Spam

During the past few months, the volume of comment spam from spambots has increased by an order of magnitude. Right now, this blog receives about 1 spambot comment per minute. Akismet and other spambot blocking services do an excellent job and without such software, it would be impossible for blogs to function.

Nonethelss, I’ve noticed that the number of spambot comments being passed through has increased by an order of magnitude in the past few months. Anthony is also experiencing this. Because I moderate after the fact, spam comments appear here until I come online.

The blog software permits some customized screening. The word “blog” seems to appear in many spambot comments, so I’m going to try adding the word “blog” to my customized screening as this word. So avoid using this word in comments and if you do, expect it to be caught in moderation.

41 Comments

  1. Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 6:29 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you. As I usually click the box to get email follow ups, I see the spam. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

  2. Klaus
    Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 6:41 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Did you try Antispam Bee? IMHO the best antispam plugin for WordPress.

    • MrPete
      Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 10:29 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Klaus (Aug 22 06:41),
      Due to the immense volume, CA is on the “VIP” WordPress server farm. We are unable to add any custom plugins or make any code changes. (This is also why various other limitations exist. If we had huge funding it would be different but this truly is a volunteer-run site!)

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 10:32 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Most spam occurs on old threads. I like the idea of being able to return to old threads. Prior to the recent increase in spam, it made sense, but it’s something that could be given up without a lot of sacrifice.

        • Steve McIntyre
          Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 10:38 AM | Permalink

          Hmmm…. CA has thousands of threads, each of which is a target for spambots. I’ve changed the default setting so that comments are closed after 6 months. This should get rid of 95% of the spam. I’ll see how this works.

          10:53 am blog time: seems to have dramatically cut down spam already.

        • Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 12:00 PM | Permalink

          This is what Judy Curry did a while back. Glad it’s been positive.

        • MrPete
          Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 12:11 PM | Permalink

          Re: Steve McIntyre (Aug 22 10:32),
          I wonder if there’s a way to moderate comments on threads older than six months.

        • Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 12:17 PM | Permalink

          MrPete (12:11 PM): Pre-moderate do you mean? That would seem the ideal solution, given most of us would agree with

          I like the idea of being able to return to old threads.

          It’s only valuable on occasions but when it is, it really is.

        • MrPete
          Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 12:59 PM | Permalink

          Re: Richard Drake (Aug 22 12:17),
          “Pre-moderate” and “moderate” are normally the same thing, so yes. My thought is that instead of completely blocking posts to old threads, we could ideally auto-moderate so they don’t show up, then occasionally review them to allow valuable content through (perhaps having been notified by the poster.) There’s so much spam that this may be impractical, but it’s at least a thought ;)

        • Anthony Watts
          Posted Aug 24, 2014 at 1:54 PM | Permalink

          I set WUWT to close threads after two weeks a long time ago, and we are still swimming in spam comments. Ours are directed at recent threads. WUWT is a higher profile target though due to its ranking.

          I’ve made note of that issue and some other changes here: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/08/24/changes-coming-to-wuwt/

          BTW you can still reopen threads later if you need to. Just a single check box.

          Anthony

  3. dearieme
    Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 6:45 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Surely there should be a twenty year hiatus in spam?

  4. Jeff Alberts
    Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 9:14 AM | Permalink | Reply

    The vast majority of traffic in the Internet is spam. I run several web sites, and spam is truly horrific.

    • Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 2:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Most traffic used to be porn. Or so I’ve read.

      • Jeff Alberts
        Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 8:36 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Much of the spam is porn spam.

  5. Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Won’t Al Gore just modify his codes so that they only post spam on skeptical websites *without* the word “ßlog”?

  6. lcarver0
    Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Is a significant population of the bots (or amount of bot capacity)
    able to defeat captcha measures that could be used in the comments web interfaces?
    I know that when you have to figure out a captcha test for submitting each comment, it’d be a real pain;
    however, I’ve seen some tests that are easier but might still be an obstacle for a bot.

    And is WP asking for more money if one of those features were to be added here?
    Please pardon my newbie questions. Thx; Larry

    • lcarver0
      Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 12:19 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Sorry all … I get what you mean now; adding anything at all,
      as you stated MrPete ” … unable to add any custom plugins or make any code changes.”
      so that made the situation clear; there’s not a lot that can be done on this one. Larry

  7. RomanM
    Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I have also been removing typically 15 to 20 spam comments on CA each day. What struck me was the almost identical wording in many of them. I have been marking them as spam (rather then merely deleting them), since I was under the impression that Akismet and other spam blockers would “learn” from this and improve their accuracy in detecting similar future versions of the comments.

    Do these spam-blockers learn or am I laboring under a misimpression on this?

    • MrPete
      Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: RomanM (Aug 22 12:45),
      Yes, they do learn. Unfortunately the spammers also learn :(

      Believe it or not, there are subscription services for both spammers and malware creators, that take proposed “content” and test it against target security systems… the “content” gets modified as needed until it is undetected by the target. Then it gets sent out. Next day the battle begins again. :(

  8. Paul Monaghan
    Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 1:15 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve, just a long time lurker here. But I believe that ditching the old posts would be a mistake. There a plenty of people just now opening their eyes to the debate, and your early work shouldn’t be sh*t-housed due to the spammers. The newcomers should be able to see it!

    Please keep the early stuff available.

    -Paul

    • Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 1:29 PM | Permalink | Reply

      It’s not ditching the old posts but preventing them being defaced by spam.

  9. Paul Monaghan
    Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 1:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

    P.S. Even if just in an archive somewhere.

  10. Duke C.
    Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 1:36 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I enjoy reading the old posts the spambots inadvertently bump to the top, especially pre-climategate stuff. They offer an interesting dichotomy between what was going on then, compared to what is going on now.

