Not Good: Human Spam And Dumb Bloggers Are Killing Comments And Trackbacks?

Filed as News on April 23, 2010 8:08 pm

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While bloggers may have won the war against spam bots via plugins like Akismet, WP-SpamFree and Sabre (not to mention a whole list of Movabletype plugins), it looks like these evil “promotional” companies have switched tactics by hiring desperate humans to promote their silly products (via Read Write Web).

(Official Akismet Blog) Human-posted spam has been on the rise for some time. Low-paid workers are hired by “SEO” firms to post comments on blogs and forums, advertising their clients’ web sites (typically small local businesses). The workers generally operate out of internet cafes and universities, particularly in India, South-East Asia, and Turkey. The quality of comments varies, with the best written spam usually coming from SE Asia. There are now sophisticated marketplaces set up specifically for hiring manual workers to do this kind of spam.

When it comes thwarting spammers, human spam is the most difficult to block, due to the fact that half the time their comments will be on topic.

Worse, blocking these individuals via IP address is now useless, as Akismet is reporting that many spammers are spoofing legitimate IP addresses from schools, businesses and governments (making IP blocking irrelevant).

It’s only after visiting the URL of your newest fan that you discover the real intent of commenting was to improve their respective SEO and not engage in a meaningful conversation.

Although human comment spam is a big enough issue by itself, it looks like trackbacks and pingbacks may become extinct in the near future thanks to gullible people attempting to become blogging pro’s overnight

(Official Akismet Blog) Autoblog pingback spam is now so bad that many blogs are refusing to accept any pingbacks at all. There’s no single source or group behind this – rather, gullible people are following “make money on the internet” instructions that recommend creating fake blogs on discount shared hosts and running ads. They use packages of WordPress plugins that copy content from other blogs or article publishing sites, and send pingbacks to many blogs try to get backlinks and traffic. There are large numbers of people doing this, and most of them have many such blogss. [sic]

Akismet goes on to explain that trackbacks (which are similar to pingbacks) are also facing extinction (as even spammers are abandoning them), which means bloggers in the future may have to search Technorati or Google Blog Search to see who is linking to their respective post.

So how can we, as bloggers fight these annoying people without breaking some heads the law? If you have a suggestion, feel free to enlighten us in the comment section below.

Update (4/27): Here are a few suggestions on how to fight human comment spam. Feel free to join the discussion here or upon BloggingPro!

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  1. By ThinkingBrian posted on April 23, 2010 at 8:52 pm
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    I can tell you first hand that I have had this problem on my blog RaceDriven with people commenting on the topic and linking to a company site for the exposure instead of using the advertise like normal companies do.

    I will also say that I do look at every comment that comes it, but some do get through because the link doesn’t show up until after I approve the comment. I have countered it by checking everything twice and rejecting comments. I will also say that I have taken a good comment and reposted it without the link, but that’s going to the extreme.

    Bottom line, I hate it, it takes alot of the fun out of commenting and reading comments. As a blogger you want to hear what your readers think, but this spamming through comments is terrible and takes alot of the fun out of it.

    However there is two counter moves you cen make:
    1. Only accept registered users comments like openID. No name and url allowed.
    2. Check every comment for links before approving them. For a huge blog or forum, this could be very time consuming.

    Right now I’m considering it, but its not something I want to do considering it might lose me several good comments because the readers just don’t want to take the extra step. By the way over at mashable, I have noticed some of those types of comments getting and readers don’t like it at all.

    Reply

  2. By Corey Freeman - Simple Blog Coach posted on April 24, 2010 at 3:37 am
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    I think that we’re going to have to band together and say that copying content is not acceptable, backlink or no. I personally think free services should have a policy against building “feed blogs” as they add little-to-no value to the overall community. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) Perhaps instigating real changes in the way we combat such practices will lead to more honest business practices.

    It’s unfortunate to see “experts” recommending such methods as spamming free blog sites. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned article marketing?

    Reply

  3. By Dane Morgan posted on April 24, 2010 at 7:22 am
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    There isn’t much of anything I can see on the horizon to defeat human spam. Nothing you can do can’t be countered by a human operator short of simply moderating every single comment from any non trusted source.

    Trackback and pingback spam is another matter. It’s not necessarily simple, but it is doable. Anything that can be coded can be coded against. Any lock can be picked. Even with the splogs, the vast majority of legit pings link back and the vast majority of iligit pings do not. For those that do link back, something on the order of a copyscape type check would likely detect the overwhelming majority of remaining ping/track spam.

    Ping/track are way too important as real tools for dialog to abandon lightly. Losing them would be a serious detriment to legitimate discourse, and it is worth fighting to keep them.

    Reply

  4. By Dane Morgan posted on April 24, 2010 at 7:27 am
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    @ThinkingBrian – With your concept, you wouldn’t really even have to moderate all user generated comments, just those containing a link. Thats simple with WordPress at least, just set the number of links to trigger moderation to one instead of the default two. Also there are already openid plugins available, as well as plugins for allowing logins through various other SN sites.

