself in each message. Victims can even navigate to the site from their PlayStation 4, where the "Blacklist" option pops up immediately. Spam PSN plans on offering a "Pro" service soon that allows users to send as many messages as they want with no cooldown. Depending on how popular that gets, or how long Sony takes to act on it, Spam PSN's blacklist feature could end up being a necessity. Actually, there is a free version of Spam PSN's blacklist already available: Adjusting your privacy settings so you can't get random messages. (Admittedly, in the middle of a game, this can be tricky.)

I spoke with one person who says he uses the service for its intended purpose: Annoying his friends. Soykan found out about it, of course, because someone had spammed him while he played Call of Duty. "Probably because I was actually beating him at the game," he told me. "People that lose at the game tend to rage a lot." The messages he received called him a "shit c**t", which he says is normal for CoD players. He got a kick out of it and started spamming his friends with small annoyances, like saying "hi". He's excited for the Pro version to come out so there's no cooldown, but thinks the service should ban certain words.

Sony did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Spam PSN's developers know their service is often used for harassment. "We take these messages very seriously," a representative told me. They say that every day, they ban dozens of users who "misuse" the service. I can't imagine how they'd hold users accountable since the service is anonymous.

It's curious that Sony has allowed Spam PSN to thrive for nearly half a year, considering that spamming, transmission of junk mail and harassment are against the PSN's terms of service. And, frankly, it's hard to believe that even half of Spam PSN users are spamming "Good luck, brother. I love you" to their fellow Call of Duty players — or even "Hi".


Comments

    I had spam originate with 'this player has changed the group name' to a chat I didn't know I had been invited to. Happened about 3-4 times in one week. I just went into my privacy settings and disabled the ability for 'everyone' to send me messages (moved it to 'friends only').

    I've been getting users spamming me with the free PSN card scam every day for the last few weeks, I wondered where they were getting my PSN ID from.

    Just report them.

      I get the same thing a few times a week. I reported it and Sony swiftly responded notifying me that they disagreed with my complaint...

        Same here - they 'disagreed' with my complaint and it was worded as if I was to make a similar complaint again I would be penalised for abuse of the report system

        Seriously Sony

          Had the same response from them. Was shocked that I was doing them a favour, and they threatened to ban me!!

          Ha, I received the same notification today, apparently the user did nothing wrong when spamming me with a scam offer.

          I've sent Playstation AU an email asking them politely to explain their decision, and suggesting perhaps they should change their terms of use page that says we should report people who break those conditions, or remove "spamming" from the TOU if they don't want to have to deal with it.

          So my response from Sony after requesting clarification as to how someone who is spamming me with a scam offer could not be considered to be breaking their terms of use when their terms of use explicitly forbid this... was to instruct me on how I can block that specific user.

          Like you said @dansdans, seriously Sony. They just don't give a fuck. I guess doing something about the people using your service to scam others takes effort, and who wants their job to be effort?

    I remember this kind of attack being talked about in Destiny, particularly in Trials matches, tho not via this 'service'. The message notifications would constantly obscure your radar, so you lose a lot of situational awareness... but people were doing this back when trials first launched - they'd just list their opponents' PSN IDs on an LFG site so they'd get spammed with messages from randoms looking for raids/trials carries. And those don't have a message limit... *sigh* At least you can disable notifications to minimise the impact it has on gameplay...

    Jumped on my PS4 for the first time in months and had about 30 notifications from some free PSN codes group tried reporting and left group. Jump on again the other day and the same thing its pretty annoying I only have PS4 for exclusives so its not my main console so im not raging to much about it but hopefully there will be a way to stop it happening implemented.

    Yeah I got a few spams the other day, just changed my settings so only friends can msg me. The only other time someone has msged me that wasn't a friend was someone accusing me of hacking.

    I just now get these weird messages but if you used kik before then it's the same concept, just spot out oddities or inconsistencies in their stories, for example, I was told that her spring break vacation was over when it was June.

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