    • Steve McIntyre
      Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 2:27 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I enjoy reading the old posts the spambots inadvertently bump to the top, especially pre-climategate stuff. They offer an interesting dichotomy between what was going on then, compared to what is going on now.

      y’know, I sometimes have the same experience. But somehow spambots don’t seem like the right vehicle for random bumps.

      • MikeN
        Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 7:58 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Sporcle used to have a feature that would put up a list of random quizzes in that subject, allowing for a cycling of old quizzes.

        Steve: it would be nice to be able to randomly bump old posts.

        • Harold
          Posted Aug 23, 2014 at 10:14 AM | Permalink

          Here’s a thought. A basic climate science question. Something like greenhouse gasses absorb:

          a) UV
          b) IR
          c) visible
          d) Mann

        • MikeN
          Posted Aug 26, 2014 at 1:33 PM | Permalink

          Harold, I’m working on a few.

  11. Paul Monaghan
    Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 1:44 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Richard Drake, if that is the case I am on board. I got a different sense from reading the post, and might have been mistaken. There is a “memory hole” at RealClimate, I’d hate to see one here. Steve’s posts (especially the early ones) are too valuable.

    Steve: Richard is right. I merely closed comments on old posts. That way, the spambots can’t comment on them.

  12. Paul Monaghan
    Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 1:59 PM | Permalink | Reply

    P.S. there was a sense of “wonderment” in the earlier posts, which has subsequently been tempered by experience.

    • Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 2:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Very much agree. Evolution from sad experience.

      • Paul Monaghan
        Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 2:44 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Just to explain, “Wonderfullness” was the word I had in mind. I changed it to fit the context, but “Wonderfullness” is still a great comedy album produced by Bill Cosby in the late 1960s. Particularly the go-cart bit, and the chicken heart.

        Awaiting the snip…

        -Paul

        • Posted Aug 24, 2014 at 9:22 PM | Permalink

          I had my tonsils removed just about the time “Wonderfulness” came out. Some of the bits (like “hey you, almost-a-doctor”) went over my head, but the ice cream bit really hit home.

  13. Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 2:28 PM | Permalink | Reply

    From Google Webmaster Central B**g …

    FACT: Comment spammers are often trying to improve their site’s organic search ranking by creating dubious inbound links to their site. Google has an understanding of the link graph of the web, and has algorithmic ways of discovering those alterations and tackling them. At best, a link spammer might spend hours doing spammy linkdrops which would count for little or nothing because Google is pretty good at devaluing these types of links. Think of all the more productive things one could do with that time and energy that would provide much more value for one’s site in the long run.

    http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/11/hard-facts-about-comment-spam.html

    More at the link.

    • Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 5:14 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Interestingly, the above comment was sent to moderation.

      Steve: I don’t publish all comments. I very seldom interfere with comments that criticize me, but I exercise a certain amount of editorial prerogative on comments that appear off topic or piling on. Moderation is time-consuming and I’m inconsistent in how much energy I apply to it and even in implementing criteria. I understand that I drive comments away through this policy, but otherwise comment threads quickly go off topic. I find most comment threads at Anthony’s and Judy’s to be unreadable because of this. I’m not opining on your comment, but this might be what happened.

      • Posted Aug 23, 2014 at 6:05 AM | Permalink | Reply

        I wasn’t complaining, I assumed it happened automagically because of the link or some word in the comment and thought it was funny in this context.

        At Anthony’s and Judy’s I pretty much skip the comments or let my browser search through them for specific names that usually have something interesting and useful to say. Sometimes I think that comments should be closed for an hour after a post is published so that the reflexive regular ranters find something else to do. CA’s snipping/blocking policy is a good thing.

        And for those who accuse bloggers of censorship when they remove comments, they should look at the editorial pages of the nation’s top newspapers left, right and center. Most letters to the editor are never published.

  14. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 22, 2014 at 8:06 PM | Permalink | Reply

    BTW shutting off comments on old threads has almost completely stopped spambot comments getting posted. I guess it was the sheer number of old threads that created the problem. It would explain why WUWT has the same problem. I’ll make the same suggestion to Anthony.

  15. Paul Monaghan
    Posted Aug 23, 2014 at 6:28 AM | Permalink | Reply

    An elegant solution, glad it worked!

  16. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Aug 23, 2014 at 7:15 AM | Permalink | Reply

    The 3 CA spams I received here in Oz on 21Aug were all prefaced ‘in response to Steve McIntyre:’
    Might that be a further potential filter if it is widespread?

    No spam 22 or 23 Aug

    It would be excellent if easy access to all past CA blogs could be maintained.
    It is not fanciful that future scholars will use CA as an example of the way some blogs ‘changed the course of history’ on the Web.

    Steve: there is relatively easy access. Look at Archives tab. The “tags” facility is useful for more recent posts and categories for earlier posts.

  17. Posted Aug 23, 2014 at 3:41 PM | Permalink | Reply

    IMHO, the death penalty is not too extreme for spammers and the spambots they create.

  18. tom0mason
    Posted Aug 23, 2014 at 9:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Dear Spammer
    Broken fingers can’t type.

  19. Posted Aug 24, 2014 at 11:18 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I wonder if a solution to spam might be a deposit on comments. It could be auto-waived for established commenters.

One Trackback

  1. By Changes coming to WUWT | Watts Up With That? on Aug 24, 2014 at 12:32 PM

    […] This change is already in place this week and has been necessitated by the rising amount of spam comments not just WUWT, but all blogs seem to be getting. Steve McIntyre laments his trouble with recent spam increases here. […]

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