moot wins, Time Inc. loses

This morning published the final result for their annual TIME 100 Poll.  Time reports  that the new owner of the title ‘Worlds’s most influential person, is moot’. What TIME doesn’t say is that their poll was so totally manipulated that the results of the poll are not an indication of who is the most influential, but instead they stand as a monument to Time’s incompetence.
Looking at the poll results we see clear evidence of the hack.  The first letters of the top 21 finalists in the poll spell out ‘Marblecake, also the game’. Evidence of precision hackery for anyone to see.  And yet, Time says they rebuffed all attempts to hack the poll. Quoting from the time article:  “’s technical team did detect and extinguish several attempts to hack the vote”.    Which leads me to wonder whether is being dishonest or is just plain incompetent. Considering Hanlon’s razor , I have to go with incompetence.  (And if you have any doubt about Time’s incompetence, take a close look at the Poll.  Notice that Oprah Winfrey and Ratan Tata have the exact same number of votes. That’s because they both shared the same ID in the poll.  A vote for either one was a vote for the other. Same goes for Michael Bloomberg and Gustavo Dudamel. If you vote for one, you vote for the other.)

How did the hack happen? I’ve already described in great detail the steps that the loose collective known as ‘Anonymous’ took to hack the poll. This group (that gathered on an IRC channel at probed for weaknesses in the poll protocols and wrote autovoters to stuff the ballot box with votes that would put the candidates in the proper order to spell out the Message, adapting as necessary whenever Time adjusted its protocol in a meager attempt to keep the hackers out.  But two weeks ago, Time got serious about poll security.  They modified the poll so that you needed to prove that you were human (via a captcha) in order to vote.


This instantly shut down all of the autovoters.  Anonymous was offline - no longer able to submit thousands of votes per minute.  And what’s worse, when the autovoters were shutdown, the Message ‘Marblecake, also the game’ soon decayed into a meaningless “mablre caelakosteghamm”.  It seemed that had won - the Message would not survive the next two weeks of voting.  But Anonymous didn’t give up, they considered it a challenge to restore the Message.  Here’s how they did it.

Update -4/29 Professor Luis von Ahn, the project lead for reCAPTCHA,  sent me a very polite email suggesting that I change a few words here to make it clear to a casual reader that reCAPTCHA was not hacked.  I agree that the original post could be easily misinterpreted by a casual reader, so  I’ve changed a couple of words here and there to make it absolutely clear that reCAPTCHA was not compromised for the Time Poll.

First attempt - trying (and failing) to crack reCAPTCHA
The first thing Anonymous tried to do was tried to break reCAPTCHA, the captcha technology used by  They built a program that would analyze the images, break the words into characters and apply OCR to the images in an attempt to automate the captcha process.  However, unsurprisingly, it proved to be too difficult of a task - certainly that was a nut that would take more than a week to crack.  So after a few days, they abandoned this approach.


Second Attempt:  trying (and failing) to hack reCAPTCHA -   ‘The Penis Flood’

The next tactic used was to see if they could find a flaw in the reCAPTCHA implementation.  One thing they discovered about reCAPTCHA was that it always presents two words to a user for decoding - one word is a control word known by the reCAPTCHA system, while the other is an unknown  word (reCAPTCHA uses the humans to help correct OCR errors).  Wikipedia describes the process: “Scanned text is subjected to analysis by two different optical character recognition programs; in cases where the programs disagree, the questionable word is converted into a CAPTCHA. The word is displayed along with a control word already known and is labeled by the human.  Those words that are consistently given a single label by human judges are recycled as control words”. 2iasdo4 What Anonymous realized was that if they always labeled the unknown scanned text with the same word - and if they did this thousands and thousands of times eventually a large percentage of the unknown words would be mislabeled with their word. All they had to do was look at the two words in the captcha, enter the proper label for the ‘easy’ one (presumably that would be the one that the two optical scanners would agree upon) and enter the word “penis” for the hard one.  If they did this often enough, then soon a significant percentage of the images would be labeled as ‘penis’ and the ability to autovote would be restored (one side effect, that was not lost on Anonymous, was the notion that for years to come there would be a number of  digital books with  the word ‘penis’ randomly inserted throughout the text.    Update: I asked Ben Maurer, chief engineer of reCAPTCHA about this ‘penis flood attack, Ben says that they’ve anticipated this type of attack and they have numerous protections that will keep the penises from penetrating the reCAPTCHA barrier.   Update - 4/29 - Luis von Ahn, the project lead  of reCAPTCHA goes on to say ” about the “penis attack”. We serve over 400 million CAPTCHAs per week, so submitting 200k CAPTCHAS with the word penis doesn’t even come close to poisoning our database — we serve each word to multiple random users, and we require them to be correct on the other word, so to get any traction with this attack, they would have had to submit at least 100 times more CAPTCHAs. And even if they did this, we have many other measures against it. That attack simply doesn’t work.

