The best defense

Glancing at my server logs for the last month, I notice that my traffic more than doubled during the month of June. “Cool,” I think, “my amazingly incisive posts must be drawing in an ever-widening audience.” Then, very quickly, the truth becomes clear. Most of the growth is due to robots hitting my wiki, in order to be listed on the “referrers” page[1].

For the uninitiated, the reason most spammers leave comments and trackbacks on blogs, and now wikis, is not because they expect your visitors to all of the sudden have a hankering for Cialis that they never realized they needed, and click on the link. Largely, it is an attempt to increase the number of links going to their site, and thereby increase their ranking on Google. It is a systemic problem, and one that demands a systemic solution.

In my case, I turned off my referrals on the wiki. Traffic has already died down somewhat, and no doubt will continue to do so. I could have created a blacklist system — a filter that did not allow certain addresses or certain words in the URL — and this has proven to be relatively effective for many blogging systems. However, this is a local solution to a global problem. It seems to me that a more global solution might be possible: anti-spam googlebombing.

Right now, if you spam a lot of blogs, you are likely to be added to a blacklist. This list is then distributed, and many weblogs can block your messages. While this is a very workable local solution, since there will always be a substantial number of weblogs and wikis that are behind the curve in terms of protection against the black arts, the spammers will always profit from their techniques.

Some might suggest that Google should allow blacklisting of those who use these techniques to manipulate their ranking. But if I were Google, I would avoid this like the plague. While there are certainly blatant violators, the line between spammer and not is often an ambiguous one, and sometimes the cure can be worse than the disease.

But there is something we could, as a community, decide to do about this, rather than trying to ignore the spammers and hope that they will go away. We could make the blacklist more active, by creating a googlebombing page for those who manage to make the blacklist. Each of the items on the list would be linked to a chosen “safe site” rather than their original hyperlinks. Then every person who searched for animal porn (and anyone out there will tell you from their logs that people are actively seeking this) would be turned instead to this designated site or set of sites. If even a thousandth of the blogs out there uploaded a single webpage that included these false links, it would serve as a serious slap to those who spam.

fn1. Actually, that’s about half the hits. The other half are from US military proxies that are blocking soldiers’ access to the real porn sites while leaving me relatively high up on Google for porn-related terms.

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One Comment

  1. stefanos
    Posted 7/10/2004 at 2:05 am | Permalink

    fasinating how these search engines and crosslinking are becomming so important: it seems that there is a business thing about spamming: i get four calls from pharmacuetical companies a day: i consider this a type of spamming and part of the reason i am here on your blog: i am searching for some way of dealing with being profiled as a physician:

    but the issues you raise are a bit different.

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