Disappointed followers of Taylor Swift are facing a difficult fight against ticket bots and Ticketmaster.

Disappointed followers of Taylor Swift are facing a difficult fight against ticket bots and Ticketmaster.

Lawmakers in the United States are offering fans a glimmer of hope that they may be able to purchase event tickets at lower prices. According to several senators who spoke with CBS News, they are in favor of passing federal laws that would restrict the amount of profit that sellers can make on reselling tickets. This proposal is a response to increasing demands for stricter regulations on ticket resale practices, which caused issues with the 2022 ticket market.

Ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.

Sellers can earn significant profits by reselling tickets at inflated prices on the secondary market to buyers who did not secure them during the initial sale. The use of automated software, known as bots, by resellers to purchase large amounts of tickets at once further drives up prices.

Criticism of these systems peaked during the November 2022 presale for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour.

exceed its bandwidth.

The pre-sale for Eras Tour tickets was initiated on November 15, 2022. On that day, the website received an overwhelming 3.5 billion requests, leading to the company exceeding its bandwidth limit.temporarily suspend sales
This has resulted in increased difficulty for fans to obtain tickets at their original price.

Many devoted followers who had signed up for early access codes faced difficulties purchasing tickets. Almost instantly, tickets for Swift’s show appeared on the secondary market, including on Ticketmaster’s own online reselling platform. SomeTaylor Swift fans paid as much as 70 times the original selling price for seats; many were unable to get tickets at all.

Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour - Mexico City, Mexico

On August 24th, 2023, Taylor Swift puts on a performance for the Eras Tour.

This image was taken by Hector Vivas/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management.

2018 data breach and apologized

In January 2023, during a Senate Judiciary hearing, Joe Berchtold, the president and chief financial officer of Live Nation Entertainment’s parent company Ticketmaster, took accountability for the 2018 data breach and expressed remorse.botched sale

However, they attributed the failure to high levels of traffic and cyber attacks.

Bots that are prohibited, but not strictly enforced.

The BOTS Act, also called the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, was passed in 2016. This law prohibits the use of bots by ticket buyers to bypass online ticket limitations and to resell tickets obtained through bots on the secondary market. It also grants the Federal Trade Commission the power to enforce the law. However, the FTC has only utilized the BOTS Act for legal action once, in January 2021, when it brought charges against three New York ticket resellers. The defendants have been ordered to pay $3.7 million in civil penalties.

The FTC has stated that it will continue to uphold the BOTS Act, but has not reported any new cases under the act.

According to data from the FTC, CBS News found that the agency has received 105 complaints regarding violations of the BOTS Act since 2017, with the majority being received last year.

In a 2022 opinion piece, Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee criticized the FTC for not taking action against the proliferation of bots. She expressed concern that their lack of action would lead to scalpers controlling secondary markets, leaving regular consumers with limited options.

Several new laws are being proposed by legislators to enhance the effectiveness of the BOTS Act. Representative Blackburn and Senator Ben Ray Lujan from New Mexico are introducing the Mitigating Automated Internet Networks for Event Ticketing (MAIN) Act. Senators John Cornyn from Texas and Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota are sponsoring the Fans First Act.

Swifties meet with lawmakers

Representative Bill Pascrell (D-New Jersey) meets with Taylor Swift fans to discuss enhancing consumer protection laws in light of the Ticketmaster controversy during the Eras Tour.

Ash-har Quraishi/CBS News

A limit on reselling.

In order to prevent ticket bots and ensure fair pricing for live events, legislators in New South Wales, West Australia, and Victoria have implemented laws that prohibit reselling tickets for more than 10% above their original value.

“The laws ensure that both scalpers and platforms facilitating scalping can be held responsible,” stated a representative for Fair Trading, the governing body responsible for enforcing consumer protection laws in New South Wales.

Those who break the rules may be subject to a fine of up to $110,000 for a company or $22,000 for an individual.

In 2023, NSW Fair Trading reported that it carried out 14 inquiries after receiving grievances from consumers regarding ticket reselling. The agency stated that since the implementation of the law in 2018, it has imposed fines totaling over $40,000.

The Fans First Act proposed by Klobuchar does not have a limit on the amount of profit that can be made from reselling tickets. However, she stated to CBS News that she is open to potential new laws that would incorporate such a cap.

“I am highly receptive to that concept,” stated Klobuchar. “I simply needed to secure what was possible in the current agreement, which focuses on fundamental consumer protections.”

Lujan stated to CBS News that he also agrees with the cap.

“According to him, he is receptive to a variety of concepts that have been successful in different regions.”

CBS News inquired with Ticketmaster about their stance on potential federal laws limiting profits on ticket resales in the United States.

Kaitlyn Henrich, a representative for Ticketmaster Corporate Affairs, stated that they work in numerous countries with comparable regulations and support finding industry-wide solutions. She also expressed a desire for Congress to enact a law that would create a level playing field across the entire industry. However, in the absence of such a law, they believe that allowing artists to determine the terms for their tours is the best alternative.

Henrich suggested that granting [artists] greater authority in determining how their tickets can be resold may aid in resolving the overarching issue.

The Coalition for Ticket Fairness, an organization that advocates for ticket resellers, is against imposing restrictions on ticket resales.

