Comment spam is one of the biggest blights on the Internet. As far as I’m concerned, comment spam is the single most despicable and destructive force on the Internet today. Yes, we have problems with censorship, government infringement, copyright infringement, and other abusive issues, but comment spam is a plague that infests everyone.
Part of the reason blogging is such a powerful phenomenon is the interactive nature of blogs. It’s all about the comments. We live every day for those precious comments, those responses back to our written words and visual images. And then scum-sucking evil fills our comment “inbox”, clogging up the Internet airwaves.
It saps our enthusiasm, energy, wastes our time, and, I honestly believe it stops many from blogging or continuing to blog. Glorified sexual positions and partners, popular writing or news stories packed with links to porn or casinos, solicitations for drugs, prescription meds, cell phone ringtones, financial beggars, and just plain crap wear us down. It’s not fun finding them. It’s not fun dealing with them. And it makes blogging not fun. It becomes work.
Because dealing with comment spam is now work, and it impacts our blogging in so many ways, I’ve spent a lot of time writing about comment spam over the past year. What really gets me is that they don’t get it. For the most part, over 98% of all comment spam is caught and put out of its misery, usually before it ever sees the light of day. It’s a lost battle, and yet the idiots keep fighting. I’m beginning to think of comment and email spammers as a terrorist group. They believe resistance is not futile.
Comment spam is insulting. It is insulting to our hard work. It is insulting to our intelligence. And most of all, it is insulting to the human race. Are people so bored or desperate that they honestly think that creating comment spam is a worthy occupation? Especially when they continue to do so against overwhelming failure due to powerful comment spam fighting tools?
I guess comment spammers must have the intellectual level of a two year old who still giggles hysterically after the 48th time they’ve rammed their tricycle into the garage door. It ain’t going to open the door, and it isn’t going to help the door. Nor the tricycle. You say “no” and the kid giggles harder. After the 56th time, it still isn’t funny and no one except the kid is laughing.
With the spread of scum-sucking comment spammers, blogging software had to become more defensive and more responsive in controlling comment spam. Blog administrators started managing comments rather than just enjoying them.
As the comment spam fighting tools got more sophisticated, comment spammers got more creative. Early last year we started getting “nice comments” that said “thank you” and lovely compliments about our blogs. A closer inspection found that their domain addresses/URLs were not to kind and nice bloggers, but porn, casinos, drugs, credit cards, mortgage companies, and banks.
Since many people understood the value of a link, they commented on blogs in order to get link backs to their own blogs. Comment spammers understood the value of this even better, so many blog products, like WordPress, decided to put a
rel="nofollow" relationship in comment links. This instructs search engines not to follow the link, killing the power of the links in comments. Many thought that this would be a hard enough slap on the wrist of comment spammers and slow them down if not stop them, but they completely ignored it. I guess they thought bloggers were dumb enough to leave comment spam on their blogs and readers were dumb enough to click the links manually.
Unfortunately, they were right. Comment spammers continue to bring in loads of money. Which is why they keep doing it.
So we started paying more attention to the details in comment spam, getting out our magnifying glasses, as did the comment spam fighting tools. Blacklists were created to filter out any known comment spammers by their IP address. Comment spammers came up with clever ways to quickly change or hide their IP and identifying addresses. They also started hammering the same post over and over again, hunting for a response time lag in comment fighting tools to slip a couple in. Fighting comment spam became a war, not an assault.
Still, at least in the WordPress community, comment spam fighting tools have continued to beat comment spammers into the ground, yet they aren’t getting the hint. Yesterday, I woke up to find over 300 comment spams caught by Akismet, and five still managed to get through. This is rare. Akismet continues to capture over 99% of all my comment spam. In my Comments panel, I marked the five as spam and then went to the Akismet tab and deleted all of those. When the page reloaded, there were 11 more. I deleted all those, and 3 new ones appeared. I deleted all those, and there was one that snuck in – caught. I returned a few minutes later and found 68 more comment spams caught. Indeed, this is a war. Luckily for us, Akismet is winning.
Discussing this in a program I presented last year on blogging and writing on the Internet, a participant asked me how I knew it was a spam bot (computer program) not a person leaving all those “nice” spam comments. As I explained to my audience the clues, such as the same comment posted 49 times, or the URL linking to a casino or porn site, I also had to consider the issue of cheap labor turning away from telemarketing to comment spamming. There may come a time when the spam bot is replaced by a human, making this a much more complex issue.
Last year we were attacked by a spam bot that grabbed content from our posts and inserted it into the comments, looking like they were talking about what we were talking about. What if humans took over the job? Imagine a hot and sweaty room stuffed with tons of computers and tired workers connected to the blogosphere. The workers poke and prod blogrolls, take a second or two to get the gist of your blog post’s content, and then tap in something that honestly sounds legit, including using your name and a reference or two about the content. During the recent Blogathon, I was able to quickly peruse more than 30 blogs an hour. How many could 50-100 workers do an hour? With software that hides or changes IP addresses randomly and automatically, how to do fight sweat shop comment spamming.
I’m glad I’m in the business of promoting comment spam fighting tools and methods and not writing the programs that fight comment spam. I have incredible admiration and respect for these folks. They are making the world a better and safer place to blog.
Why not write a “hug a comment spam fighter” post today. The brilliant folks who put so much time, effort, and ingenuity into fighting comment spam and making the blogosphere a safe place to blog deserve our thanks and appreciation. Hug a comment spam fighter today. ;-)
As for the rest of you who battle with comment spam on your blogs every day, keep up the fight. Just as we should not let a few people caught planning an airline terrorist event who were not in an airport, nor near an airport, and not even with purchased airline tickets in their possession, change the rules for millions of airline travelers, allowing terrorists to win again – do not let comment spammers win. Keep blogging. It’s worth it. They are not.
As you can tell, I’ve had plenty to say about comment spam this year, helping you understand what it is, how to avoid it, and how to spot it. Here are some highlights:
Articles on Comment Spam
- What is Comment Spam?
- Calling All Stupid Comment Spammers
- A Day in the Life of a Paranoid Website Administrator
- Website Hammered by Hotlinking, Spammers, and Free Loaders?
- The Power of the Link
- Content Specific Comment Spam on the Loose
- Illegal Internet Gambling and Gambling Comment Spam
- Comment Spam: Vengeance is Theirs and Mine
- Looks Like Your Page Was Heavily Hit By Spam – Yeah, Right, Spammer
- Akismet Smacked By Comment Spam: The Stats
- Check Your WordPress.com Comments for Comment Spam
- Imprisonment for Annoying People Online
- Comment Spam Fighter Spam Karma 2.1 Released
- Comment Spam Catcher Spam Karma 2.2 Released
- Bad Behavior – Latest Update
- Bad Behavior Fighting Comment Spam Before It Gets In – Updated New Release
- The Attack of the Spam-Bots from Hell
- Spam: Stupid Pointless Annoying Messages in Emails, Comments, and Everywhere
- Comment Spammers Getting Smarter – But Not Smart Enough
- New Comment Spammer on the Loose – Pay Attention
- My Daily Tasks With WordPress
- Traffic Trolls – Creating Controversy to Increase Blog Traffic
- Comment Spammers Now Using Hebrew to Fool You
- Comment Spam and Viral Marketing – BBS Weblog Watch
- WordPress.com Users Hit By Direct Attack – Stopped in its Tracks
- Mystery Solved: Introducing Akismet Comment Spam Protection
- Americans Spend 40% of Their Time Online Deleting Spam
- Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll Replaced by Sex, Drugs, and Mortgage Rates
- Katrina Comment Spam Assaults Blogs
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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network