Articles

Spamindicators

In tech on June 26, 2006 by karan

I've noticed some spam recently – all caught by WordPress' default spam protection, without needing to resort to services like Akismet – that indicate TWiki is being abused by spammers, especially on a number of academic installations. Ok, so, spam comment caught, all done right? Wrong.

It's not ok just to remove the spam comment on your site and sit back thinking "that's one spammer thwarted for the day," because there will be others who are more open to spam, who will not thwart the spammer and find themselves unwittingly putting cash in the pockets of spammers. I raised the issue with a link to a page on my former university faculty's domain, and it was dealt with fairly swiftly. Now, even if that page has slipped past a spam blocker, it's no longer pointing at a valid page and the spammer is again thwarted.

There has to be a way to harness the power of Akismet and other such spam blocking mechanisms to provide feedback to webmasters, rather than just blocking spam. Blocking is a rather selfish approach – "it's not on my site, so it's not my problem". What might be better is to email the webmaster of the domain on which the spam page is hosted in order for the page to get shut down. This might not catch all pages – invariably a large proportion of the links will lead directly to the target page, the spammer's client – but it will catch pages on legitimate sites and help reduce the credibility given to such spam.

Caveat: where this is tricky is in finding the right email to send to. Email is rarely published on pages now, for risk of further spam directly in the box. A standard email address like webmaster@somedomain is probably spammed enough already, or even ignored. Proposal of a standard email would likely get shot down in flames. Something to think about still.

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