Quasi-intelligent comment spam

by Henry Farrell on May 25, 2006

Over the last few days we’ve been getting a new kind of comment spam; it’s semi-relevant to the posts in question, but has, if you look at it, links back to the usual kinds of websites. Unless artificial intelligence has improved a lot more than I think it has, I presume that real human beings are being paid to generate it, in the hope that it will slip under bloggers’ radar more easily than the automated stuff. If you’re a blogger at a reasonably well-trafficked site, you may want to keep an eye out for this.



jet 05.25.06 at 1:59 pm

Can you post some examples? Because I could think of an easy way to do the same thing auto-magically. I would have a bot continuelly scraping comments and categorizing them based on their keywords. From that point it is simple to match previous user comments from wherever you found them to the target blog post. And of course add your own spam-or-ific content to the harvested comment.


Scott Martens 05.25.06 at 2:04 pm

Me too. I can think of a few magic ways to do it too. I’ve actually thought about trying to build an artificially intelligent spambot. It would probably make a lot of money at it, but alas, that would make me evil.


Bitch | Lab 05.25.06 at 2:11 pm

If you watch Craig’s list, you’ll occasionally see ads looking for said humans.

As Jet said, though, I also wouldn’t be surprised if someone hasn’t already invested in the technology to scrap comments sections for tropes and categorize them to come up with comment spam that seems to fit the subject and may slip through without checking. Sme of them are just banking on sheer laziness, sheer overwork, desperation to have a comment, any comment at all, or that it gets caught in a massive “approve all”.

What’s more deliciously fun is to explain to clients how such tactics work, have them agree that, in principle it’s an unethical gaming of the system, and then say they still want to do it anyway. :))

I have concluded that most business owners want you to lie to them. I’m sitting there trying to save them money, and they’d rather believe that they can spend the cash that will get ‘TONS OF LINKS TO THEIR SITE’!!!111


KCinDC 05.25.06 at 2:34 pm

I’ve seen some in the past that take a sentence or two from the post itself and a sentence or two from a previous comment and then add a link to a random word somewhere in it.


Christopher M 05.25.06 at 2:38 pm

HI Henry. Great blog you have here! I really liked your blog post about comment spam and UNDER BLOGGERS’ RADAR. I came across a great source of radar equipment recently, check it out! I am excited about this project! Have a great day……


engels 05.25.06 at 2:44 pm

I tried to do a less subtle version of christopher’s joke, but it was canned by your moderation software. So it can’t be all bad. I only hope my CT karma is not irreparably damaged…


Barry Freed 05.25.06 at 2:48 pm

Great Post on problem of wanting larger pen15 comment spam. But where to find larger pen15 comment spam? Is better to have larger pen15 comment spam, no?


Doctor Slack 05.25.06 at 3:24 pm

The evolution of spam is pretty fascinating. On the e-mail side of things, I’ve noticed that, not long after the advent of spam-poisoner Sugarplum (whose output has been noted to look vaguely similar to certain kinds of avant garde poetry), e-mail spammers have taken to sending out messages which likewise look a lot like Sugarplum output.

The following comes from an e-mail titled “Your money, fellow victim,” and follows a typically spamster link to a usury site with this:

hand-pitched steel drawer death dew
wood tar bill file line engraving
walking staff foot waling ague tree
spell-weaving pre-eminentness squish-squash
pitch-colored pipe maker cross-question
thistle ball saddle joint benefit association
cypress oil Pre-dravidian soap-fast
quasi demand two-pass row-barge

Or there’s this, from an e-mail advertising medicines:

had seen this robot pusher and his work gang in hat, and my old faithful gray beard muzzled my my toes or I would have been strangled . . . Memory blocks all over, areas of device and the folder dropped open. That’s more like it, I said, walking over on get my hands on him.

