The half minute-long commercial for energy drink IRN-BRU on YouTube isn’t all that original, or really very funny. All the same, the clip “R0049_TDAU8” garnered 113 million hits and received a five-star review, with more than 70,000 visitors giving the clip the popular video site’s highest content approval rating. (Editor’s note: the file has since been removed from YouTube)

Is it a victory for bad taste? No. In fact, YouTube’s user-generated “Comments & Responses” area is filled with messages wondering how the clip — which parodies a woman giving birth to a can of fizzy beverage — was even flagged as interesting in the first place.

The credit for the success of the clip, researchers say, lies with schemers who are gaming the online voting systems used by content sharing networks to serve their own ends, including the spread of malicious software and adware, according to Ben Edelman, an assistant professor at Harvard University and longtime Internet fraud researcher.

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