Friday, October 29, 2004
Comment Spammers: Internet Pigs and How They Feed
internet pigs and how they feed
NOTICE: This is an exact copy of today's Vaspers the Grate web usability blog post. This topic is so important to users, blog and web site administrators, and the entire internet, I felt it needed maximum readership.
ABSTRACT (SUMMARY): Comment spam is irrelevant, unethical, offensive, or unwanted, typically commercial, message propagation on comment posting pages of blogs and web sites.
Comment spam is invading every interactive and community building functionality on the internet.
Here's what you need to do to protect yourself, and to help stop this unprecedented attack by these "internet pigs."
PERSONAL AGENDA: Comment spammers killed one of the best blog directories, Blizg, which enabled bloggers to paste meta-tags into their templates.
Comment spammers are killing my favorite art magazine discussion forum. It's time to launch a savage techno/psychological assault on these depraved idiots.
If you operate or regularly visit internet discussion forms hosted by online magazines or professional organizations, I'm sure you've seen this foul predator.
If you operate or regularly visit blogs, I'm sure you've encountered this disgusting fiend.
You know--you're interested in a question, issue, or idea being discussed online. You click on (select) the "thread" (topic) and begin to read. You enjoy good user-generated content, which enriches the value of this web site.
STUPID. (or) MEANINGLESS.
(or) PERVERTED. (or) IRRELEVANT.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I have the distinct honor to introduce to you all the Next Big Thing in internet garbage, your new and relentlessly ruthless Enemy: COMMENT SPAM.
(1.) automatic irrelevant drivel generated by spambots (program code strings), generally signed "buy levitra" or some other dubious commercial crap, and usually accompanied by URLS
(2.) human created drivel, or too brief, generic, stilted comments ("Hello. This is my first time here. I read almost the whole article. Nice work on an interesting topic. Will return to read more later. (etc.)"), usually accompanied by URLs
(3.) lengthy irrelevant lists of domain names for sale, pornographic sites, municipal law codes, literary reviews, news items, etc.
(4.) comments that are extremely offensive or irrelevant and Off Topic (OT).
I'm not refering to just plain dumb and dumber comments.
I'm talking about nonsense, confusion, insincerity, gibberish, or cut and paste editorial that is totally irrelevant, if not X-rated sexual crap, race hatred, or partisan political frenzy lunacy.
I call these spurious commentors Internet Pigs.
The comment spammer Internet Pigs seethe with rage and loathing for people like me, who expose them and teach others how to identify, throttle, thwart, and harm them.
THE GOAL OF COMMENT SPAMMING
Usually this comment spam will have URLs (web addresses, starting with http://www.) attached at the bottom or embedded in the text.
This is done to get readers to click on (select) them and thus boost the comment spammers Search Engine Ranking to drive user traffic to their site, or the site of some company they are promoting.
Just posting these URLs will boost Search Engine ranking for the spammers.
Sometimes the destinations of the URLs, the web or blog entry addresses, are legitimate.
But the comment spam is not legitimate, not ethical, and will soon become totally ILLEGAL.
Some people whine and moan and wave their "freedom of expression" flags in the air like we have to salute them, no matter how ridiculous or offensive that expression may be.
Discussion forums and blogs are not dedicated to editorial anarachy or "freedom of expression" at the cost of integrity, decency, intelligence, and relevance to the topic thread.
Comment spammers use "copy and paste" (copy text from anywhere on the web, then paste it in a comment posting area) and "random text generators" (meaningless, garbled word salad, strings of words that may almost make sense, but go nowhere fast) to do their dirty work.
If you've ever accidentally opened a spam email, you've probably seen some random text: (EXAMPLE) "She shopped near the tree crumb bloat factory bread as many unseen fingernails succumbed to ill noticed color dimension airplane meanderings in the smoke flush dawn bleak report."
This nonsense wording is used to sound somewhat literate, thus fooling the spam and virus filters on your email program. The same thing occurs on comment posting pages of web sites.
Spambots and human comment spammers will use philosophy quotes, quotes from Hollywood stars, song lyrics, anything innocent sounding, to trick filters into thinking the comment is real, relevant user-generated content.
Or you'll see weird little hash marks, umlauts, or accent marks hovering over letters. Another method for tricking rhetoric/syntax/vocabulary based filters.
If a comment is repulsive, misleading, hate-mongering, trolling, baiting, stupid, or just plain off topic (OT)...it will, or should, be deleted forever.
Some comment spammers cry about "strange" comments being possibly innocent "art". Or simply innocent blog/web site promotion tactics.
Who are they trying to fool? You shouldn't promote anything, without at least contributing an intelligent, informative comment that adds to the overall thread conversation.
Comments are content. Not an opportunity to blabber stupidly or unethically.
My reply to this, from an actual comment I made on a art discussion forum:
"Comment spam has been defined and so has freedom of speech.
If you don't know the difference between spam and legitimate comments, between search engine ranking techniques and bonafide conversation--how charming and quaint your hicktown aesthetics are, so unspoilt by technical considerations.
A forum is not a chat room, nor a page rank booster, nor a free advertising arena."
I got lots of hostile, obscene, foul-mouthed, spam-comment replies to that announcement in the art discussion forum. Which proves how sick these spam perpetrators are.
