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Google Reacts to Splogs 170

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the spam-is-everywhere dept.
labnol writes "Recently, Mark Cuban of Icerocket made the accusation that Blogger is by far the worst offender when it comes to Spam Blogs. Now Google Blogger is introducing Word Verification for user comments to prevent comment spam and another feature called Flag As Objectionable where users can report blogs with questionable content. Google appears to be listening."
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Google Reacts to Splogs

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  • Finally (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ImaLamer (260199) <john@lamar.gmail@com> on Saturday August 20, 2005 @06:29PM (#13363760) Homepage Journal
    I've been writing to Blogger/Google about a lot of fake blogs for a while and I'm glad to see Flag as Objectionable come into play. After a while I just got tired of doing it and stopped.

    Up until now there was nothing they or the surfer could do - good work Google.
  • by Julian Morrison (5575) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @06:30PM (#13363765)
    Please neologize without sounding like you're spitting on the floor.
    • Why "neologize" at all? Do we really need stupid catch phrases for the press like blog and podcast?
      • Both of those words you mentioned apply to phenomena that never existed before. You could call them "serial public editorial" and "prerecorded automatically downloadable digital radio" but your jaw would get tired. In fact, the best circumlocution would still miss corner cases which are definitely "blogs" and "podcasts". That's what I take as proof positive that a new word was necessary.

        On the other hand, a lot of neologizing, particularly around "spam", seems to delight in sounding scatological. I wish peo
        • " Both of those words you mentioned apply to phenomena that never existed before. "
          Not really.
          Blogging:
          The only thing relatively new about blogging is the content being stuff we don't care about. It's no different than what most of us did in the 90s with the NewsPro CGI script. Back then we just called them web pages, or specificly the news part of a webpage. Maybe even 'news page'.

          Podcasting:
          A different delivery method doesn't warrant a new name. A tv show is a tv show, whether over a cable, satalite, UHF,
          • Yes, but by that token why did we need new-fangled words like television (or your l33t-speak abreviation 'TV' :) )? There was nothing particularly new about TV apart from the delivery mechanism. TV is basically nothing more than long distance plays and town criers.

            Language moves on, and what sounds like trendy new words now will seem perfectly natural in a few years time.
        • Are you kidding me?

          "blog" -> journal
          "podcast" -> radio show

          Now, I'm sure you can find a bunch of cases in which a blog isn't exactly a journal and a podcast isn't exactly a radio show. But in the vast majority of cases, they are.

          Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get in my time machine and find the first idiot to use the 'podcast' word. And kill him.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 20, 2005 @06:31PM (#13363770)
    It doesn't get much more spammish or objectionable than that!
  • by Reaperducer (871695) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @06:33PM (#13363779)
    Lock the barn. Hide you farm animals. The pigs are nervous.
    This could lead to more cases like this one [scruffydan.com].
  • Slashsplogs (Score:5, Funny)

    by mattjb0010 (724744) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @06:39PM (#13363804) Homepage
    Mark Cuban of Icerocket made the accusation that Blogger is by far the worst offender when it comes to Spam Blogs.

    Mark Cuban of Icerocket, allow me to introduce you to Roland Piquepaille of Slashdot...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    apparently this is that Mark Cuban, i.e. the Mavs owner who made a fortune in the dot-bomb era.

    I was going to make a wisecrack about the letting Steve Nash go. [blogmaverick.com]

  • I can see it now.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pickyouupatnine (901260) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @06:40PM (#13363809) Homepage
    .. Blogger getting bombarded by all sorts of "Questionable Content" flags from all sorts of extremely left / right / PC people ... soon they won't be able to keep up w/ the flags and will just turn off the feature.. :-/
    • by techno-vampire (666512) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @07:22PM (#13363948) Homepage
      There's a way to keep people from using Mark as Objectionable to censor political opinions. You have to be logged in to mark, and the blog keeps track of who it is making the mark. Whoever owns the blog can go over the marks, remove any inappropriate ones and, if somebody's abusing the privilege, eject them. Of course, there has to be a way to keep them from simply signing up again, such as checking for a banned email address. Yes, I know how easy it is to create throw-away addresses, but it might slow them down a little.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Or better yet, just silently dump the marks from flagged accounts. They don't know they've been flagged, their objections are just dropped, and they continue blisfully ignorant, without registering a new blog.
      • I wonder if something like a bayesian filter could be used to identify people who try to log back in under a different username. Some program to keep track of commonly used phrases, word patterns, misspellings etc.
      • by nzkoz (139612)
        it might slow them down a little

        No. It won't

        They will keep coming and coming and coming until you give up, go home, cry uncle, take Prozac, get a regular day job to replace the one you quit when being an anti-spammer became your full-time job.
        Blog spam will never die [diveintomark.org]
    • by svkal (904988) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @07:41PM (#13364034)
      Actually, this probably won't be too much of a problem if they base their system on ratios rather than individual complaints, which I assume they will given the huge number of individual flaggings that will necessarily take place.

