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Case Film






Antwerp, Belgium, is the cocaine capital of Europe. Cocaine finds its way from the harbor to the streets of Antwerp through a sophisticated network of street dealers. These dealers have a very specific methodology to make sure their cocaine finds you: promotional text messages. Indeed, dealers own databases with thousands of phone numbers of users and potential users. These databases are their main distribution platform and are very valuable to them. They even sell those databases to each other.

Meaning that once you had contact with one dealer, your number will be in the database and you’ll start receiving many different ‘promotional’ messages, from many different dealers, on a daily basis.

Brief: Reset - rehabilitation centre - & Mothers against drugs - an anonymous collective of mothers with addicted children - wanted to make parents, press and politics aware of the existence of such databases and the promotional messages


Instead of flatly informing press, ‘Reset’ & ‘Mothers against Drugs’ decided to take action and find a way to corrupt those database, dealers’ main marketing platform. Introducing: DealerBot. A self-learning sms-bot, programmed to keep dealers busy, by engaging them in long, very long, conversations. So, while most bots are programmed to make life easier, Dealerbot is designed to make things more complicated. To keep the conversation going as long as possible. To make appointments and never show up. And to operate through hundreds of different phone numbers. This way, these databases are now filled with corrupted numbers. So, every time a dealer gets a text message, he or she doesn’t know if it’s a real client or a waste of time. This way, dealers are forced to make more phone-calls, making them more traceable for the police.


Most people, parents, journalists, politicians are not aware of the fact that thousands of people are daily spammed by promotional sms messages urging them to buy cocaine. It was about time to use press and pr to change that. And since these databases are a radical problem, ‘Reset’ & ‘Mothers against Drugs’ wanted to make parents & others aware, while at the same time launching a radical data-idea that takes concrete action into corrupting this seamlessly working distribution channel: DealerBot.

Data gathering: DealerBot is linked to telephone numbers of recovering addicts (obtained via ‘Reset’, rehabilitation centre in Antwerp). Every time they receive a text message from a dealer, DealerBot recognizes the language and collects the number from the dealer. So far, DealerBot collected 378 numbers of street dealers in Antwerp.


Phase 1. Collect Dealer’s numbers.

DealerBot is linked to telephone numbers of recovering addicts Every time they receive a text message from a dealer, DealerBot recognizes the language and collects the number from the dealer.

Phase 2. Infiltrate into the Databases

First, DealerBot only sent unsuspicious messages like ‘Hey, I got your number from a friend'. These messages were sent to over 300 different dealer numbers.

Phase 3. Start corrupting.

Once infiltrated, early October, DealerBot started trolling dealers, by engaging them in very, very long conversations and making appointments where no one showed up. All conversations starting with ‘Hey, want to meet?’.

Phase 4. Inform Press (and parents and politics)

‘Reset’ & ‘Mothers against drugs’ send out a press release, a seeding film and pictures of the anonymous collective (wearing Sheep masks. Symbolically, to state their ‘sheeps against the wolves’-attitude)


In just the first 2 weeks of its existence, DealerBot sent out 13.509 text messages and got 13.598 replies from 886 different dealer numbers. So, on average, we wasted over 4000 minutes of their time. That’s at least 66 wasted ‘dealer-hours’. In just two weeks.

After bringing DealerBot out in the open, it was picked up in national press, radio and television, leading to full page interviews with the spokesperson from Reset and anonymous mothers, in all newspapers and on national radio & television. And it instantly initiated a public debate on how these street dealers can keep operating via such database-marketing. The mayor of Antwerp quickly had to react in an official statement. And in the meantime… DealerBot will keep on corrupting dealers main marketing platform.