Sometimes a blog commenter will post a comment with a alleged link to an article he wrote on a web site, but when you foolishly follow the link, you're taken to some page of the site that has nothing to do with the alleged article.
This too is comment spam.
Blog commentors: get your act together, please quit commenting sloppily--or you'll likely be considered an Internet Pig comment spammer.
According to Adam Kalsey, CTO of Pheedo, comment spam began at Usenet, migrated to Email, and now is viciously attacking Blogs and Discussion Forums.
Spammers are hitting Trackbacks, Blogrolls, Email This Article To A Friend, RSS Feeds, Guestbooks, any interactive functionality they can exploit to their greedy advantage.
Elise Bauer at the MT tutorial site www.elise.com has a good explanation of these different spamming methods and site vulnerabilities. She also has a great policy statement on deleting any comments she considers OT (Off Topic), ignorant, or simply insubstantial in regard to the topic being discussed. Hooray for lovely Elise!
The Internet Pig Comment Spammers must really dread having to flip burgers at McDonalds, selling appliances at Sears, or going to college to learn a skill.
I rank the skanky Internet Pigs almost as low as crack whores/pimps or pharmaceutical companies anxious to dope teenage Johnny for just being a normal, active, authority-questioning male.
Joi Ito asks in her blog: are blogs "parties" anyone can attend...or publications that may be strictly edited? Depends on the blog, but most are both to some degree.
But her blog article discussing comment spam has spam in comments #27 to #32, which I complained about in a comment posted to the discussion. I must await her approval before seeing my comment posted. Good for her! That's one good way to combat the Internet Pigs.
Photo Matt blog states in "Weeds in the Garden":
"...is a good read. Now scroll down to the comments. Dozens and dozens of spam comments. I see this over and over again on MT and s9y sites. What’s terrible is these pages are just as dangerous as dedicated spam blogs. Think about it: I shouldn’t even be linking to it now."
Blogging expert and pioneer Dave Winer thinks that comment posting in blogs is not vital. As far as I understand, blogs were originally just lists of URLs of interest, not random drivel about boring personal feelings and activities.
Mark Pilgrim of Dive Into Mark blog compares the two possible comment spam riddance solutions to The Club or Lojack approaches to prevent or punish car theft. It's a very good, heavily-linked (full of linked external resources) read for all you intellectuals out there.
Amy Gahran, sort of a protege of Jakob Nielsen, discusses comment spam in her Contentious blog.
Jay Allen, Jeremy Zawodny, WIRED magazine, Steven Berlin Johnson, Jeffrey Zeldman, Google bloggers, Sun Microsystems bloggers, and many of the major web design and developer experts have recently been posting warnings and manifestos of war against comment spammers.
There are ways to hurt the comment spammers and deprive them of their sources of income, but you have to be fairly geeky to do it.
It includes reporting them to their hosting providers, telling ISPs what their connections are being used for, and complaining to the product manufacturers the spammers supposedly represent.
HOW BLOGS AND FORUMS CAN
COMBAT COMMENT SPAM:
Mark Glaser at Online Journalism Review, provides these tips (my paraphrase, plus I add one or two to his list):
1. Turn off comments. Users and spammers both are unable to post remarks.
2. Turn off comment posting on older posts (spammers love them).
3. Don't allow URL links in comments.
4. Use a blacklisting (forbidden domains, email addresses, etc.) service.
5. Use a whitelisting (allowable domains, email addresses, etc.) service.
6. Redirect all links from your blog comments (no boost in Search Engine rank).
7. Require user registration prior to comment posting.
8. Require users to preview comments prior to posting.
9. Use a "captcha" device (numbers or letters contained in a graphic image that users must enter in a box, or an easy math problem users must enter the answer to).
10. Email verification of comment (users must reply to an email asking if they actually authored the comment).
11. Moderate the comments, imposing an indefinite delay on posting.
12. Issue legal warnings about criminality of comment spam.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
Comment Spam is a hot topic right now. You should educate yourself on this.
USERS: Write emails to editors, administrators, and operators of blogs and online forums and demand that they either moderate the comments, add bot blockers like captchas, or install some type of anti-spam software.
BLOGS & FORUMS: Quit whining. Manual deleting of comments is not impossibly hard. Generally, it's just clicking. Even if it's 200 per day, so what? Hire a retired person do it for you, or a give a high school kid free pizza and soda for doing it. Find a solution.
USERS: Don't have a hissy fit if a blog or forum asks you to register, preview, or email verify before your precious comment will appear on a site. You can't wait for your comment to be posted? Comment posting is a privilege, not an inherent right granted by God to you.
EVERYBODY: Thanks for getting off your butt and helping to fight the comment spamming Internet Pigs.
Declare all out war on Comment Spam, before this blight forces us all to no longer allow comments anywhere, thus reducing the interactive quality of the entire web.
And a rampant disabling of all interactive/community building functionalities is doomsday for the internet.
In fact, along with offshore outsourcing, comment spam has the potential to severely damage information sharing, and ultimately, the United States economy--along with the inherent value and effectiveness of the global internet.
Makes you wonder who's really behind all this, doesn't it?
Posted by steven edward streight at 11:04 PM