Third Attempt: Optimizing  reCAPTCHA entry
As appealing as the notion of sprinkling the word ‘penis’ into texts, the Anonymous team knew that the clock was ticking, and if they were going to restore the Message they didn’t have time to wait for the autovoters to come back online - they were going to have to vote manually, many, many times. And so they needed to be able to enter captcha’s as fast as they could. They developed a set of guidelines that allowed them to quickly decide which reCAPTCHA words they could skip. For example:

You will be given 2 words: 1 real, 1 fake.

For [REAL FAKE] or [FAKE REAL], you can just type in REAL and it should be accepted.

If it’s [LOOKSREAL LOOKSREAL] or [LOOKSFAKE LOOKSFAKE], it’s usually just quicker to just type in both words.  Don’t waste precious time deciding which one of them is real.

Use both the appearance and the type of word to identify a fake
word.  Don’t rely on just one of them.

The whole ruleset is here: fake captcha

By understanding how reCAPTCHA worked - the team was able to double their productivity (since they usually only had to enter one word instead of two).  To further optimize their voting they created a  poll front-end that allowed you to enter votes quickly while giving you an update of the poll status (and since it is a 4chan kind of crowd, they also provided the option to stream some porn just to keep you company while you are subverting one of the largest media companies in the world.


They found that with this version of the manual loader, the thing that was taking the most time was loading the captcha images, so they made a bare bones version that loaded 3 captchas at a time, in the background eliminating this bottleneck, and doubling their manual voting speed once more (and showing them vote per minute stats).


Update - Just to be perfectly clear, anon didn’t hack reCAPTCHA. It did exactly what it was supposed to do. It shut down the auto voters instantly and effectively. The only option left after Time added reCAPTCHA to the poll was a brute force attack.    Ben Maurer,  (chief engineer on reCAPTCHA) comments on the hack: “reCAPTCHA put up a hard to break barrier that forced the attackers to spend hundreds of hours to obtain a relatively small number of votes. reCAPTCHA prevented numerous would-be attackers from engaging in an attack. In any high-profile system, it’s important to implement reCAPTCHA as part of a larger defense-in-depth strategy”.    As Dr. von Ahn points out  “had Time used reCAPTCHA from the beginning, this would have never happened — anon submitted *tens of millions* of votes before Time added reCAPTCHA, but they were only able to submit ~200k afterwards. And to do this, they had to resort to typing the CAPTCHAs by hand!” One thing that Time inc. did that made it much easier for the anonymous hack was to allow leave the door open for cross-site request forgeries which allowed anon to create a streamlined poll  that never had to fetch data from

Brute Force

With the streamlined manual voting process, a single, motivated voter could cast 30 votes per minute (perhaps only 20 VPM if they were watching porn).  But some calculations showed that they needed about 200K votes to cast to get everyone in their proper position.  If they were going to succeed they really had to organize their votes.  They churned the numbers and came up with this plan:


Alexander Levedev (up to 37.5) 6,541 votes
Rick Warren (more than 1,902,130) 7,255 votes
Kobe Bryant (up to 39.50) 109,174 votes
Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (up to 35.50) 5,000 votes
Hu Jintao (up to 31.50) 19,836 votes
Elizabeth Warren (up to 27.50) 43,403 votes

With a sprinkling of help from folks on /b/, the core team of about a dozen got down to manual voting. (To get help from /b/ they put together info on how to streamline the captcha process, how to configure the browser to mask referrals, deal with proxies and provided some other (perhaps not-safe-for work  incentives).  Some of the most hardcore voters  (I call them ‘devoters’) spent  40+ hours voting.  At their peak, they were casting about 200 votes per minute (compared to the many, many thousands per minute that they could cast via autovoter before Time added the captcha).

With 200k votes to cast, they knew it would be close, and they didn’t know exactly when the polls were closing.  In the final days the crew was getting demotivated. But one  boost to their productivity and morale occurred when they sussed out how Time actually did the final ordering (they round the average rating to the nearest rating, and then use the total number of votes to break a tie).  With this little nugget of information, they were able to redistribute how they voted, eliminating the need for about 30K of the 200K votes.  They discovered a few more quirks in how ranked the candidates which allowed them to shave even more votes off the required total for a total savings of 46k votes.  With these vote savings, the goal was close at hand,  with their boosted morale they were able to push across the finish line.

The End Game
Finally, on Friday, Time closed the poll, but funny thing was they didn’t turn off the polling URLs, so even though you couldn’t vote through the official website, it was still possible to vote via the streamlined manual voter - and so the ballot stuffing continued.  On Saturday afternoon, the message was restored, but the voting continued - as the team tried  to gain a cushion of safety, should voters for other candidates mess things up at the last minute.  Early morning on April 27th published the results.  And there, for the whole world to see was the message, completely intact,”mARBLECAKE ALSO THE GAME”.


Celebrations were in order - there was cake

and happy faces


and a general sigh of relief from the group.

