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Alert: See How Comment Spam Is Getting Trickier To Spot

Does blog comment spam really work?

I guess it must because it just keeps increasing. And not only increasing, but it’s getting harder to spot – especially for those of us who often get a lot of comments and get a lot of spam.

Take a look at this image. Look at it closely.

spam1.jpg

Looks like a benign comment at first glance, right? But look closely at the text in the next image:

spam2.jpg

Notice all the little blue underlines under some of the characters? Each one of those is a link. Hard to see, huh? And if you weren’t looking for them, you might think this is a legitimate comment and let it through.

But it’s not a legitimate comment – it’s spam. All told, this comment had more than 25 links in it. It’s just, as you can see, they’re under individual characters – making them hard to spot at a glance.

This comment spam thing is a real pain in the rear. Darren Rowse even wrote about the cost of comment spam to our blogging. Can you imagine how much spam Problogger or Scobleizer get?

That’s why I’m siding with Lorelle:

You cannot stop comment spam on your blog…Comment spam can only be stopped when comment spammers are stopped. The efforts you make on your blog only stop comment spam from reaching the public eye.

…I've put out a call repeatedly to bloggers (read her post on The Blog Herald) to use the power of their blogging voices to put an end to the rewards of being a comment spammer. We need to put comment spammers out of business. Anyone listening?

As a united voice, I believe that the same creativity and sense of community spirit that built MyBlogLogs, MySpace, FaceBook, and Digg can put their energy into stopping the virus that infects all of us.

We know what spam bots do and can watch their behavior. I agree with Lorelle, we can’t stop spamming unless we stop spammers. So what can we do about it? Any ideas? Know anyone who might have an idea?

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Comments

  1. Karen Lynch-Live the Power says:

    I’m not sure I know what to do but I’m with you on it! Comment spam is a pain and it wastes hours! But the spam blockers also blocked the trackbacks! and like you said, all it did was keep it from the public!

  2. Paul Hancox | InternetInfluenceMagic.com says:

    I was a bit shocked when I saw just why the comment was spam. Wow.

    But I do think that these comments are just a “cost of doing business”.

    Delete and move on. :)

  3. Adam Kayce : Monk At Work says:

    I got turned on to Project Honey Pot from the developer of Bad Behavior (a great WP-plugin). It looks like a pretty cool thing to support.

  4. Like all evils, comment spam has to be stomped out day by day, message by message, Akismet style by a host of people who believe in what is good and right.

    OK, maybe that was a little melodramatic, but I’m serious. There will always the little moments of selfishness in the world. The best we can hope for is to work against them without letting them distract us more than necessary.

  5. One of the bad things about spam comments is that many people don’t even check/approve comments and in some even worse cases install plugins such as the one to remove nofollow from comment links … which makes things even worse.

  6. I haven’t gotten any of those, but I have gotten some that look legit but the URL’s are funky so I mark them as spam.

  7. Karen,
    Just make sure they end up in your comment spam.

    Mark,
    I hear you. But it must work otherwise it wouldn’t be going on. That’s why I agree with Lorelle that we need to stop spammers, not just spam. Any ideas?

    Indiana Jones,
    Great name, btw.

    I think no-follow creates a target rather a cause for spam. I’m finding the trio of Akismet, Bad Behavior and Spam Karma2 to be pretty good as filters go. But we still need to stop spammers, I think. Thoughts?

    Jenny,
    When in doubt, spam it. That’s the right your reserve as the blog owner.

    Paul,
    They are. But is there anything we can do – as a huge community – stomp out the spammers?

    Adam,
    Ooh, thanks for the reminder. I’ve heard of Project Honey Pot but hadn’t checked it out. I’ll will now and likely blog about it next week.

    Any other thoughts about how we could stop spammers – as a community?

  8. A good start would be to turn nofollow back on (it was created for exactly this reason)….
    But totally eradicating (blog) spam? That’s one fine quest you got there.

  9. I haven’t seen any spam like that on my blog yet, or maybe I just have not noticed it because it looked like a regular comment :-)

    Thanks for the warning. Akismet might not work that good catching spam comments like this? Lorelle has a good point about stopping comment spammers.

