Milestone: 100,000 Fake Blog Comments (And Counting)

E.politics passed a significant milestone this weekend, but it’s not one that I’m likely to celebrate: the site received its 100,000th spam comment. As of late January, six months after e.politics launched, only 20,000 fake comments had come in, but I’m proud to say that a five-fold increase has taken only four months. Tomorrow, the world!

Of course, I’m not wading through these suckers by hand — the Akismet plug-in for WordPress takes care of all but a few each week. Most of them are ridiculously obvious, i.e., this one that came in today:

Name: bicycle saddle bag | URI: | IP: | Date: June 4, 2007

bicycle saddle bag…

ka-ka-sh-ka 1214078 Value information about bicycle saddle bag…

Or this one, which is about the least sexually explicit X-rated one that’s arrived this morning (you can imagine what the others were like).

Name: black foot sex | URI: | IP: | Date: June 4, 2007

black foot sex…

Good information source for black foot sex….

They’ll often come in waves of similar messages like these did, clearly sent out by single person or company. Weirdly, these two examples link to sites that don’t seem to exist, so I’m not quite sure what their purpose is — normally, spam comments try to send traffic to fake blogs (“splogs”) that make money through Google Ads or other contextual advertising.

The spammers don’t just hit the comments, though: they’re also infiltrating my server logs. For instance, my ISP’s stat program extracts the search terms people use to find the site through Google et al. Here are the top twenty for June, as of 4 a.m. today, with rank first, number of requests second and the actual search phrase third:

1 55 .png format
2 45 american expressions
3 34 rachael ray sucks
4 30 ron paul
5 15 samantha brown
6 14
7 5 craigslist
8 2 cell phones and politics
9 2 dan hazelwood photo
10 2 e-politics
11 2 email list management
12 2 macaca video
13 2 webb and youtube macaca
14 1 advertising tactics for google
15 1 bahrain election google earth
16 1 cheap tools for advocacy
17 1 colin delany
18 1 components of effective political campaign
19 1 computer broadcast of presidential debates
20 1 conservative social networking

Of the top six, only ONE (Ron Paul, about whom I wrote this weekend) is legitimate — the others must be intended to get me to run that query in a search engine to see why my site shows up. Of course it won’t, because the words “Rachel Ray sucks” did not appear on e.politics until just now. I can only assume that the spammers have managed to plant an ad-generating site high in the search results for these particular phrases and are hoping that they can gin up some traffic this way. Seems like a pretty random way to make money to me, but it must not cost them a dime to ping a site like e.politics.

Another trick — referral spam! When I look through the list of “referring sites” (sites that someone was on when they clicked over to e.politics), I’ll find a few like this: If you click through, you see that it’s a perfect spam page, composed of nothing but ads and a link to a random article on e.politics. Clearly, these pages are generated automatically and by the thousands. They’re more of an annoyance than anything else, since I can generally ignore them when I’m checking stats, but they do add to the clutter. And, if e.politics gets links from a bunch of sites that Google labels as spammers, that can actually hurt my Google ranking. Which would suck.

None of these are fatal problems yet, but they’re also only getting worse. And if spam forces more and more sites to cut off comments and trackbacks, we’ll lose a significant part of what makes the blogosphere works, as Wired pointed out last year. And that would REALLY suck.


Written by
Colin Delany
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