You Don’t Fool Me: On Scams, Scambaiting, Deception, and Epistemological Ambiguity at R/scambait on Reddit

Marta Dynel, Andrew Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
238 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

With a focus on the online phenomena of scamming and scambaiting, this article explores users’ communicative activities on Reddit’s r/scambait subreddit. Drawing on a representative corpus viewed through grounded theory, we establish the basic categories of posts and then unpack those further to reveal the deceptive practices being undertaken by both scammers and scambaiters, as well as Redditors’ untruthfulness in their fabricated posts. The analysis reveals that the r/scambait subreddit exists as a site of humorous entertainment arising from various forms of deception. Scammers’ deceptive strategies are depicted as amusingly naïve and inefficient, while scambaiters’ deceptive messages targeted at scammers demonstrate great creativity and wittiness. In both cases, scammer-victims are disparaged for being immensely gullible or downright stupid; and Redditors earn online plaudits for submitting the most upvoted posts. Our significant finding is that posts such as those at r/scambait should never be taken at face value due to their inherent epistemological ambiguity, to which the users
choose to remain oblivious or indifferent. Furthermore, on a general plane, this study indicates a potential shift in the emic understanding of the concept of “scambaiting” from a punitive measure and an educational instrument to a creative practice geared toward posters’ kudos and users’ joint humorous experience through “baitertainment” and “scamusement.”
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Media + Society
Volume7
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes

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