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Content Specific Comment Spam on the Loose

This weekend, I found several comments I believed to be legitimate on a couple of my blogs. The wording was specifically targeted and related towards the content. I even responded to two, thinking they were legit. They were not.

You need to know that while WordPress, various WordPress Plugin authors, and many blog comment spam fighting tools are working overtime to fight off comment spam from your blogs, the comment spammers are working equally, if not more, to overcome comment spam filters and checkers and testers.

These new comment spammers look for related keywords and post a vague but specific comment related to the keywords. A careful check of the URL/address of the website shows that it links to a splog or commercial website. So the URL is the only clue that this comment is comment spam.

I had several comments that asked me specifically about how hard WordPress was to install, questions on PHP code on articles with PHP code, and about whether or not they thought they should give WordPress a try compared to other blogging platforms.

These sound legitimate, don’t they. After all, I’ve written extensively about these topics here and on other of my sites. I even responded to two of them before I noticed the URL and checked them out.

One led to a splog with possibly stolen articles (possibly from feeds) with extensive writing on the topic of blogging, which was definitely more technically advanced and aware than the simple question they asked in my comments. A closer look revealed added keywords for ring tones and other gimmick marketing within the content. Definitely a splog (spam blog). Another URL led to a site that was clearly commercial and again, selling blog sites and programs. If the simple question on my site was indeed true, about “teaching an old dog new tricks” and how they didn’t want to learn something new but hire someone to do it for them, then this person was lying or an idiot. I choose comment spammer and deleted the comment.

If, by chance, you are leaving comments and just putting in any old URL just because you don’t want to be traced back to your website, and you put in commercial or well-known URL (like cnn.com), then your comment is suspect. If you don’t want to be deleted, then leave the URL/Address blank.

The only other clue is that these “nice and specific comments” are comment spam is that they tend to hit the same post repeatedly with some time lag in between. Most spam fighting programs easily check for how often a comment hits a post and if X number arrive within so many seconds or minutes, they recognize all of them as comment spam and catch them. However, if the comment spammers have learned how to work around those time limits, it just makes it easier for them to slide through.

The only way these will be caught is by a service that checks web page addresses against a blacklist. Unfortunately, they can generate websites faster than we can delete comment spam, so this is a tough battle to fight.

Until the comment spam fighting tools can catch up with these comment spamming new monsters, be aware that even nice comments can be spam comments. Just pay closer attention and check those URLs. If suspicious, delete them. If not sure, then remove the URL and leave the comment. Then you can keep the comment but take away the comment spammer’s linking power and desires.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

13 Comments

  1. Posted August 15, 2006 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    How do you deal with human-made spam, like the classic:

    “I like your blog, please visit mine” with a link to a crappy emo blog or something, no related to any spam theme, usually without advertising, just anoying kids trying to bandwagon your popularity?

  2. Posted August 15, 2006 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Cardoso: I delete those. Why? Because it’s so horribly far off topic. Besides, if they’re leaving a comment like that they probably aren’t one of your regular readers so they more than likely won’t be back even if you’re nice to them.

  3. Posted August 15, 2006 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    I’m starting to see people leaving a link to my article, How NOT to Comment on Comments, just above their comment box. While a compliment, it also says a lot to people about what kind of comments to expect.

    As always, your comments, in general, tend to reflect the caliber of writing on your blog. Which is why this new comment spam trick is so annoying. I’m so paranoid about these things that even I was caught off guard. The missed spelling of two fairly common words was my first clue that something was wrong. After all, how often do you see “tehy” and “taht” missed in one sentence. That was a little beyond dyslexia. Sadly, the other clearly comment spam nice comments had no misspellings. Darn. ;-)

  4. Posted August 15, 2006 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    It’s good you keep up the fight against the spammers, Lorelle. It is annoying and can be tough to keep up, but we should continue. For me, the positive aspects of being able to interact with others in a positive way still outweighs the negative aspects of having to deal with spam. Too bad it costs so much time. I have had luck with Akismet though, on one of my sites almost 99% gets blocked automatically.