It is 12 hours after poll has been closed.  The mood among Anonymous is high - the hack was completed, it is there for the world to see. behaved as  expected - they refused to acknowledge the hack and the Message - but the word is out there.  People are reading about the hack on 4chan, Reddit and Digg - people know that the poll was hacked and they know that Anonymous is responsible.  They started with a goal and despite some rather severe setbacks were able to meet that goal

From where I sit, I really have to wonder about  They spent their time  promoting and running this poll that they know (or should know) is a total farce. They give a  wink and nudge to the questionable results by saying “This is an  Internet poll. Doubting the results is kind of the point.” Which is just stupid.  Perhaps the point should be “if you want to maintain any kind of journalistic  integrity, don’t conduct online polls”.

So what’s next for Anonymous? One hacker (knowing the stereotype people have for  an Anonymous hacker) says “we’re going to resume masturbating and being the total failures that we are “.  When I asked Zombocom, the mastermind of the Message , if he had any message for moot - the man that they put on top of the world - Zombocom replied: ‘ “The Game” - but still, enjoy it.’

Update: A mini-interview with moot:
A friend put me in touch with moot so I could ask him about the hack.  Since he’s so influential I kept my questions short and to the point. Here’s the mini-interview:

Time makes a joke a your expense (”To put the magnitude of the upset in perspective, it’s worth noting that everyone Moot beat out actually has a job. “).  Any response to Time magazine about this:

I wasn’t offended by the blurb on To clarify, I never claimed to be unaware of the “concerted plan to influence the poll,” just that I hadn’t instructed anybody to vote for me. They did it all on their own (as you already know).

Time also indicates that they rebuffed the attempts to hack the poll. (”’s technical team did detect and extinguish several attempts to hack the vote. “).  This seems to me to be a lie.  Likewise, they ignore the ‘marblecake, also the game’ message completely. Anything to say about this?

Honestly, I think Time had as much fun with the poll as we all did. It drove a lot of traffic to their site, and after the final results were released, generated a lot of buzz about the upcoming issue.

There’s a group of a dozen or so guys who’ve devoted a couple of months to this.  Anything to say to them?

As for a response to the players: “Thanks.”

137 Responses to “moot wins, Time Inc. loses”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    There really was cake.

  2. aiueo Says:

    Gotta say, this was indeed a triumph.

    And anon, we never lie about cake. ;)

  3. blue Says:

    For some reason i got happy inside ;D Meybe now moot will find a way to get out of debt ;]

  4. Ben Maurer Says:


    I’m the chief engineer on reCAPTCHA. Manual typing is a well known aspect of CAPTCHAs. The goal of a CAPTCHA is to make it difficult for an attacker to acquire a lot of votes — but not to make it impossible. In this case, reCAPTCHA did it’s job — it was not able to be beaten with OCR and required many, many hours of manual labor to achieve the desired results. Typically, high-value targets use CAPTCHAs as part of a defense-in-depth strategy — it’s not clear what other filters (if any) Time applied to clean up the results.

    Two things I’d point out:

    1) The “penis” attack simply won’t work. We know about this. Each word goes out to multiple users. Because of our high volume, it’s extremely unlikely to see the same word enough times to shift the vote on it. We also have a number of filters to detect people who always type offensive answers.

    2) Typing only one word is marginally effective. We’ve generally found that people do a so-so job on this (especially people who are being paid to do CAPTCHA typing as opposed to willing volunteers).

    Btw, if anybody involved in doing this wants to have a friendly chat — email us at There might be a t-shirt in it for you :-).

    • Chris Says:

      > In this case, reCAPTCHA did it’s job — it was not able
      > to be beaten with OCR and required many, many hours of
      > manual labor to achieve the desired results.

      So you are saying that in a large-scale poll, where it takes millions of votes to sway the results one way or another, (re)CAPTCHA is effective as long as there is not a massive concerted manual effort? For a much smaller poll, where the total number of results is in the hundreds or thousands, (re)CAPTCHA would be much less effective.

      > We also have a number of filters to detect people
      > who always type offensive answers.

      The only reason the word “penis” was chosen was because 4channers have the maturity level of . . . 4channers. There’s nothing about the strategy that necessitates the word being particularly offensive; a “cabbage” flood would be equally effective.


      • Ben Maurer Says:

        >So you are saying that in a large-scale poll, where it >takes millions of votes to sway the results one way or >another, (re)CAPTCHA is effective as long as there is >not a massive concerted manual effort? For a much >smaller poll, where the total number of results is in >the hundreds or thousands, (re)CAPTCHA would be much >less effective.

        Sure, if you have a poll of 100 people, a CAPTCHA really isn’t going to be effective. Any poll that small is easy to influence, you could probably swing it one way or the other just by writing a blog entry that said “hey, go vote on this poll”.

        Even large polls can be “broken” without having to exploit security issues. Look at what Colbert did on the NASA poll.

        >The only reason the word “penis” was chosen was because >4channers have the maturity level of . . . 4channers. >There’s nothing about the strategy that necessitates the >word being particularly offensive; a “cabbage” flood >would be equally effective.

