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.
Boy if I get spammed by that spampsn shit again?
— C? (@TBEConfusible) January 26, 2017
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.
— SpamPSN (@SpamPSN) September 27, 2016
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.)
— ? IronPhoenix87 ? (@IronPhoenix87) December 29, 2016
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".