Personal Tech Pipeline | Blog Spam Epidemic - Blame Google?
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October 18, 2005

Blog Spam Epidemic - Blame Google?

Courtesy of TechWeb News

A bump-up in the number of spam blogs on Google's Blogspot has drawn the ire of prominent bloggers, and at least one blog search service has stopped indexing posts on the hosting service.

The warpath against Google is unwarranted, said one "splog" expert Tuesday, while another took the other end of the argument and said Google needed to do something before things really get out of hand.

"Not index a site because of spammers? That's ludicrous," said David Sifry, the chief executive of Technorati, a search engine that tracks blog updates. "There's a whole arsenal available. You don't want to use a shotgun when you can use a rifle."

"I think there's not been enough done on the part of Google," countered Bob Wyman, the founder and chief technology officer for PubSub, a company that provides a matching engine to help users find blogs. "Google is the front line, and they should take the responsibility. They need to strictly enforce their terms of service, or they'll end up poisoning the stream for the whole [blog] community.

"Google could do much more, should do more," Wyman added.

The size of the splog -- for spam + blog -- surge was also up for grabs, said the two experts.

By Sifry's account, approximately 39,000 new fake and spam blogs appeared in the last two weeks as 805,000 new blogs were created. That translates into a splog percentage of about 4.6 percent.

"It's normal to see spam and fake blogs account for 2 to 8 percent of all blogs," said Sifry. "This wasn't a very large spam attack, certainly not as large as some of those we've seen before."

Wyman disagreed. "The splogstorm over the weekend produced a tremendous amount of spam," he said, and pointed to statistics gathered by PubSub that showed double the number of outbound links on blogs than the monthly average.

Both agreed on one thing: the attack made the radar because the spammers used popular bloggers' names in a keyword-stuffing ploy to put the splogs higher on blog search result lists. "When popular bloggers started seeing their names used as keywords, they got kind of upset," said Sifry.

To put it mildly.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team and a major investor in the IceRocket blog search engine, was, to put it kindly, blunt in his criticism.

"Well the Sh** hit the fan today," wrote Cuban on his own blog. "The blogosphere was hit by a splogbomb. Someone did the inevitable and wrote a script that created blog after blog and post after post."

To defend itself, IceRocket stopped indexing posts from Google's domains. "At least for the time being, we shut out adding new blogspot posts to our index until we clean all the bullsh** you dumped on us out of our indexes," wrote Cuban.

Prominent bloggers such as Dave Winer and Chris Pirillo also took Google to the woodshed. "Page-rank is under attack and the attackers are winning," wrote Winer. "It won't be long before Google itself is infested."

"Blogspot has become nothing but a crapfarm, and your brand is going to go down with it," said Pirillo on his blog. "If your motto truly is to do no evil, then you need to start putting some resources behind an effort to curb this train wreck."

Google responded Monday by publishing a list of more than 13,000 sub-domains that it deleted after the spam attack. It also promised to put more effort into anti-automation defenses, since spammers rely on automated scripts to create large numbers of splogs and huge numbers of posts.

Sifry applauded that move, and in fact said that spam, while a nuisance, was more a sign of the blogosphere's prominent place in the online world than a threat.

"All healthy ecosystems have parasites, " he said. "In the realm of parasites, I don't see this as the red tide. It's really kind of a validation that people are seeing value in blogs when they spam it."

Wyman answered that that view couldn't be more wrong. "Google's done a great job of creating of creating a blog service," he said, "with an API, easy-to-create scripts, marvelous integration between it and the advertising side. And it's free. What more could you want?

"Unfortunately, every one of those attributes. makes it easy for a spammer to work.

"But if Google doesn't do something, we'll be forced to do the same thing as IceRocket. If Google doesn't filter, we may have to shut out Blogspot. Users may not blame us, but in the end it doesn’t matter who they blame. They'll just stop subscribing or looking for blogs.

"This is a big threat."

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