Sunday, 20 September 2009

Spammers are killing me

I have over the last years developed an experimental socio-semantic bookmarking service as a part hobby and part academic research project. The site can be said to be under early Beta testing. I have a lot of plans for the site but as it is being developed on my spare time the progress is not as fast as I could have hoped for. Also, as I write the project is kind of on the shelf while I explore another exiting hobby project in the area of social location based services.

Here come the spammers
In the middle of July 2009 I suddenly saw a rise in the number of new members signing up on my bookmarking service Surely it's some robots spamming fuzzzy I thought. But after looking into the actions performed I soon figured out the spam where human generated. Based on the type of actions and data/metadata entered I could tell these where not generated solely by automated agents. It very much looked like coordinated spamming from a spam ring. There were no pattern in the IP addresses used. Captchas and human-readable-only questions on the sign up page did not stop them. Looking in the log-files at the seconds between actions, links added in the form of bookmarks and free html text links where added and modified in a typical human workflow. Some spammers also added tags and comments.

Why are they doing this
Obviously Google pagerank is the root of all evil link bombing spam. Often called link bombing, google bombing, spamdexing, referer spam, spammers add links to sites in order to promote a site and make it rank higher on Google and other search engines using page rank and similar ranking algorithms.

Spammers killing me slowly
For the last weeks I have got about 30 spam links every day and the process of removing the spam is killing me. Instead of using my scarce time on development and learning new stuff I am tied down for 10 minutes each day just verifying links and deleting spam. 10 minutes a day is not that much but its the feeling of fighting against a mob of EVIL EVIL EVIL real world spammers that really makes me just feel sad and frustrated. On just about every page on fuzzzy there is now text saying the site is a community site for people interested in web science and web development. Still, people keep bombing the site with spam links.

So what should I do
As the site is still in sort of early closed beta I don't have a bunch of users that can report, moderate and delete spam.
The few options I see are:
  • Close the site until I decide to focus 100% on the site and a real community is built around the site.
  • Keep deleting spam every day.
  • Develop a spam blacklisting service my self.
  • Report the spam to some third party black list.
  • Develop functionality that favours user with high reputation. Links posted by new users are just not shown until the link or the user is voted up or something like that.
If you have any ideas for how to fight the spam please let me know.
The last option or similar approaches seems to be the way to go but it does seem futile to fight the spam mob. If I can free my site of the spammers they will only move on as parasites to new victims. This only shows how primitive the current state of the web really is.