        Checking for offensive words is only one of the filters we have. Even without that filter, it’s essentially impossible to get recaptcha to return a false result.

      • Ryan Cousineau Says:

        That’s what he’s saying, and he’s right.

        ReCAPTCHA is not a ballot-stuffing prevention system. It is a Turing test, and one so good that only human eyeballs could defeat it.

        The CAPTCHAs ultimately forced all the voters to be human, more or less. There were several non-CAPTCHA weaknesses that made voting faster than it would be for non-4chan humans, but that’s not reCAPTCHA’s fault.

    • red Says:

      Hi Ben,
      From where I’m sitting, reCAPTCHA is a good service. It does what it does well.

      To everyone else, I don’t work for reCAPTCHA.

    • Jerry Says:

      So, one of the points is that Time really need to compliment CAPTHCA with other filters, such as one vote per IP. Still some room for shenanigans, particularly when you have a large audience of “attackers”, but likely would have allowed such a granular manipulation of the results.

  5. links for 2009-04-28 | sbdc Says:

    [...] moot wins, Time Inc. loses Music Machinery (tags: 4chan anonymous time moot) [...]

  6. The Fine Art of Eccentricity · Wimps hear dangerous noises differently Says:

    [...] Inc gets hacked by ‘Anonymous‘ over at 4chan.  Awesome job, guys & [...]

  7. reg4c Says:

    I think the results are earned. I mean, they spent a lot of time and effort in making the message so in a way they deserve it.

  8. Not So Anonymous Says:

    What a complete waste of time. And way to mess up the reCaptcha system.

  9. Derek Powazek - links for 2009-04-28 Says:

    [...] moot wins, Time Inc. loses Required reading for anyone creating voting systems online. (tags: community voting time) [...]

  10. Tweezer510 Says:

    I indeed call that a win of all sorts. Time’s incompetence could not simply be overlooked, which is why I’m happy you didn’t ignore it.

    *sends 9001 internets to MusicMachinery*

    Oh, and btw, if you’re ever in dire need of a larger writing staff, I’m a soon-to-be published author with some need of work. I’m not expecting monetary sustenance, either. XP

    Here’s my email if you’re interested, or just talk to me in the irc:

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Moot prevails hurray

  12. dani Says:

    this whole set of posts about the seems to me like just marblecake self-importance wankery
    anonymous is anonymous

  13. snl Says:

    It’s epic, that’s for sure.

  14. anonymous coward Says:

    If it wasn’t Time one could suspect online polls couldda been “fixed” at predecessor polls. But as the poll organizer knew Anonymous was keeping books on the total amount of votes for every single top rank, so no way to “fix” the outcome of the vote. _That_ wouldda be an incentive to keep things the way they were. But of course that couldn’t happen here simply because it’s Time.

  15. Jim Says:


    I’ve just lost the game.

  16. ScribeMedia.Org: The Business, Technology and Culture of Digital Media | Dishonest, Incompetent or Chalk it up to an Innocent Fail? Says:

    [...] in first place is “Moot,” followed by Anwar Ibrahim and then Rick Warren. As Lamere points out, take the first letters of the top 21 finalists and you get, “Marblecake, also the [...]

  17. It’s Official: Moot is Time’s Most Influential Person « Tape Noise Diary Says:

    [...] Like if there was any doubt about it, here’s how the results were hacked. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)A cup of JO: Invest in coffee with an ETNThe [...]

  18. // popular today Says: // popular today…

    story has entered the popular today section on…

  19. aerotive Says:

    All that effort for something that’s completely pointless.

    • A. Wood Jablomey Says:

      ‘Twas done for teh lulz. Everyone knows that lulz are the only legitimate reason for doing anything.

  20. [d]online » Blog Archive » reCaptcha Hacked on Time Inc. Poll Says:

    [...] Read the original and in-depth article on [...]

  21. reCaptcha Hacked on Time Inc. Poll, aka Time got pwned. - V1R4L Says:

    [...] the original and in-depth article on :and the game, hack, hacked, hacker, marble cake, most influential person, music machinery, [...]

  22. Anonymous Says:

    What a bunch of douchebags. Organizing a huge manual voting effort isn’t cracking anything. It doesn’t really seem especially “epic” to me. Just kind of 8th grade.

  23. notthewinner Says:

    You ass, I just lost the game now too.

  24. Anon Says:

    Why didn’t Time simply hacked the code/DB whatever to force the poll to read something else?

    Maybe… maybe it was Time people who did the hack, and this whole stuff is a plot to raise traffic even higher?

  25. Marblecake, also the game! « Gramo`s World Says:

    [...] an explanation, read this, this and [...]

