April 11, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Blogosphere suffers spam explosion

Boing Boing would allow its readers to leave comments and engage in a discussion on the wildly popular blog, if it weren't for spam.

The editors of the technology and pop culture blog took down the comment option about two years ago. Back then, they wanted to put an end to abusive comments, personal attacks on the Boing Boing crew and some spam. Today, their reason for not bringing it back is simpler: an explosion in junk comment posts on blogs.

"It is like pollution," said Mark Frauenfelder, the founder and co-editor of Boing Boing, who also writes a personal blog at MadProfessor.net. "It reminds me of visible smog, because it obscures what you want to be looking at. You have to waste brain cycles to filter it out, or, if you own a blog, you have to go through extraordinary measures to keep it out."

While technology and legislation may have made spam in e-mail manageable, there is still some way to go when it comes to keeping it out of blogs, people in the industry said. There is some software dedicated to blocking unwanted posts, and there are efforts under way to reduce the economic incentive behind them. But at the same time, spammers are coming up with ways to trick filters or to fool bloggers into allowing the spam.

Keeping out unwanted messages costs bloggers time and bother, at the very least. If it's a commercial blog, it may also cost money for a filtering service. And beyond that, there's a cost to the blog services, which have to develop spam-blocking technology.

Most spam postings on blogs look a lot like unwanted commercial e-mail. Many of them advertise gambling Web sites, online adult entertainment or drugs such as Viagra. The spam operations that target blogs are typically the same ones that send junk e-mail, experts said.

The Mad Professor blog attracts about 3,000 visitors daily, Frauenfelder said. He gets about 20 spam messages a day, which he deletes manually. All comments arrive in his e-mail in-box first. The spam level noticeably started going up earlier this year, he said.

"It is a major hassle," Frauenfelder said. "It is just getting worse and worse. My fantasies of violent revenge against spammers become more lurid every week."

Frying comment spam
Several providers of blogging software and services have introduced filtering to combat the spam problem. Akismet charges enterprise bloggers $200 and upwards a month for its filtering service, for example. "Pro-bloggers," or individuals who make money from their blogs, are asked to pay $5 a month. Some plug-in tools, like Spam Karma, are available for a donation. Many blog hosters have developed their own blocking tools, too.

Frauenfelder uses Six Apart's Movable Type software for his blogs. He does use the filtering features it offers, but spam still gets through, he said.

But Robert Scoble, whose "Scobleizer--Microsoft Geek Blogger" is hosted on the WordPress.com service, said he is happy with the filtering there.

The Scobleizer blog gets around 10,000 visits a day, and about 400 comments are left on the blog daily. Of those, 100 are spam, Scoble said. Most of these are flagged correctly. However, there are also false positives, valid reader comments identified as unwanted postings, he said.

No spam issue
One company that is trying to develop advanced filtering technologies is Culver City, Calif.-based Weblogs Inc., which runs more than 90 commercial blogs, including the popular Engadget site.

"We've built technology to solve the problem, we invest in updating it, and our 160-plus bloggers manage the few spams that get through," Weblogs CEO Jason Calacanis said. "The only spam that can really get through our defenses are the ones that are hand-rolled by a person, and we catch most of those."

Other techniques for limiting blog spam tackles the problem from the other end, making it more of a process to post. Hosters can require visitors to register or use e-mail validation. For example, Weblogs sends the reader an e-mail containing a link that needs be clicked before their comment is posted.

Automated spam software may be thwarted by challenging the commenter to type in wavy or nonstandard text in a box, called a "captcha." Bloggers often can also choose to moderate all submissions, which means approving them for posting one by one. That, however, can be a lot of work for the administrator on popular blogs.

CONTINUED: Getting round the barriers…
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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
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.

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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