RSS spam

The following post by Stephen Baker reminded me of something I saw the other day:

"My colleague Rob Hof has been complaining about a new kind of comment spam at Tech Beat that appears to be personalized. It focuses on the content of the post. I have trouble understanding how spammers, working one blog at a time, can generate a return on such detailed work."

(Answer: the same way a government can afford to create a firewall by zapping one IP packet at a time. Cheaply. Btw, the above story related to something Tom Coates wrote up about someone comment spamming his blog)

I've got an annoying little twat doing this exact same one-comment-spam-at-a-time thing to me. Each day, some muppet adds a comment that says something along the lines of:  'ooh, yes, you're quite right!', or 'yes, I completely agree?', pointing to some poker porn site.

And there is RSS spam. This is what they do:  They know there are losers like me who track links to my blog or mentioning my name (and smart pr folks who are tracking citations of their company name or product brands). I use Technorati, IceRocket, and PubSub, etc to set up a search and track new results via RSS (trackbacks to posts do this too, but trackbacks are generally unreliable, certainly on this blog...they also require a link to work).  What the RSS spammers do is pour a whole bunch of items into their RSS feeds that contain names of people (bloggers they've found I assume, or re-use email list names?) and links to blog posts.  This acts as oney to bears...

The technique is similar to trackback spam, but is RSS powered - they aren't relying on trackbacks to work.  I clicked on one of the RSS baits, not knowing it was spam and was greeted by the followin on a webpage:

'Hi Alex, how would you like to be a whole *two inches* bigger?'. <Click here> for immediate improvement.

Since I'm on a diet, I passed on this generous offer, but I was secretly impressed by the spammers slyness and inginouity.  No doubt more 'respectable' online markteters will be trying this trick out soon...

Question to the feed search engine folks...(David Sifry Blake Rhodes, Bill Bob Wyman are you listening?) do we stop this? Can we?  It can't be good for your business if this kind of thing takes off, can it?

(Update: Oct 16 2005: All this has a name - splogs (or splogging) - and it has a finally got noticed by others as a problem.)

Comments (4)
  1. Bob Wyman says:

    Yes, I’m listening. But, my name is "Bob Wyman." Bill Wyman plays for the Rolling Stones our family trees diverge in about 1610 so we’re not even close relatives!

    Spam is a hard problem and we’re working on it. Unfortunately, I can’t say that we’ve got it solved. As you point out, the spammers can apparently get a decent return even when they are creating bogus links one at a time. Unfortunately, we haven’t found an economically feasible method of filtering them out one at a time. But, we’re working on it. Please bear with us.

    bob wyman

  2. David Sifry says:

    Alex, you’re absolutely right, it is not a good thing. Technorati has been putting in a LOT of time and energy identifying, fighting, and killing these spam and fake blogs. I hope that you find that Technorati results, while being very recent and complete, also have less spam.

    This is a hard problem, and nobody is going to solve it 100%, but we’ve been thinking through this a lot and have already created a number of ways to work with publishers, authors, and affiliate programs, for example, to kill the economic motivations for this kind of spam as well.

    We are working with other folks in the industry to work through these issues and if not completely eliminate spam (impossible) then to make it economically unfeasable.


  3. MSDNArchive says:

    Bob and David, thanks for the quick response (amazing!).

    Bill, er I mean Bob, sorry about the name confusion! Will correct.


  4. Blake Rhodes says:

    Definately working on this. As Bob mentioned it is a tough task and we will do our best to solve this.

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