      The ratio of flaggings to unique visitors in a given timeframe will generally be higher for spam than controversial opinions. This is because people are more likely to report sites that will actually be deleted, instead of pointless political demonstrations to a one-man audience of some random Blogger employee, and because there is no significant number of unique visitors to a spam site that "agree" with the site's content(as there generally is for a political blog).

      So, for normal circumstances, having an employee periodically go through the sites with the highest flagging ratios will give pretty good results.

      Now, one could also expect campaigning, i.e. higher-traffic sites directing their audience to report lower-traffic sites with "undesirable opinions", but this could only be done for a manageable number of sites. These, after being inspected to make sure that they actually are not spam, could be flagged with an 'innocent' flag by the employee, exempting them from further inspection(after all, political blogs aren't likely to suddenly turn into spam blogs).
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @06:47PM (#13363829)
    Google Blogger is introducing Word Verification for user comments to prevent comment spam

    I once spoke with the VP of a company that was merging with the company I was doing contract work for (both companies were very small, so we had a lunchroom chat).

    He revealed that there were a number of "email blast" (ie email spam outsourcers) that were happy to have dozens of Indian employees on staff ready to do the image-word verification and reply-to-this-email-to-be-whitelisted emails many think-they're-super-smart people had set up.

    Why does anyone think the "illegitimate" spammers don't do exactly the same thing? Especially when, at $5/hr (about what US min wage is, I think) 5 seconds of effort (an overestimate, most likely, after you've been doing it for an hour) works out to about 2/3rds of a CENT...and that has the potential to reach hundreds of people before someone flags it? ONE worker could do 720 an hour...

    • What you say may be true but it certainly isn't an argument against adding this kind of verification. If you make it more costly to do, it will happen less.

      What they really ought to do is use a Bayesian classifier to tell them which blogs are spam and which aren't.
      • What they really ought to do is use a Bayesian classifier to tell them which blogs are spam and which aren't.
        Just about the last thing Google should be doing is full-text statistical analysis. The leap from statistical analysis of blog content to statistical analysis of web content in search of terrorists or dissenting voices or whatever conveniently classified scapegoats is as large a leap as any electron has to make.
        • Uhh, I imagine they are already doing full text statistical analysis. How do you think they get such cool features as Google Sets (and the back end stuff that powers that; all the word/idea clustering technology). Personalized search using Search History, they have to analyze the web and your searches for that. Heck, even their search algorithms could probably be considered full-text statistical analysis. So, don't get your panties in a knot, they are already doing stuff like that on a scale that I can't po
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Ha! What a waste of money.

      Real spammers set up free porn websites, and simply pass through the image for verification to their users for their own 'verification'. Why pay people to verify you, when you can make money off of advertisements from some third rate porn site, and have people voluntarily verify you?
    • Why does anyone think the "illegitimate" spammers don't do exactly the same thing? Especially when, at $5/hr (about what US min wage is, I think) 5 seconds of effort (an overestimate, most likely, after you've been doing it for an hour) works out to about 2/3rds of a CENT...and that has the potential to reach hundreds of people before someone flags it? ONE worker could do 720 an hour...

      I'd block their ip address range as soon as my software let me know that I was getting pounded by verifications from on
    • Why does anyone think the "illegitimate" spammers don't do exactly the same thing? Especially when, at $5/hr (about what US min wage is, I think) 5 seconds of effort (an overestimate, most likely, after you've been doing it for an hour) works out to about 2/3rds of a CENT...and that has the potential to reach hundreds of people before someone flags it? ONE worker could do 720 an hour...

      There's always some way around it.
      The goal is not to stop every last bit of spam, that's impossible.
      Sure you might be
    • More info [diveintomark.org] on the weblog spam problem
  • Google appears to be listening.