“Although it may seem promising in principle, the truth is that resellers serve as a means of regulating the influence of Ticketmaster and other primary sellers by offering alternative options,” stated CTF Executive Director Dana McLean in an email. “In situations where there are only 20,000 seats available but 300,000 people vying for them, legislation can have limited impact. The most effective measures promote competition and clear pricing.” (Full statement can be found in the link provided.)

Fans take action  

Jennifer Kinder, a personal injury attorney and single mother from Dallas, Texas, is representing over 350 Taylor Swift fans in individual lawsuits against Ticketmaster and Live Nation. The lawsuits allege fraud, price-fixing, and failure to protect fans from bots.

Kinder organized meetings for her clients to meet with various congressional staff and legislators in an effort to garner support for the delayed bill.

Kinder questioned, “If we, united, are unable to bring about change, then who is capable of doing so?” She pondered, “If even Swifties are incapable, then who is left to take action?”

The main complainant, Julie Barfuss, journeyed from her residence in Utah to the Capitol.

“I believe we will return and continue to support these bills and advocate for change as they progress,” stated Barfuss. “Our next course of action includes pursuing the lawsuit and returning to Washington D.C.”

Jennifer Wilkins, a client from Oakland, California, expressed that her goal is not to receive compensation, but rather to bring about change in a system that she believes promotes ticket resales. She noted that Ticketmaster’s “Ticketmaster Verified” platform on the secondary market contributes to this issue.

Wilkinson expressed feeling deceived by Ticketmaster’s system, as it allows them to profit twice from ticket sales. When tickets are sold by bots or individuals, Ticketmaster receives a fee in addition to the original fee they collected. This lack of accountability may discourage them from making any changes to their current system.

Going behind the scenes with a previous bot user.

Not only are bots utilized for purchasing event tickets.

Mitch Davies, a former “sneaker botter” from Australia, explained that the concept is to find products, such as sneakers or consoles, that have a high demand and can increase in value.

Davies dedicated years to coding bots that would assault e-commerce sites in order to purchase large quantities of exclusive athletic footwear.

“We were taking thousands of these pairs at every release,” he said. “After that, we resold them. So, you’re basically buying these shoes for $100, $200 and selling them for five, six times the price.”  

DataDome reports that in the span of one year, a single individual was able to acquire 30,000 tickets for the popular Broadway production “Hamilton” and over a thousand tickets for a U2 concert through fraudulent means. These attacks, carried out by automated bots, were completed in less than a minute each time. In a separate incident, a nefarious bot successfully purchased 520 tickets to a Beyoncé concert in a mere three minutes.

According to Davies, the Eras Tour attack was seen as an ideal chance for botters due to the combination of limited availability and high demand.

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard about the situation,” Davies stated. “It seemed like someone had profited greatly and their bot had performed flawlessly.”

Ticketmaster responds   

Henrich, from Ticketmaster, stated that we encounter billions of bots daily and the numbers are growing exponentially.

She stated that the company makes significant investments in order to combat bott attacks, which are partly driven by the low initial ticket prices set by artists.

She stated that our role is to represent venues, teams, and artists. They determine the conditions for ticket sales. If artists were to increase their ticket prices significantly, the issue of scalpers reselling tickets would be resolved immediately.

Henrich is of the opinion that the majority of artists are not inclined to do so.

“She stated that their goal is to cultivate a lasting professional journey. They strive for a diverse group of supporters and aim to achieve this by keeping ticket prices affordable.”

Ticketmaster discusses their efforts to combat bot usage.

CBS News reached out via email to the representatives of several artists, such as Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, Doja Cat, and Pearl Jam, to inquire about the issue of reselling, but did not receive a response.

During the past two Congressional terms, Ticketmaster significantly increased their expenditures on federal lobbying. The chart below illustrates this change, and a larger version can be accessed through the provided link.

Cybersecurity solutions  

The majority of bot usage is within the bounds of the law and can be beneficial for both businesses and customers. For instance, chat bots can assist with customer service inquiries in the absence of a live representative, while other bots are able to monitor websites for instances of copyright infringement.

Mitch Davies, a former botter, did not violate any laws by utilizing automated software to purchase limited edition sneakers for the purpose of resale. However, he has since changed his perspective and is now working towards finding a solution. He currently works as a data scientist for a cybersecurity company called Arkose Labs in the Bay Area, where he helps combat malicious bots.

“After accumulating years of knowledge, I am able to generate various fingerprints and behavioral metrics,” stated Davies. “Examining how individuals navigate websites and complete transactions reveals distinct patterns in human computer usage.”

Using Davies’ knowledge and skills, Arkose utilizes artificial intelligence and other techniques to detect and stop automated bots attempting to infiltrate websites for clients such as Microsoft, OpenAI, Roblox, and Expedia.

“If we think it’s automated, we challenge it,” said Arkose Labs CEO and founder Kevin Gosschalk. “And that challenge is a way of forcing the bad actors to have to do an action of some kind.”   

How a cybersecurity firm battles bots


A strategy is to implement more intricate CAPTCHA challenges on websites, which demand advanced cognitive skills to demonstrate a human performing an action rather than a robot.

“We aim to pursue the ultimate objective of their financial gain,” stated Gosschalk. “We intend for it to exceed their profit margin. If we are successful, it will result in their business shutting down.”

Source: cbsnews.com