  10. It’s very hard to stop spamming.
    I didn’t knew google was searching for spam and punish the spammers.

  11. If the spam didn’t work then no one would bother spamming. Don’t buy or support spammed products or websites.

    You don’t have to click on it if you don’t want to. Just like you don’t need to watch Television Commercials if you record everything you watch and fast forward through the ads.

  12. The purpose of spam is to send mass email and hope that a small proportion of people take action and respond. That small proportion does then generate the funds for the spammers.

    If no one responded to the spam, then their whole strategy will have to change. The problem is that we do have folks that do not recognize all the spam and so do indeed respond by clicking on the links.

    In order to stop something, you have to undermine the initial strategy that makes it work.

    Just my 2 cents worth!! :-)

  13. Joost,
    I’m not sure no-follow is the issue other than being a target. The idea of no-follow in comment links came from Google. And it worked for their search engine. But MSN, Yahoo! and the other major search engines don’t recognize it. They follow any way.

    I saw a video sometime ago with Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, who said that no-follow was an attempt to curtail spam but it was an utter failure. It didn’t work at all.

    I think spammers might target those who have removed no-follow with a bit more veracity because they’ll get link backs in Google if they can get spam through. But I don’t think it’s the cause.

    And eradicate spamming…why not? If we all banded together, even if 15% of all bloggers banded together, you don’t think we could take a huge bite out of the spamming industry?

    Jens,
    I think she does too. If we all worked together, I don’t know if we can stop spamming altogether. But I do think we could make it much more difficult and less lucrative to spam in comments. And wouldn’t the blogosphere be a better place?

    Joe,
    Exactly. It’s being done because people are making money doing it. And people are making money doing it because companies are getting results with it. Otherwise, it would be a dead issue.

    Do you think there’s anything more we could do about it?

  14. “We need to stop spammers, not just spam. Any ideas?”

    Clearly they need to be converted to some sort of anti-spam faith. Is Spam kosher? I’m thinking it’s not.

    As long as Spam is perceived as something that will be a shortcut for people, there will be folks who try to take the shortcut. We can’t rid the world of cheaters. But we can make this specific method of cheating ineffective.

    That’s why I still say we get rid of spam.
    Is it possible to hate the spam, not the spammer?

  15. It seems to me that most comment spam isn’t actually comment spam but trackback spam. Doing a simple action of matching the IP address of where the trackback is coming from against the IP address of where it should be coming from (ie the site that’s supposed to be sending the trackback) should get rid of 99% of the trackback spam that we see. We’ve had this solution in place for a couple of weeks now so we don’t have any solid numbers but we’re seeing very little crud get through. Most that is getting through is actually scrappers copying the article which we actually do want to know about so we can follow up with legal takedown notifications. (We get those since the IP address in this case does match up with the site.)

    We’ve also noticed that a large amount of comment spam comes from only a few IP addresses. While some hosts like ev1/ theplanet and those found in mother Russia could care less about following up on complaints, usually a quick email to the abuse desk gets the hacked box off line. And there’s always a quick addition to your htaccess file to block the IP address.

    Gotta admit that we removed Akismet from my clients install. It had way too many false positives, continued marking non-spam as such did little to solve the problem and their servers were down often so using the plugin was moot anyway. That’s got us started on finding alternative solutions to stopping comment spam.

    Thanks,
    -drmike

  16. Mark,
    Sure. I don’t think we have to hate people. But we can dislike what they do. I just wonder what type of businesses are really benefitting from this.

    drmike,
    Interesting idea. How did you implement it?

    For me, I think I get more comment spam than trackback spam, but I’m not sure. I’ll have to look.

    OsiriX,
    I really think we can band together and snuff out spammers. If we make their life harder, many will stop.

  17. Very interesting story.

  18. I definitiely will continue the do-follow and for now just mark comment spam as comment spam and wait for aksimet to catch on.

    As far as what we can do as a community, I’m not sure what would be effective.

  19. Another do follow plugin to consider is Link love. This lets you turn off nofollow tags after someone has commented x amount of times. I think I may try this one out.

  20. Laz,
    I agree with you. And I think the way to snuff out spamming is to go after the spammers themselves. I just haven’t heard of anyone willing to lead the way yet.