    Well, Google IS what those blogs are targeting...
  • Oh yeah (Score:5, Informative)

    by dedazo (737510) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @06:59PM (#13363874) Journal
    Blogspot is overflowing with these. Take a look at this this [blogspot.com] for example(don't want to go there with IE, BTW), or this one [blogspot.com] or this one [blogspot.com].

    If you use the 'next blog' randomizing feature on blogs you'll see that roughly one out of five 'blogs' are nothing but link farms, worm repositories and bullshit like that.

    And this has been going on for quite a while. We all know that Google has a fondness for indexing Blogger content rather quickly, and so do the spammers. It's about time the company did something about it.

    • Re:Oh yeah (Score:3, Funny)

      by JimBobJoe (2758)
      Take a look at this this for example(don't want to go there with IE, BTW)

      I have never wanted to go to a website so much after I saw that warning.

      After I submit this post, I'm restarting Mozilla, as that site has caused it to memory leak worse than the Exxon Valdez.
      • Re:Oh yeah (Score:3, Informative)

        by dedazo (737510)
        It has embedded images in the HTML - it uses the 'cid' format, whatever that is. I think it's a Microsoft thing.

        Firefox kept asking me if I wanted to "launch the application".

    • Thanks for posting those, I flagged all three. After I noticed this feature yesterday, I went through some random blogs and marked the spam ones. I consider it community service :).

      I don't know about Google indexing Blogger sites quickly, though. I created a blog there back in like February. I post their somewhat reliably, and linked to it from my relatively high PageRank website, yet it barely is accessible in Google. I don't think Google has spidered it once (since it only shows the URL when searching, no
      • Re:Oh yeah (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dedazo (737510)
        I'm not entirely sure how it works, but I'll tell you how I think it works...

        Basically if you're using Blogger as a service and publishing through on your own server, it will index it every time you re-publish the index. That's what I think happens from observation and monitoring the Google cache. I might be wrong.

        If you use the Blogspot service then you need at least *one* incoming external link to be indexed. A friend of mine created a blog there, and I linked to it from my blog published to my own se

        • I've linked from my main website (which has a PageRank of 5) to my political blog on blogger and still only two pages are in Google's index. The front page and one article are in the index, but neither have been indexed (they don't show any snippets).

          Actually, I just realized I link to one of my blogposts from my slashdot signature, which I have for a few months, and yet it still hasn't been indexed. Odd.

          Andrew
  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @07:01PM (#13363879)
    That's like saying convenience stores are the worst offenders in armed robbery. Surely the offender is the perpetrator, not the victim.
    • That's like saying convenience stores are the worst offenders in armed robbery. Surely the offender is the perpetrator, not the victim.

      True. But at some point, the operator of an easily- and widely-abused resource must bear some responsibility for the abuse initiated by others but through his system. Much like how various "affiliate" programs are widely abused on the Web.

      Also, it is in Google's own best interests to minimize this kind of abuse. It dilutes their Blogger brand, and poisons their own

    • That's like saying convenience stores are the worst offenders in armed robbery. Surely the offender is the perpetrator, not the victim.

      Yes, but Google isn't the victim. Google is just a mechanism. The people who are immediately hurt by this are normal internet users -- people who read blogs for content and who depend on pagerank to sift through the crud.
  • by gregorio (520049) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @07:06PM (#13363895)
    Does anyone remember that? Does Google remembers that? Why not 'nofollow' instead of annyoing distorted text confirmation procedures?
    • Because we are talking SPLOGS!

      No, really we are talking about blogs that are spam themselves - no way to 'nofollow' the entire Blogspot domain without ruining the idea of a blog itself. In fact that would ruin Google considering they count on a lot of what their 'Bloggers' are talking about.

      If they decided to 'nofollow' every link I posted in my blog posts I'd jump ship quick.
  • I can't really see a good reason to why Google has that new word verification feature off by default, and like an option...
    Why would a blogger not want to know it's a human behind a keyboard... by default?
  • ...when it comes to google groups...
  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Saturday August 20, 2005 @07:14PM (#13363921) Homepage Journal
    Ahhh, but will Google solve the problem that LiveJournal has? The problem I'm talking about is the LiveJournal_Abuse team, which has always been made up of volunteers and will ban anyone on any whim for any reason, reasonable or not. I made a community called "DIERIAA" and the purpose of the community was to point people to cool free music. Within twenty minutes of having the community made it was shut down for "promoting the illegal piracy of music." And not one single post had even been made in the community. Will Google be able to solve a problem like that?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Why would Google address a problem with a blog service they don't own?

