The Trouble With Spam Comments

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 7:30 | Filed in Scams & Spams

Spam comments used to be entertaining to read. You’d get some half-developed story — see Spam Stories for the sort of thing — with either a few random links thrown in through the article, or maybe just even in the commenter’s URL.

However, as spam filters changed and we started to see less of these getting through, spammers seem to have returned to the original technique of just trying to add a big pile of links in the comment section. These don’t get through anywhere where you’ve got a decent spam filter either, but it’s presumably less effort for the spammers to send them out.

And that’s a shame. Probably less than one in fifty spam comments actually bothers to make the effort not to look like spam anymore.

I usually don’t leave comments!!! Trust me! But I liked your blog…especially this post! Would you mind terribly if I put up a backlink from my site to your site?

No, not at all (although up to now, they haven’t). But I won’t be approving your comment, as I tend to feel anyone who thinks that their actual name is ‘plumbing services’ or ‘online dating’ is not a real commenter and is simply trying to include their message for the link.

Some of them look okay at first glance

I don’t usually reply to posts but I will in this case. I’ve been experiencing this very same problem with a new WordPress installation of mine. I’ve spent weeks calibrating and getting it ready when all of a sudden, I cannot delete any content.Spammer

If the post in question had maybe related to upgrading wordpress, this might have been reasonable. However, the post was being critical of the media for claiming that ‘experts’ had declared that photographs with ghosts on them were genuine, despite the only experts being consulted being from mediums and paranormal investigators, as opposed to say, sceptics and debunkers. In this case therefore, it’s difficult to see how the same problem could apply to someone’s WordPress installation (“my wordpress installation is haunted and I cannot get sufficient experts to confirm my ghost”).

This is why it was quite nice to get a spammer to post a relevant comment. I classified it as a spammer owing to the name “online dating”, but the comment itself was actually relevant and appropriate to the article in question (relating to a 21-year old with Downs who wanted a sexual relationship). I didn’t agree with the comment, but I’ve never tried to crush dissent, so I was happy to approve the comment, once I’d stripped the contact details out…

And that’s nice; to know that some spammers are actually going as far as reading the articles in question before commenting on them, instead of the usual mass-produced forty links shit. Increasingly, these forty links aren’t to the genurioc vigara and porn type of links (or don’t appear to be), they are to a rather eclectic mix of other stuff…

  • dragons pictures
  • washington state department of licencing
  • free sunday school lessons
  • history of swimming
  • craigs list denver
  • dog breads
  • bladder infection symptoms

See? That certainly counts as eclectic, wouldn’t you say? I particularly like ‘dog breads’. Not sure if it’s supposed to be dog breeds, bread for people shaped like dogs, or bread cooked specifically for dogs.

In many cases now I think these are being pushed for two reasons: one is the continual search for Page Rank (basically, for the non-IT people, the more sites link to you, the higher you are likely to appear in Google’s search rankings), and the second is advertising. It doesn’t actually matter if each site you set up only provides an absolute pittance in terms of site advertising: if you’ve got the software to set up and maintain thousands of sites automatically, those pittances will soon add up…

Of course, there’s always the risk that these sites host malicious code, and that anyone with javascript enabled when they visit them will spend their visit unwittingly downloading viruses and trojans (use Firefox and Noscript and don’t visit these sites in the first place).

But the most annoying sort of spam I encounter at the moment is the page-scraper pingback spam. The whole pingback idea is that if someone posts an article somewhere which links to mine (for example, someone discussing on their blog a subject I have talked about), I get sent a ‘pingback’. This is effectively treated as a type of ‘comment’ as it allows people to follow the conversation on other sites too.

However, increasingly these pingback comments aren’t actually from genuine people wishing to discuss my article, they are page-scraperbots which take the first paragraph or two of one of my articles as an excerpt and link back to my article. Only they aren’t actually discussing it, or adding anything of value, they’re simply spouting this drivel in order to try and get the pingback comment — the link from your site to theirs, for exactly the same reason as the other spammers do it.

They can be quite easy to manually spot: they generally begin “[name] wrote an interesting post today…” although there are a few variations on the theme.

Here’s a recent one I had:

[...] Someone I’ve heard of added an interesting post on ThePickards Blog Archive Sonnys DelightHere’s a small excerptSo there was three adults (me, the wife, the elderly mother) and the two kids. Arriving at the restaurant, we were shown to a nice table. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about the wine list as we didn’t really have any â?? bar one … [...]

As you can see, this referenced my post Sonnys Delight, but added absolutely nothing to it. It’s all just an attempt to get me to link back to them. And this sort of spam is bloody irritating because for some reason my spam filters appear considerably poorer at stopping this sort so I frequently have to clean ‘em out manually.

So I’d therefore like to make two requests:

  • Can those people behind spam comment filters improve the way they handle page-scraper pingback spam? At the very least dump it into the moderation queue…
  • Can those people behind spam comments actually try and make them a bit more interesting? They used to be an entertaining read and now it is just a pain in the arse…
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5 Comments to The Trouble With Spam Comments

  1. Gary Miller says:

    March 24th, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Hi Jack,

    Well said that man! I’ve just launched my own blog and will probably face the same problems!

    Ironic isn’t it – the comment ahead of mine is obviously spam.



  2. says:

    March 25th, 2009 at 8:58 am

    very good post, thank you for your postCan you visit & review my site, [Spammer's domain]?

    [JackP: no]

  3. says:

    August 30th, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    How To Change Your Business…

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  4. Jahlin says:

    December 10th, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    I have extalcy what info I want. Check, please. Wait, it’s free? Awesome!

  5. vpxhws says:

    December 12th, 2012 at 11:27 pm

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