And it goes on like that. Curiously intriguing.


roger 05.25.06 at 3:40 pm

I recommend slagging the companies being advertised. On my blog, after being spammed by some Crofton Steelware advert, I commented on Crofton Steelware’s unique discount for Al Qaeda members (15 percent off for potential suicide bombers) and its new, insecticide recycling teflon surface, great for inducing Alzheimer’s and diarrhea. Etc., etc. I was happy to see that comment mount, in the Googlestakes, when Crofton Steelware was searched for.


mpowell 05.25.06 at 4:36 pm

I wonder why email spammers don’t include paragraphs from random texts. It would seem to be a lot easier than trying to generate coherent text on your own.


KCinDC 05.25.06 at 4:55 pm

MPowell, lots of them do. Today I got a spam message containing a paragraph from The Lord of the Rings (preceded by various creatively spelled, spaced-out drug names with links).


sara 05.25.06 at 5:07 pm

Have any of you seen political comment spam? I can’t link an example right now, but it seems tailored to express crude political sentiments (knee-jerk liberal, in the case of the blogs I read) and then offer a link to some alternative-medicine product site.


Sharon 05.25.06 at 6:11 pm

You only just started to get these?

The evolution of spam is remarkable. Me, I rather miss the primitive phase of seemingly randomly generated strings of words that were turning up a few months ago. They were just surreal.

People who write effective anti-spam plugins should be cherished and rewarded. (I’m currently using Akismet, by the way.)


modus potus 05.25.06 at 6:14 pm

See Mark V Shaney for some background on what might be happening. I was a regular reader of USENET when “he” was around; people would actually get into arguments with him and, at times, his posts made more sense than most of the others in a thread.


Seth Edenbaum 05.25.06 at 7:06 pm

Poetry Spam?
Sounds like Phil Rizzuto?

Holy Cow!

The Bridge

Two balls and a strike.
You know what they had on TV today, White?
Bridge on the River Kwai
Everybody should have gotten an Academy Award for
that movie.
I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it.
About forty times.
Alec Guinness!
William Holden!
Three and one the count.
I just heard somebody whistle.
You know that song?
That’s what they whistle.
Nobody out.
And he pops it up.


Adam Kotsko 05.25.06 at 8:34 pm

Do you ever get the spam that doesn’t even have links or anything? For a while, I was getting a few messages a day that just said something like “Have a nice day.”


Mike Maltz 05.25.06 at 8:56 pm

The comment by Roger (#9) reminds me of a solution to junk (snail) mail I saw in a recent (20-30 yrs ago) issue of Village Voice. The writer had gotten postage-paid envelopes from both religious zealots and pornography purveyors — and cross-fertilized the two by sending each the other’s mailings. I think he added a bunch of other stuff, to increase the weight — and cost — of the mailings.


treefroggy 05.25.06 at 9:35 pm

Semi-relevant posts ? You’re probably just getting some of the usual suspects from the Hit-and-Run blog comments section. Most posts there devolve into semi-relevancy after about the third post.


Peter 05.26.06 at 1:33 am

Have any of you seen political comment spam?

Some of the commentors at http://www.washingtonmonthly.com believe that a couple of the posters are spambots regurgitating republican talking points. “Sockpuppet” also comes to mind.


Doug 05.26.06 at 8:32 am

Some time back, Making Light posted about having your comment script automatically add a “nofollow” tag to the links in comments, so that Google would not notice them. That wouldn’t by itself stanch the spam flow, but it would make CT not useful to spammers, which they might eventually (or quickly, given the speed of evolution) figure out.


abb1 05.26.06 at 9:39 am

I fed this post to iGod and got this response:

Is that your final answer? Where did he get it? Perhaps. Let’s talk more about AI. How do you assume this statement holds true for me?


Jacques Distler 05.26.06 at 10:01 am

Hand-crafted comment spam is the only kind I ever get. (Yes, I’m quite sure it’s not robotic; I have my ways of telling.)

Some of the spammers are quite clever.

Some go to the lengths of setting up a fake blog (leaving that as the URL). Once they’ve accumulated enough comments on other sites, they switch-out the fake blog (whose content was usually stolen from elsewhere), and replace it with the usual spammy alternatives.


James Wimberley 05.29.06 at 10:06 am

Evolutionary logic predicts that the first true artificial intelligence – defined as one that passes the Turing test – will be a psychopathic spambot.

Comments on this entry are closed.