      If you don't like LJ's policies, take your business elsewhere.

      Judging by most of the people who have LJ's, I'd say there isn't much you'd be leaving behind.
      • He's talking about the corruption problem in general. Like what happens with mail spam blacklists [paulgraham.com]
      • Say what you will, but there are a huge number of people who use that service (I am one of them). That's like saying "judging by most of the people who live in New York, you wouldn't be leaving much behind" after walking through a street where a bunk of drunks were sleeping.
      • If you don't like LJ's policies, take your business elsewhere.

        This sort of comment comes up repeatedly- "don't warn other people about a bad service, just shut up and find some other service"- how is that supposed to work?

        Capitalism works by consumers having necessary information about a product or service before they buy it or invest time in it, not after. The way to have reliable information about a product is to hear from people who did actually use it and are satisfied or unsatisfied- so publicly decla
    • After reading DIERIAA, I assumed this was going to be a rant about how they assumed it was a misspelling of diarrhea rather than Die RIAA.
  • I hope this isn't part of their Chinese firewall partnership, so they can remove dissenting blogs - one of the last bastions of effective political change.
    • dissenting blogs - one of the last bastions of effective political change.

      That's a bold claim. I'm not very familiar with Chinese politics. Can you give me an example of political change that is a direct effect of the existence of these dissenting blogs?

      Don't get me wrong, I'm all for freedom speech and I seriously hope you're right, but without substantiation, that claim has about as much value as "*BSD is dying!"
  • by FuturePastNow (836765) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @07:20PM (#13363940)
    What happens when (I didn't say if) affiliates of _________ political party start "flagging as objectionable" blogs written by those they disagree with? What happens when religious wackos flag sex blogs as objectionable? TFA says Blogger tracks the number of times a blog is flagged objectionable and base their action on that, not that they review whether something is actually bad. This could be trouble.
  • How many splogs are there and how many posts do they carry ? Its difficult to quantify, but I wouldnt be shocked if we have excluded more than 1mm of them at IceRocket.

    1mm? 1 millimeter of bloggers? Doesn't seem like much to me.

    Or is he using a multiplicative expression with Roman Numerals? MM is M*M = 1000*1000 = 1000000.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Consider that each relatively new (as most Splogs are) blog takes up on average 3 KB of space on a hard drive (size of average e-mail text spam, which is then uplaoded to Splog),

      and based on the fact that Blogger.com uses Maxtor MX830HA hard drives with an average surface capacity of 300 MB per platter (x20 = 60 GB),

      each platter being 212 tracks,

      so each track holds 1.4 MB, and take the radius of 3 inches times 2pi to get circumference of approx 19 inches, which is 48 cm, or about 500 mm.

      So you have 500 mm h
  • by Herschel Cohen (568) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @07:42PM (#13364042) Homepage Journal
    Upon reading some of his comments verbatim it is shocking how inarticulate and rambling he is. Seems reasonable to me to label him as radio SPAM - he certainly has the figure for it.
    • I'm sure you'd love nothing more than to see Limbaugh and other conservative radio personalities silenced.

      But wait, I thought free speech was good, and censorship bad!

      I had exactly that thought when I read this article. People are going to start reporting blogs with which they disagree as spam in an attempt to have it shut down. I'm surprised (ok, not reallt) to see this kind of sentiment show up here.
      • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Saturday August 20, 2005 @08:07PM (#13364151) Homepage Journal
        People are going to start reporting blogs with which they disagree as spam in an attempt to have it shut down.

        That's not a far cry from some of the moderation I've seen here on Slashdot. Disagree with someone's opinion? Mod them down! In general human beings do not like to face things that make them uncomfortable, and coming face to face with opinions that are diametrically opposed to your own really freaks people out.

        When I have mod points, I try to take care to only mod people down when I feel that they are engaging in personal attacks or other socially disagreeable behavior. I admit that it is difficult for me to mod up comments that are in opposition to my opinions, but if someone has argued a point well and isn't resorting to ad hominem attacks or perversions of fact, I can sometimes get past my biases and up-mod a post. The less important the issue being discussed, of course, the easier it is for me to up-mod an opinion with which I disagree.