  26. tom purves Says:

    Are you kidding? this is a huge win for Time. I bet their online site never had as much attention as this hack (and all the stories and blog posts and digg/reddit posts etc.) generated. Who cares from time’s perspective the “integrity” of their vote. As a viral marketing campaign to drive people to this little voting gimmick must have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

    Watch for them to try and do this again. They should be paying Anonymous for all this free marketing and word of mouth…

  27. 4Chan Founder Declared “World’s Most Influential Person” - Says:

    [...] Music Machinery: “moot wins, Time Inc. loses” [...]

  28. blarg! » Blog Archive » toooodaysday Says:

    [...] (the internet is a weird place) [...]

  29. The World’s Most Influential Person is moot | Aww Hell Nah Says:

    [...] moot wins, Time Inc. loses at Music Machinery Posted by Erik 28 April 2009 hacking, moot, most influential, reCAPTCHA, Time, Time 100 Ever Devised by Human Ingenuity [...]

  30. dchieng - Marblecake Also The Game Says:

    [...] or how Time Inc got their asses handed to them by a bunch of internet users with a great deal of time, creativity, imagination and just plain pwn [...]

  31. Echo Nest hero « Music Machinery Says:

    [...] Nest hero When I’m not blogging about hacking online polls - I spend my time at The Echo Nest where I get to do some really cool things with music.  Over the [...]

  32. moot wins, Time Inc. loses « Music Machinery | Extra Future Says:

    [...] Paul Lamere’s coverage of the Time 100 hack continues with this in-depth examination of the ho…. [...]

  33. Kevin Says:

    Wow - I can’t wait for all voting to go on the internet.

  34. llbbl Says:


  35. When Giants Meet Says:

    What the hell is going on here? hahaha.

  36. Nebbyfoshebby Says:

    epic published lulz.

  37. Heather Says:

    It may stand as a monument to Time’s incompetance - but it ALSO stands as a monument to how influential Moot, and 4Chan, really are.

    • blahblahblah Says:

      Only if you’re enough of a fucking idiot to consider 4chan influential, or moot for that matter. It’s like calling some neighbourhood punk who lights a bag of dog shit and leaves it on your porch “influential” because he gets on your nerves. That’s all Anonymous really are, a bunch of social rejects who take out their frustrations on the Internet (being the only outlet for cowards like them to express their inner bitterness).

      • Tweezer510 Says:

        You hit the nail on the head. :D And btw, the ones who really executed this “hack” (it wasn’t a hack at all) aren’t your average /b/tards. We’re much more intelligent and compassionate than that. :)

      • david davidson Says:

        .……………………..„”. (_). . . . .\
        .……………………..|. . . . . . . . .|
        .………………„-~^”¯”-„. . . . . . .„”
        .………….„”:::::::„^””””””~„:::::::::”-„…………„-“. . . . .”-„
        .………..„”:::::::„”. . . . . . .”~„:::::::”~„…….|. . . . . (_).\
        .………„”:::::::„”. . . „–~~–„_.”-„::::::::¯”~-„„\. . . . . . . „”
        .……../::::::::/. .¯„-“;;;;;;;;;;;;;;”^-„”~„::::::::::::”~„„„„„„-~”
        .……/::::::::/. “„-”;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;¯”-„”~—„„„„_:::::::”„
        .…../:::::::/.„-“;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;”-„. . . .”):::::::’|
        …./:::::::/”;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;„”. . . „”:::::::„”
        …/:::::::/;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;„-“¯._’. „”::::::„”
        .ƒ:::::::/;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;(“. . . „”:::::::„”
        .|::::::. . \:;:;:;:;:”„;¸„¸;;;;;;;;;„~~|::::::„”
        .’|:::::::\. . \:;:;:;:;:;:\;|:;”-„;;;;;\. . |:::::’{
        ..“„:::::::”~„”-„:;:;:;:;:”:;:;:;:”„;;’|. .’|::::::\
        .…”~„:::::::¯”~„~–„:;:;:;:;:;|;;ƒ. .’|::::::
        .’……..”~„::::::::¯”^~-„~-„_|;;/_. ƒ::::::’|

      • vardøgr Says:

        “‘influential’ because he gets on your nerves.”
        If something gets on your nerves, that means it’s influential. Nice try.

  38.’s TIME 100 Poll Got Served | Says:

    [...] moot wins, Time Inc. loses « Music Machinery. var addthis_pub = ‘moronmeter’; var addthis_language = ‘en’;var addthis_options = ‘email, favorites, digg, delicious, myspace, google, facebook, reddit, live, more’; VN:F [1.2.2_602]please wait…Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast) [...]

  39. moot wins, Time Inc. loses Music Machinery | Popular Tweets Says:

    [...] Brought to you by Visit the Original Page . FEEDTWITT holds no relation with the website. . Please see our Privacy Policy var [...]

  40. C L A Y F O X » Time rendered moot Says:

    [...] Of particular interest in this embarrassment is the testing of reCAPTCHA, the defense against spam comment submission on this website and many others. The blog Music Machinery has been tracking Time’s losing struggle to shore up their poll against a flood of bogus submissions, and has a particularly detailed rundown of their manipulations of ReCAPTCHA. [...]

