Others have noticed this, but it’s starting to crop up on my weblog too: Seemingly vacuous, empty, or merely off-topic comments that appear to have no purpose — until you notice the URL of the commenter. For instance, today I noticed a new comment on this blog that said nothing but “I really agree with that last comment.” Checked the URL, and sure enough, it pointed to a site claiming to offer “free DVDs.” Sheesh.
I deleted it — as I’ve deleted similarly vacuous, veiled advertisements. It’s my site and I don’t care to have it carry surreptititous ads like this. Plus, as Scot Hacker points out, these people are trying to game Google by, in effect, forcing other sites to link to them — thus raising their own PageRank rating within Google, and causing their sites to rise higher in lists of search results.
Right now, it’s a minor annoyance. But I wonder what will happen when advertisers figure out how to automate this? I suspect that unless someone develops effective countermeasures, by this time next year I’ll be sifting through dozens, if not hundreds, of spam-comments every day, just as I now wade through spam in my email inbox.
It’s well-known that spammers harvest email addresses from the Web, adding these addresses to their gigantic mailing lists.
Has anyone tried spamming back, by flooding the web with bogus email addresses? It would be easy enough to do. With a few lines of code you could easily generate a bunch of fake addresses, like firstname.lastname@example.org. Better still, make it a mailto with a “contact me” link. Add this code to any dynamic page, such as the PHP-generated pages used by many bloggers, and you could automatically add one, two, or a dozen fake addresses to every web page. Over time, the spambots would pick up these addresses, filling the spammers’ databases with garbage.
It wouldn’t do anything to cut down on spam, but it would cut into the efficacy of spam campaigns. And it would be damn satisfying.
ADDENDUM: Scot’s blog, again, points me in the right direction — a utility called WPoison that is aimed as clogging up spambots. The difference appears to be that WPoison generates dedicated anti-spam pages… I’m thinking about just sprinkling bogus addresses throughout the Web. Now wouldn’t that be fun?