        I strongly believe that maintenance of a community that values diversity of opinion is important, both here on Slashdot and in the "real world." Unfortunately it requires effort to maintain community, and much of the communications technology we use today is making it easier and easier for us all to filter out that which we do not want to hear. Perhaps it's not an accident that political discourse in the United States has sunk to such a morass, devoid of any real substance.

        • "People are going to start reporting blogs with which they disagree as spam in an attempt to have it shut down."

          More like, spammers will use their thousands of autogenerated accounts to mark tens of thousands of legitimate sites as "inappropriate", just to distract the moderators (or whatever they'll be called) from the actual spam blogs.

          Maybe they'll start by getting all 10,000 usernames to flag the blogs of anti-spammers, just out of spite, or perhaps they'll move straight onto the random link-clicking to
        • political discourse in the United States has sunk to such a morass, devoid of any real substance.

          When was the above-the-morass golden age of political discourse you imply existed at some point? For me, this was either any period that occured before I paid any attention to politics or for which I am yet to read any history books about.
          • When was the above-the-morass golden age of political discourse you imply existed at some point?

            This comment comes up just about every time I decry the current state of political discourse. I'm not saying that politics hasn't always been a grubby affair. In a representative system it's bound to be that way. But I'm not keen on just shucking it off with a relativistic wave of the hand, either.

            I've been paying attention to politics since the early 1980s, and in my opinion American politics now is more po

  • by SilentReallySilentUs (908879) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @07:44PM (#13364055) Homepage
    Is it really that difficult for Google? In addition to the website caches, they have the complete Deja archive at their disposal to train any kind of learning software. Plus, this problem is already solved in Gmail. I agree it hurts when you just spent a few hours writing a blog and the first message you get is "Wow that is really nice! I will read it again. Please see my mortgate site here ..."
  • (typetypetype) [Ctrl+L] http://www.technorati.com/ [technorati.com] [Enter]
    (typetypetype) "luxuriousity"
    (clickety) "Hypnosis Smoking Stop"
    (clickety) "Flag!"

    In case you weren't aware, there's this Really Ethical (NOT) open source CD distributor out there called Luxuriousity. I'm not linking to them here. Google for them. See their web page then, their atrocious use of business clip art, and their love of rebranding open source programs and trying to make some easy pennies while trying to hide the fact that they're, in f

  • by nurb432 (527695)
    By who's definition?

    One persons 'objectional material' is another persons religion.. ( for example )

    Yes, i know that its Googles' servers and they get to control content .. bla bla bla bla. Just because its legal doesnt make it the right thing to do.

    Now, controlling spam.. more power to them...
  • by iphayd (170761) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @10:13PM (#13364581) Homepage Journal
    This should have been posted by Roland Piquepaille.
  • by Sundroid (777083) on Sunday August 21, 2005 @02:11AM (#13365283) Homepage
    Blogger has addressed the "Flag" abuse issue. From their own internal "Blogger Buzz" blog (http://buzz.blogger.com/ [blogger.com]), it says: "From a technical standpoint, we are able to detect when multiple votes come from the same source. We prevent against ballot box stuffing. But most importantly, we're not automatically removing content based on the flags. We're using the feedback from Blog*Spot readers to help assess what the community has noted as potentially objectionable. In the cases where objectionable content has been identified, the most common action is for the support team to 'delist' the blog. This simply means that the blog is not promoted in areas of blogger.com like Recently Updated - but it's still viewable on the web. The content is not blocked or removed in anyway when the blog is delisted."

    So for those who are concerned that their "enemies" might use the "Flag" feature to attack their blogs, relax!
  • Now, if I were a spammer, instead of trying to randomly generate content with scripts, I would have the script copy entries from other blogs, and insert links throughout. I would also use CSS to make the links look like normal text. Finally, I'd get one of those "makepovertyhistory.org" banners on the top right hand corner of the screen, because they seem to disable clicks to the button that flags inappropriate content.

    Also, check out this nifty trick [blogspot.com]. Way to get all the benefits of a spamful blog
  • Who decides when, if someone includes a link to site related to a given blog post, that said link constitutes "splogging"?
    Does it matter whether the author may profit from that link being clicked, the resulting page being viewed?
    What about the small businessman, trying to bootstrap his way out of his humdrum job by offering "Bob's widget x" on his one-page, written-in-FrontPage site? Should he be penalized for blogging about his l

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