  41. animeBSD · A group of bored people is dangerous Says:

    [...] Also interesting read. Original page? (which if you looked enough you’ll see the upvoters were made with Delphi. [...]

  42. Rox Says:

    Classic - that really made my day!

  43. anon Says:

    I lost the game, but you sirs deserve an internet or three. Well played.

  44. Marblecake, Also the Game « The Posthuman Marxist Says:

    [...] Marblecake, Also the Game That was the message encoded in TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2009 by none other than Anonymous. These 4chan residents jumped into action and hacked the poll, not only making sure that moot, the founder of 4chan, tops the list, but also being careful to arrange the order of winners up to the 21st so that the list would read, “mARBLECAKE ALSO THE GAME”. TIME already made the list official – epic win for moot and Anonymous — but completely denied the hack. You can read the details of the hack here. [...]

  45. Recaptcha von Hackern geknackt - Abends im Wohnzimmer Says:

    [...] witzige News! Eine Hacker-Gruppe hat Recaptcha überlistet. Captchas erstellen zufällige Grafiken, oft mit [...]

  46. Revolusjonært roteloft » Time vs Internet: 0-1 Says:

    [...] Du kan lese en mer grundig gjennomgang av hvordan de hacket Time her. [...]

  47. Cody Says:

    Alas, such talent wasted on trivial pursuits.

  48. Heymans Says:

    This was a triumph.

    Good work guys. reCAPTCHA is for retards and TIME.

  49. aidsbaby Says:

    moot is a fgt

    everyone knows wirah runs marblecake and caused most of the drama of the universe

  50. portenkirchner's status on Tuesday, 28-Apr-09 21:00:21 UTC - Says:

    [...] reading how the captcha technology used by was hacked [...]

  51. 3-D Says:

    @Ryan Cousineau

    No, it isn’t. A Turing test has a human sitting on the other side checking for authenticity of the input, not an algorithm.

    • k Says:

      You seem to be missing the point of a CAPTCHA (also known as a Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart).

  52. szuflada : Żyjemy w cyberpunku (26): lokalne ekstrema, w tym także idoru z cyckami. Says:

    [...] 4chan pwnz, duży szacun, za całość przedsięwzięcia w sumie; [...]

  53. Declares Your Opinion moot « Fancy Plans… and Pants to Match Says:

    [...] has a couple of excellent posts on 4chan’s triumphant carpetbombing (pre-captcha and post-captcha).Time, Inc. has responded to their complete failure with all the dignity and good humor of a [...]

  54. - First Drafts - The Prospect magazine blog Says:

    [...] rigged the results of the annual Time 100 [...]

  55. La persona más influyente del mundo según TIME es ¿moot? : Blogografia Says:

    [...] moot wins, Time Inc. loses (Music [...]

  56. moot wins, Time Inc. loses | SheepRock Says:

    [...] moot wins, Time Inc. loses « Music Machinery. This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 at 3:31 pmand is filed under Humor, Vigilanteism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. [...]

  57. Anonymous does it for the lulz: moot is Time’s Most Influential Person « The House of Zot Says:

    [...] the vote from being manipulated, because otherwise, they pretty much suck at what they were doing. Music Machinery has a great write-up of how Anonymous pulled off rigging the vote, even working through reCAPTCHA. [...]

  58. Science Says:

    I hate how so many people are saying Time copped out.

    “Which is just stupid. Perhaps the point should be “if you want to maintain any kind of journalistic integrity, don’t conduct online polls”.

    Get over it, that’s how democracy works, and it’s why it sucks. What do you think lobbyists are? Autovoters IRL. Corporate money is to elections as 4chan is to this Time poll. 4chan got their guy and their message in there because they manipulated the system, just like in real politics and in real democracy. The only true “pure” gauge of what the masses want is the free market.

  59. blahblahblah Says:

    Yeah I’m sure the basement dwelling pedophiles that make up /b/ must have sprained their wrists wanking themselves over this one. Who gives a shit?

  60. How 4chan’s moot won the annual TIME 100 Poll — omglog Says:

    [...] How 4chan’s moot won the annual TIME 100 Poll [...]

  61. “Adolescent basement dwellers” take on Time…and win. « Sean Versus Online Journalism Says:

    [...] Obviously 4chan voted and hacked the vote so moot would win. However as the picture points out the members also managed to precision hack the survey so the first letters of the first 21 people on the list would spell out “Marblecakes also The Game”, a phrase which refers to two jokes on the site. Hacking like this takes a huge amount of people with a huge amount of time as Time Magazine had high quality captchas and dedicated staff working to make sure this could not happen. People and time is exactly what 4chan has. The mind-blowingly complicated and ingeneous way they hacked the survey is detailed in full here. It…. [...]

  62. Top Posts « Says:

    [...] moot wins, Time Inc. loses This morning published the final result for their annual TIME 100 Poll.  Time reports  that the new owner of [...] [...]

