on google and the recursive cycle of spam

The spam problem has been the bane of openly available “web 2.0” sites since, well, forever. Everyone universally hates spam. Everyone, universally, wants to see it go away. Why is it still a problem?

Wait. Not everyone wants it to go away. There are two groups of people who benefit from spam.

  • spammers
  • google

Of course spammers won’t stop – they have a money factory running, and are locked in an arms race against the global online community in an effort to game ever larger lumps of cash from Google.

Google says they want it to stop. They came up with a wonderful solution that would have stopped spam in its tracks – the only downside was that the solution would have destroyed the network effects of the web by negating links. Baby? Meet bathwater. Meet half-assed “solution” that lets Google say “hey! we tried! Really we did!”

But, why did Google stop at a half-assed solution? Why not go fully-assed? Because they benefit from spam. Every time some moron stupidly clicks on a spam factory’s Google ads, Google gets a cut, and they happily send cash to the spammer.

Recursive Cycle of Spam

The evil spam roaches inflict their spam on the various “web 2.0” resources – anything that has an open form intended to foster dialogue and conversation – this spam gets indexed by Google, who then send the roaches a cut of all proceeds from the ads on those spam factory websites.

Anyone else see a conflict of interest here?

There is an easy solution.

Google: to stop the spam, you have to stop paying the spammers.

How to do that? Well, I’m not a multi-bajillion-dollar company stuffed to the rafters with PhDs or anything, but how about this for a start:

If someone reports a website as a spam factory, their adsense revenue goes into an escrow-like state until it can be shown to NOT be spam. They don’t lose any money if they’re legit, but they have the opportunity to lose their revenue if they are shown to be evil spam roaches. What to do with the revenue seized from verified spam factory adsense accounts? Google can’t keep it – it just maintains the conflict of interest. They should donate it all to the EFF or something similar.

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14 thoughts on “on google and the recursive cycle of spam”

  1. D’Arcy-
    It would also help Google in not having to deal with click-fraud, but you’re right- click fraud still makes them money.
    It’s not that hard to figure out who the legitimate people are- and who’s a link spammer-
    Whenever I see a site with over 1000 posts (except you) I know what’s going on-
    all we would have to do is have the cloud report people- and voila- solved.
    Same could be done with e-mail spam- forcing IP’s into fenced in places once enough people forward the spam to a central DB.
    It needs to happen- soon.

  2. @bill: that openID/FOAF idea won’t work – its too exclusive. The power of the social network is that anyone can contribute, without having to be a member of any clubs… Of course, that’s the same thing that lets the roaches in.

  3. I’d be all for it. When can we start? Spam is the bane of my life: I’m sick of people spamming my sites and I’m sick of disgusting emails making their way past the spam filters. I’d be ready to do just about anything to get rid of these low-lifes.

  4. D’Arcy,

    I usually agree with most everything you say, but I do need to take exception to some of the points in this post.

    Spam doesn’t exist solely because of AdSense. Spam also exists because people want inlinks to their site, in part for a hopefully increased ranking in the search engines.

    Regarding AdSense, those ads are put up by advertisers that want to get their ads (AdWords) placed on relevant sites, and to get quality visitors. If the advertisers get frustrated and don’t allow their AdWords to be shown on content networks, then Google can’t make money from clicks. In the campaigns I manage, I only let the ads be shown on search results pages, not on pages with AdSense.

    Google does have a way to report spam in their index in general, at http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html.

    I agree that spam is a problem, but Google and the other search engines are taking efforts to combat the spam.

  5. @patricia: ironically, your comment was flagged as spam by Akismet…

    @keri: but why do they want such high google ranking? it’s largely to drive people to the ads on their spamfarm sites. If I click through to verify a spam site, 99.9% of the time, it’s plastered with Google Adsense blocks all over the place. They’re not gaming the google juice for fame. it’s for fortune. I’ve tried that spam report form, and nothing seems to happen. I wonder if the spam farms are too fast-moving to be nailed down?

  6. AdSense isn’t the only way to make money on a site. There are plenty of other affiliate marketing opportunities people use to make money.

    A few months ago, there was a blog readability test, and many people put the badge on their website stating their website’s readability score. What 99% of the people did not realize is that there was code in there the regular user would not see, but gave a link to a site advertising payday loans. That site ranked number one in Google for the phrase payday loans — until they were caught. Their site is still indexed, but does not come up for that phrase. There may or may not have been AdSense on the site, but there are thousands of other ways to advertise and make money beyond AdSense.

  7. In addition to what you said above, both Yahoo and Google serve ads on parked pages… It’s big business for them. They feed the industry that buys up domains and holds them for essentially spam pages until they can get someone to give them thousands or maybe a million, if they stopped doing that those websites might die. But the fact is that there are competitors out there and it’s a lot of money, if they won’t do it someone else will.

  8. Thankfully, it has been reported that Google will take one large step to reduce the ads on parked pages. Currently, you can “test” a domain for five days without cost. Some people have made considerable money by testing domains and putting AdSense on the domain, without having to pay for the domain. Several sites have reported that Google will soon change this practice. http://blog.domaintools.com/2008/01/google-to-kill-domain-tasting/.

    It won’t stop the practice entirely, but I think it will be a be a good start to reducing the problem.

  9. @Keri: I think it was a P/R move and a business decision. You have to consider the amount of revenue as a whole that domain tasting brings in would be significantly low therefore it was not a tough business decision for them. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s a very, very small step.

  10. Keri, I’m quite sure there a a million ways to monetize the internet. But, every single spam site that attacks my blog is covered with Google Adsense blocks. Every. Single. One. Yes, Google delisted BMW. But BMW didn’t spam my blog, or any others – they were just messing around with their own website by adding waaaaay too many links.

  11. I tried reporting some of those “Made For Adsense” sites, but I got nowhere I think. Google did do us a favour around March or April last year. They shut down some of the larger MFA accounts and suddenly my eCPM almost doubled! Unfortunately they’re back again but the competitive ad filter helps to keep them at bay.

  12. @Keri

    Google has joined the bandwagon on that one. They’ve launched their own ad program for parked domains. The info is here : http://www.google.com/domainpark/ .

    We can’t expect Google to put their capitalistic interests behind though, after all their real customers are their advertisers.

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