    Todd,
    Cute…

  21. ses5909,
    I like Link Love too. Either work fine. I like to give the link love right away, though.

    If you think of something, or run across something around stopping spammers, give me a holler.

  22. Spammers just keep comming up with new idea, don’t they. They latest I got, was a comment written in japanese. I had no idea if this was spam or not, until another blogger translated it for me. I have no idea how to stop this, besides from using plugins to spot it..

  23. Jakob,
    Interesting. I still can’t believe this stuff really works.

  24. Actually, my spam has been divided ten-fold by installing theBad Behaviour plugin.

    What little spam then still trickles through is then mercilessly caught by Askimet, which hardly (if ever) catches legitimate comments.

  25. The Internet(and the Blogosphere)are interesting creatures in the sense that they are free to anyone with access to the technology. It’s extremely empowering technology for this reason.

    I don’t want to touch the Freedom of Speech issue with regard to spam (there have been arguments that spam is a form of free speech).

    But it’s interesting to me because freedom of speech was intended to give everyone a voice: something critical in a democracy but by giving everyone a voice, groups that make many of us cringe: neo nazis, for example, have the right to express their views. The point is, prohibit one group and where does it end.

    I have no love for spam, believe me. I use Askimet and I still get stuff that slips through. Just reading some of the subject lines make me want to take a hot shower with lots of soap.

    But it seems to me that the only real solution with teeth is to begin charging for online commerce because it would finally remove the economic incentive that fuels spam to begin with.

    I’m not saying not to pursue the grassroots efforts folks are mentioning, but it seems to me that as long as the Internet is free, spam will be present.

    And, I think something as powerful and amazing as the Internet should remain free. Spam (not malicious viruses and such) is an annoying but relatively small price to pay.

  26. Astorg,
    With some adjustments, I’m seeing the same thing now. Very little spam is getting past BB.

    Judy,
    Interesting points. The bottom line is that spam works – or people wouldn’t be paid to do it. And no pay, means no spammers. So it is about removing the economic incentives.

    Yet, how can we really do that? Seems to me more productive, more possible, to take down spammers themselves – even though that’s a huge proposition in its own right.

  27. I have been looking at ways to attack the people who pay the spammers. From my study, it seems to me that some very large companies are filtering money to spammers through SEOs. That is the impression I get, from the investigating I have done, it seems logical.

    My approach would be to track down the companies that are providing the spammers their money, and start making it know who the spammers are being paid by. Then start boycotting their products in a very public and vocal way.

  28. Grant,
    Not a bad idea. I think that’s one of the only ways to stop spammers – hit ‘em in their profits.

  29. [quote comment=”11156″]Grant,
    Not a bad idea. I think that’s one of the only ways to stop spammers – hit ‘em in their profits.[/quote]

    Thanks! Could I explain my logic on how it should be reasonably easy to find out which companies are paying the comment spammers? I would like to bounce my ideas off some others to see if they make sense, but don’t want to be accused of spamming while explaining.

    I am curious about some of the really big company names I have seen in comment spams. It might be logical to assume that these large companies are paying the spammer. But I am wondering, do they include the names of popular companies in their spam to help associate their own (or their client’s) web site with those large companies, or are they trying to mask who is paying them by including the names of the large companies?

    It would stand to reason, if you isolate a spammer, and see in six or eight of his posts the same company (or companies), you could start isolating who is paying him.

    Does that make sense?

  30. Grant,
    Makes sense. And I’m certainly for it. Spamming is not only a pain in the butt, it’s against the law. So why not hold spammers and people paying spammers accountable.

  31. Exactly what law does spammin break? And if you want to look for the companies paying spammers,.. might wanna start with the big G

  32. Matt,
    Check out the US CAN-SPAM Act. You can download the legislation documents here.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Alert: See How Comment Spam is Getting Trickier to Spot from Dawud […]

  2. […] Alert: See How Comment Spam Is Getting Trickier To Spot – Dawud Miracle @ dmiracle.com – I guess it must because it just keeps increasing. And not only increasing, but it’s getting harder to spot – especially for those of us who often get a lot of comments and get a lot of spam. (tags: spam commentspam blogging) […]

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