  63. goooooooobama4ever Says:

    WOW! Am I the ONLY one to see the significance here??!! Hellooooo! Peeooople!! He’s finally out of Court!! Hellooooooooooooo!! Congrats, moot!

  64. The death of the Internet poll Says:

    [...] moot is the world’s most influential person.  One wonders if Time really understands how comprehensively they were hacked.  They went as far as to write about Will this stop them from using polls on the [...]

  65. A. Wood Jablomey Says:

    Flawless victory.

  66. posting Says:

    posting in epic bread

  67. links for 2009-04-28 at James A. Arconati Says:

    [...] moot wins, Time Inc. loses « Music Machinery This morning published the final result for their annual TIME 100 Poll. Time reports that the new owner of the title ‘Worlds’s most influential person, is moot’. What TIME doesn’t say is that their poll was so totally manipulated that the results of the poll are not an indication of who is the most influential, but instead they stand as a monument to Time’s incompetence. (tags: articles news technology internet community magazine 2009 funny poll) [...]

  68. kittehwut Says:

    I HAD KITTENS. Fapped. Had moar KITTENS. Died.


  69. TIME FOR DRAMA Says:

    lol, moot moot moot

  70. links for 2009-04-28 « Donghai Ma Says:

    [...] moot wins, Time Inc. loses « Music Machinery (tags: hacking internet security web media captcha) [...]

  71. Rogue Medic Says:

    The marble cake could have had a reCAPTCHA pairing of words written in icing.

  72. there are geeks and then there are GEEKS « Joanna’s Ramblings Says:

    [...] April 29, 2009 moot wins, Time Inc. loses « Music Machinery. [...]

  73. Anonymous Says:

    Looks like SOMEBODY (article writer) doesn’t understand the definition of ‘hack.’ This poll was not hacked. Stop saying it was.

  74. Dancing.With.The.Stars.US.S08E14.720p.HDTV.x264-2HD | CrazyMovie.Net Says:

    [...] moot wins, Time Inc. loses « Music Machinery VN:F [1.2.2_602]please wait…Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast) [...]

  75. La persona más influyente del mundo según TIME es ¿moot? « powerx7 Says:

    [...] moot wins, Time Inc. loses (Music [...]

  76. Friedbeef Says:

    Absolutely 100% brilliant!

  77. Blight Watch » Blog Archive » A “Time”ly Hack: World’s Most Influential Person Is moot Says:

    [...] the full story, in exhaustive detail, is told at the blog Music Machinery. Here are a few choice excerpts (the [...]

  78. Anonymous Says:

    Shut up. Of course this was a hack, and a brilliant one to boot with. Check the jargon file for a definition.

  79. Someone from Ragnaboards Says:

    So Manny Pacquiao is the winner??

    Still, 4chan is the real winner.. LOL!

  80. DesuDesu’s Weblog » Okay, this is just silly Says:

    [...] [...]

  81. Breakfast briefing: Is Microsoft looking to be in the pink? | Says:

    [...] most influential person, thanks to the site’s anarchic users hacking the vote. Music Machinery has the inside story, while Jason Kottke compares it to his own attempt to sway the poll back in [...]

  82. For the lulz (actualizada) | IdentidadGeek Says:

    [...] todo este lío e incluso hasta poner una mini-entrevista realizada a Moot (ganador de la encuesta). La anotación titulada “Moot wins, Time Inc. loses” [en inglés] (bastante entretenida por cierto) hace énfasis en la traba que ponen en estos casos [...]

  83. simplybill Says:

    A win is a win. No matter the method was.

  84. balqisqudeimat Says:


  85. s Says:

    is there a solution to stop this hack..?

  86. tam Says:

    what a laugh. ^_^

  87. a blog about stocks » Blog Archive » links for April 28th Says:

    [...] moot wins, Time Inc. loses « Music Machinery - "Marblecake, also the game" ha hahack humor [...]

  88. Xydexx Says:

    “There’s a group of a dozen or so guys who’ve devoted a couple of months to this.”

    I only wish I had such Copious Free Time.

  89. Amake Says:

    Time: Bastion of journalistic integrity or spearhead developer of online polling systems?

    I doubt I’ll trust a word they say in the future, especially if they try to spin this like “There’s no secret message, you’re just seeing things”.

  90. Moot is Time’s Most Influential? (4 Chan–Anonymous–Wins Again.) - Says:

    [...] person. And, this was no small feat. Anonymous spent many man hours hacking the website. Music Machinery has the full [...]

  91. Flint Fredstone Says:

    None of the other fgts on the poll had enough influence for troops to SPONTANEOUSLY rally and rock the vote. moot wins the internets; all else is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

  92. Time Magazines Most Influential List - Was Hacked!! | Allie Is Wired! Says:

    [...] Read more… [...]