  5. Posted August 15, 2006 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    The whole comment spam phenomenom needs to stop. I’m so tired of going to moderate comments and thinking it’s real, but seeing that the URL doesn’t match. I suppose it pays to be suspicious when letting things through.

    I’m also sick of fake trackbacks and pingbacks. I mean, they are real, sure, but they lead to splogs and whatnot. And how many people really check their trackbacks for relevance?

    Thanks for highlighting some of the new tricks spammers are using to confuse us.

  6. Posted August 15, 2006 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    So far, I haven’t seen much spam on blogs that require registration, such as the creativebits; it’s a pain for the commenters but it seems to work for now (Until comment bots figure out how to register and then spam).

  7. Posted August 15, 2006 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Rosana,
    Comments which require authentication or captchas are often easily bypassed by comment spammers, so don’t be fooled by that. I’ve seen plenty of comment spam on many blogs requiring authentication and registration. They had to get in someway.

    While they do help, the sad part of many of these captchas is that legitimate commenters don’t comment when confronted with them and/or have terrible trouble getting past them so they give up. It’s a fine line to walk. Currently, comment spam fighters that WordPress has available do an amazing job. I’d rather use those than anything that gets in the way of my blog and a comment.

  8. Posted August 16, 2006 at 3:50 am | Permalink

    I’ve had a few of them myself – it seems to be getting harder to detect the spam from the good comments sometimes and only careful checking can stop the spam comments getting through.

  9. Posted August 16, 2006 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Agreed. Registration and captchas use to alienate your visitors. I have a typekey account, but it´s so anoying how they forget their own cookie all the time. I simply do not comment on typekey-enabled blogs anymore.

  10. Posted August 16, 2006 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    It’s sad Lorelle to realize, that when some clever AI comes into play, you can’t tell a real comment from a fake one.
    Harvesting machines and semantic processing will lead to readable comments, untouched by human brains.

    Extrapolating just a little bit, I predict that the Semantic Web of the future will be self sustained.
    Blogger can just sit back and read, and let the blogging automata discuss and post and comment on all that matters in the world ;)

    Beware though, this is not a fake comment!

  11. Posted November 23, 2006 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    didn’t find one, but you can search yourself. Your host server logs will tell you, and I didn’t find a WordPress Plugin that reads that information, though there might be one.

    You can also check out the WordPress Plugins in AntiLeech Splog Stopper: Fighting Back Against Content Thieves to see if they might work for that. Let me know if you find one.

  12. Jia Liu
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Thanks. Ur clarification get my headache away. I’ve been bothered by not be able to comment for months and I guess my blog Url was put in black list by WordPress. Don’t know why though~

  13. Posted April 24, 2008 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    @ Jia Liu:

    WordPress does not keep a “blacklist” on anything. Akismet, owned by the parent company of WordPress, marks comments as comment spam because 1) people assign them as comment spam, and 2) because they match spam characteristics.

    If your comments are being caught by Akismet or other comment spam filters, reassess how you comment and ask those blog owners to remove you from the queue. Akismet learns as you use it, so it will learn to unblock you.


6 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Lorelle goes over some interesting content specific spam that she has recieved lately. These new comment spammers look for related keywords and post a vague but specific comment related to the keywords. A careful check of the URL/address of the website shows that it links to a splog or commercial website. So the URL is the only clue that this comment is comment spam. [...]

  2. [...] Lorelle has posted on Content Specific Comment Spam on the Loose and details the scourge that comment spam is becoming as the spammers improve their techniques: This weekend, I found several comments I believed to be legitimate on a couple of my blogs. The wording was specifically targeted and related towards the content. I even responded to two, thinking they were legit. They were not. [...]

  3. [...] And it’s a good thing to, because judging by their prose, they’re some of the dumbest mugs alive. Well now they’re wising up a bit. They used to say “Nice Site I’m love it”, but they realised that wasn’t getting past most humans. Now they’re using a big of technology to pull keywords, so the spam is context sensitive. Now it will take 3 seconds for a human to decipher if it’s spam, instead of two. [...]

  4. [...] Content Specific Comment Spam on the Loose [...]

  5. […] Content Specific Comment Spam on the Loose […]

  6. […] Content Specific Comment Spam on the Loose […]

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