    Reply

  5. By CGHill posted on April 24, 2010 at 4:40 pm
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    So far, I have managed to avoid the worst of this by twiddling the WordPress settings. New commenters, or commenters who use one of the handful of Forbidden Words, will land in the moderation queue, as will all pings. My traffic volume is small enough (3000-4000 a week, not counting feed subscribers) that I can easily keep track of the queue, and Akismet is doing fine with the random garbage.

    And I have to agree with Dane Morgan that these tools are too valuable to lose; I’ve been known to construct a manual trackback from something that links to me that didn’t send one, in the hopes of giving the linker a couple of extra visits.

    Reply

  6. By Carl posted on April 25, 2010 at 7:48 am
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    I use to get a couple hundreds hits per day but ever since I changed hosts, I hardly get any traffic and all the trackback parties I was involved with have all died off. So I have no clue as to how to get more traffic at my humble little blog.

    Reply

  7. By Julius posted on April 25, 2010 at 9:57 pm
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    I agree with Brian’s idea of checking the comments twice and rejecting the spammy ones that may have passed through my first check.

    Reply

  8. By Evita posted on May 6, 2010 at 9:41 pm
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    It is so good to read this post – thank you, as in the last few months I started wondering what the heck was going on with the amount of human generated spam.

    I used to moderate every comment, and stopped that, as that was too much work for me, even though the number of comments I get is not terribly huge. Today, my settings are that anybody with a link in the comment goes straight to moderation – that helps somewhat. I also find Akismet is great for the obvious stuff, but it is the human generated stuff that is a pain.

    However, at this point my preference to my readers is to let the 90% of good comments go through and then sift through and take out any of the spam. It is actually not tedious as one can set up the comments to go straight to their inbox and see them each as they come in and deal with them right away if any are a problem.

    My idea, is that there should be a site that the big guys like Google should set up, where sites with garbage, stolen content or just ads, etc could be reported to and dealt with by them. I think that would be at least a huge start for making it less attractive to spam sites to set up and than try to inject stuff into other sites.

    Reply

  9. By Jason LeGris posted on May 23, 2010 at 9:27 pm
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    Evita,
    “My idea, is that there should be a site that the big guys like Google should set up, where sites with garbage, stolen content or just ads, etc could be reported to and dealt with by them. I think that would be at least a huge start for making it less attractive to spam sites to set up and than try to inject stuff into other sites.”

    LOL!!! WHAT is google?? think about it…

    It’s a site that takes your content, and surrounds it with ads! It’s the biggest scraper site out there. We tolerate it because it brings us traffic (if you are lucky).

    Well, I quit fighting ping spam and rss scrapers for the same reason.. Set your blog up right, and it’s all just more links to your site. Which one way or another usually helps to bring me traffic. I simply set up my blog template to display the pingbacks seperately. And when it comes to rss scrapers: every item in my feed has my links and domain embedded into the content. Now rss scrapers and ping spammers are building links for me, and it works :)

    Reply

  10. By high rankings posted on May 31, 2010 at 3:39 pm
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    Brian, Cant you just ask all commentators to register? or even put a simple “capcha” and then you are free of spam?

    Reply

  11. By steve posted on June 1, 2010 at 7:06 pm
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    I am new to the world of blogging, and I am reading with interest all this information about pingbacks, trackbacks and spam etc. for the moment my blof is a day old, I will manually moderate comments to my blog and hopefully if it ever reaches the realms where that becomes unmanageble I will then look to alternatives.

    Good post though and I also enjoyed reading the comments.

    Reply

  12. By Schmitty posted on June 14, 2010 at 6:26 pm
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    Our blog is pretty new. We get quite a bit of spam comments, although the vast majority of them are caught by Akismet. The question I have is about tracking site visits. Are all these spam comments showing up as hits / visitors within Google Analytics? We’re trying to get an accurate gauge on the number of people actually reading the blog. Thanks.

    Reply

  13. By Karen @ Pledging for Change posted on January 1, 2011 at 7:30 pm
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    Ive been dealing with my blog comments in a non too tedious ( at the moment) sort of way.
    There are the very obvious comments spams with your biz name added into it like.. oh this is a great post on “Pledging for Change”
    there are the comments that do not relate in any way to the post… and usually saying what a great site you have here ill bookmark and tell all my friends (making you feel important hmmm)
    there are the VERY obvious ones with anything up to 50 links WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?

    Anyway… this is what as a daily ritual
    clcik to show all comments pending
    click to put a tick in every single check box
    scroll down very quickly ( your eyes get used to seeing multiple links lol)
    UNCHECK the ones that you will give a second look
    BULK TRASH those that are still checked

    In remaining comments if one even seems slightly obscur.. copy the text and paste into google search…
    BINGO… if you see many and often 30,000 (or even more) blogs all with same comment on you know its a spammer. AND you are not going to be added into that list of blogs giving them a backlink.

    ohhhhhhh… the wonders of spending precious time fighting spam! urgh!

    Reply

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