  93. Cea mai influenta persoana din lume: Jurnalistii il prezinta pe Moot si ignora hackerii « Flonews Says:

    [...] sa gaseasca un punct sensibil de care sa se foloseasca. Si au reusit, asa cum puteti citi pe MusicMachinery, desi au fost nevoiti sa dea manual cateva sute de mii de voturi. Ca bonus, au oferit divertisment [...]

  94. moot wins, Time Inc. loses » Creative Department Says:

    [...] Time Inc. loses”, url: “” }); | PrintThis “In a stunning result, the winner of the third annual TIME 100 poll and new owner of the title [...]

  95. villagethinking Says:

    This is proof that the world’s most influential person is the anonymous Internet user. Also, the game.

  96. Immer am Boden, nie zerstört « Angelegenheiten Says:

    [...] nachlesen will, wie das mit dem Hack vom Time 100 Poll funktioniert hat, der führe sich bitte diesen Artikel zu Gemüte. Captchas vertraut man danach allerdings nicht mehr [...]

  97. Brad Neuberg Says:

    One other thing that all Internet polls should do: they should _not_ show the results of the poll until the polls change. This is for two reasons:

    * For a politically charged poll, the side that is ‘losing’ can see that and then send out a call to their supporters to swamp the site again.
    * For those who are building automated tools to influence polls, they get real time feedback on their progress.

    It’s better to keep everyone in the dark until the poll is closed, like real voting.

  98. If you think about it moot must be prett… « Paul M. Watson Says:

    [...] about it moot must be pretty influential to harness the power of all those people to game the poll. Moot got to the top of the Time’s World’s Most Influential Person list by gaming the poll. § [...]

  99. Time’s poll hacked - Hack a Day Says:

    [...] Time won’t admit it, their poll on the most influential person was hacked. Moot, the founder of 4chan is rated #1. Not only that, but if you read the first letters of the [...]

  100. dc21337r Says:

    Its hard to overstate my satisfaction.

    Also, anyone who doubts that this is in any way hacking doesn’t understand the word hack. Just because they’re not breaking into the site and changing things manually doesn’t mean that they didn’t break the system for their own use. In terms of network security, most hacking is done offline. The easiest way to hack a network is to gain access through legitimate means, such as convincing someone to give you a real username/password. Social engineering is the hacker’s best friend.

    • Annie Moose Says:

      This *was* a triumph, I agree!

      And I also agree on the “hack” business- if they described it as a crack, that’d be incorrect (a crack is literally breaking into the system and changing it), but a hack is more like a clever (mis)use of something, usually exploiting a loophole.

      So it sort of fits.

  101. Heraclitean Fire » Links Says:

    [...] moot wins, Time Inc. loses « Music Machinery How the nice people at 4chan hacked the TIME 100 poll. "The first letters of the top 21 finalists in the poll spell out ‘Marblecake, also the game’." ( tags: 4chan ) 4chan, links | 29 April 2009 at 11:00 pm | RSS « Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin Some related posts: [...]

  102. » Time Magazine Hacked, Proving Unreliability Of Online Polls Says:

    [...] responsible are overjoyed that their ballot-stuffing was so successful. They will tell you — in full technical detail — how they accomplished the [...]

  103. Charcer Says:

    Anon wins.

  104. Time’s poll hacked | News for Geek Says:

    [...] Time won’t admit it, their poll on the most influential person was hacked. Moot, the founder of 4chan is rated #1. Not only that, but if you read the first letters of the [...]

  105.’s 100 Most moot’d People | Unwise1 Says:

    [...] Here is a story how it happened from moot wins, Time Inc. loses [...]

  106. Moi Says:

    ABSURD! Everybody knows there is no cake.

  107. democratsarefascists Says:

    So this is how Obama’s poll numbers are faked.

  108. pigeon Says:

    It’s hardly a “hack” if people had to spend 40+ hours voting! Seriously, I can think of 100 other things I’d rather do with 40 hours than create a message on some idiotic online poll.

  109. Cross Reference » Blog Archive » 3xCyber- +swine - The Personal Blog of Jan Kordylewski Says:

    [...] Moot wins, Time,inc looses? [...]

  110. angryanon Says:

    a “triumph”? a “win”? what are you talking about? this is a tragedy! newfagflood

  111. ron Says:

    It would be terrific if you guys could somehow donate .01 percent of this effort to, I don’t know, curing cancer or unlocking some riddle of the universe. Why don’t you approach the NCI or WHO and say that you have an inexhaustible team of highly intelligent, er, information engineers that would put in countless hours of labor? If there are lulz to be had, I mean.

    Or form your own rogue organization and crack cold fusion, perpetual energy, or self-mutating vaccines.

  112. SadistiX Says:

    some people are too bored. LOL
    all hail boredom

  113. tourinchina Says:

    Sometimes, “‘Worlds’s most influential person” is still believable for us.

  114. This Week’s Links | Business Pundit Says:

    [...] Music Machinery on how the Time 100 was hacked. [...]

  115. This Week’s Links | Direct Help from Business Developers Says:

    [...] Music Machinery on how the Time 100 was hacked. [...]

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