April 11, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Blogosphere suffers spam explosion

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With the right technology in place, blog spam is not a major issue, Calacanis said. "If you want to solve it, you have to make your site harder to spam than the other blogs out there. It is sort of like having The Club (an antitheft device) in your car. It's not perfect, but if you have The Club and next car doesn't, the thief moves on to the next car," he said.

But as with unwanted e-mail, spammers are trying out ways to circumvent these barriers. "I don't think comment spam is under control," Scoble said. Increasingly, junk postings are camouflaged to look like valuable comments, but contain spam links, he noted.

"It used to be pretty blatant: three graphs of porn links," Scoble said. "Some of the latest spam that I have been getting is stuff like: 'I love your blog' and 'Keep it up!'" Instead of linking to a blog, there is a link to a gambling or porn, he said. "People are approving spam, because they are getting fooled by the spammers."

Tricking Google
While junk e-mail is purely an advertisement, creating spam messages on blogs has an additional motive: tricking Internet search engines. Google and other sites arrange search results in part by a Web page's link popularity with other sites. More links to a site can boost a site's ranking--and more important, its traffic.

"The prime actor that made this behavior valuable was Google, which created economics around links," said Anil Dash, vice president of professional products at Six Apart. "Links on the Web have almost direct monetary value because of Google's PageRank system."

Moreover, search engines deem a link on a blog more valuable than one on just any Web site, because of the interlinking bloggers do. Spammers abuse the comment forums to get instant credibility with search engines.

"There are at least dozens of people who have made the economic equation and are developing software to do spamming," Dash said. "The first spammers were manually typing in: 'Here's a link to this site.' Now there is fairly sophisticated and sometimes even commercial software for spamming on both e-mail and blog comments."

Early last year, Google announced a special tag for hyperlinks that tells the search engine to not score the link. Some blog services and software have adopted this "nofollow" to take some of the benefit out of manipulating search rankings by abusing blogs.

The spam is undermining an integral part of blogs. Without feedback, a blog is merely a glorified press release, Mike Cornfield, an adjunct professor in political management at George Washington University, told CNET News.com earlier this year.

"I think it hurts blogs when they have to turn off their comments," Calacanis said. "Large blogs have had to turn off comments a couple of times--we've even turned them off for a day or two during massive spam attacks."

Boing Boing, though, is probably the "saddest or biggest example," Calacanis said, noting that it was taking more time and expense to manage the comments then manage the blogging on the site.

Comments aren't about to return to Boing Boing, Frauenfelder said, though he does appreciate the value of reader input. "But whenever we think about it, we see comment spam as so much of a problem," he said. Boing Boing attracts 400,000 visitors daily. "That would be thousands of comment spams a day," he said.

Spam fighting efforts have focused on keeping blogs clean, for readers and bloggers to enjoy. But spammers are doing an end-run around those shields and taking the fight to the broader Web by joining the blogosphere.

"We have seen them move from sending comments and trackbacks to creating fake blogs," Six Apart's Dash said.

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10 comments

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Splogs
Splogs are nothing new, if you notice on Blogger they now have a way to report a blog. This is why, not only can you have trackback spam, comment spam, the blog itself can be total spam targeted directly at certain PPC phrases, depending on bid cost.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.mccbsi.com/technique/article_1.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.mccbsi.com/technique/article_1.html</a>
Posted by djpaisley (80 comments )
Reply Link Flag
interesting ...
That one of the sponsored sites on this story is www.blog-blast.com - to "automatically send your advertising to millions".

What we really need is for someone to develop a "return to sender" function so that all we victims of spam/splog/junk can return the favor. I'd gladly pay for that.
Posted by debll (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
interesting?
Actually that's more than "interesting," it's kinda scandalous. And funny.
Posted by tipper_gore (74 comments )
Link Flag
spam them back!
I agree... you have to spam them back to cut into their costs and make it unprofitable to spam. I started a non-profit site that does just that: thinkNoSpam.com
Posted by digital_joe01 (5 comments )
Link Flag
Simple solution
Make it legal to hunt down and kill spammers.

On top of that, start banning the accounts of people who have their machines taken over. If you don't care enough to secure PC even just a tad bit, then you don't belong on the internet.
Posted by SeizeCTRL (1333 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Spam their merchant accounts!
What really needs to be done with those that advertise their online businensses like that, is that their billing system should be spammed: they depend on the few people that would follow the links in their spam and purchase their services. They should work har to locate the legitimate ones out of a flood of bogus "purchases" with invalid credit card numbers etc. So their billing systems should be fed with lots of phony info, preferably automatically and from distributed sources (such as through open proxies located by those who list open proxies). I hope this can be done in a way that costs them real money in fees they pay to whoever manages their billing.
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Blam! to the rescue?
We've just put a product into Beta that would allow any Blogger to protect their blog (or any HTML form for that matter) against this type of nonsense. We'd be happy to have you on board as a tester.
www.drcc.com/blam for more info.
Posted by darren.crocker (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
a new way to spam all spammers back
This spam explosion is driving me nuts too. However I think the solution is NOT to continue filtering this spam or charging for email, but rather to stop it at it's source by increasing a) the cost and b) the return spam back to the sender. If it becomes unprofitable to spam costing spammers time and money to spam, the theory is spam will stop. I've been working on this idea, and would like any feedback and support to this non-profit effort: thinkNoSpam.com. I will listen and respond to any questions, comments, suggestions.

-JC
Posted by digital_joe01 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's called the FUSSP
As in Final Ultimate Solution to the Spam Problem.
It's been discussed extensively over the years in
various Usenet newsgroups.
More information here if you're really interested:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.rhyolite.com/anti-spam/you-might-be.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.rhyolite.com/anti-spam/you-might-be.html</a>
Posted by Jackson Cracker (272 comments )
Link Flag
 

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