Comment Spam and Other Annoyances

If you’re running a weblog you have no doubt seen thousands of nonsensical comments (hopefully caught by filtering) whose sole purpose is to put a spam link in the sender address. Greg Stevens’ enlightening article Revealed: the grubby world of comment spam describes GScraper, a commercial program that automates their creation.

You type in some keywords, and the tool will find blogs and news articles that contain the keywords you are looking for. Once you have a list, the tool provides information about each web page that it finds: it tells you the title, the page rank of the website, how many outbound links the page has, and whether comments can be left on the page. You can refine your search to only look at certain types of web pages, or to view only pages updated within a particular period of time.

Any required sender e-mail is faked, e.g. with a randomized gmail address. Comments can be posted through proxies to escape IP bans. Stevens believes the existence of such tools also explain those mystifying spam comments that lack any valid spam links: it’s new users who are either still experimenting or simply don’t know what they’re doing!

Stevens also cites an illuminating infographic by SEO (search engine optimization) specialist Aaron Wall. What is Spam? juxtaposes SEO practices condemned by Google and other big search engines with very similar practices – employed by those same search engines! Spam annoys me regardless of its source, but one should never forget the true purpose – and cost – of Google’s quest to control everyone’s Internet experience.

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