New kind of spam? Snagging legitimate comments

August 29, 2012 at 9:14 am 4 comments

I want to go meta for a moment, because I noticed something that I found interesting in my WordPress spam folder.  I have several completely legitimate, thoughtful comments on the blog, with completely illegitimate ownership.  I suspect that the ownership of the comment has been hijacked to drive traffic to their site.

For example, here’s a comment that has supposedly been made by a “Panama Offshore Bank Account” website:

We do know how to engage kids now. We have NCWIT Best and Promising Practices , and we have contextualized computing education . The real problem is that, when it comes to high school CS, we’re just not there. If you choose a high school at random, you are ten times more likely to find one that offers no CS than to find one offering AP CS. That’s a big reason why the AP numbers are so bad. It’s not that the current AP CS is such an awful class. It can be taught well. It’s just not available to everyone! The AP CS teachers we’re working with are turning kids away because their classes are full. Most kids just don’t have access.

That’s a relevant contribution — why would a Panama Bank submit that?

Here’s another, on the Khan Academy CS supports, from an “Anglo-Far East Gold Bullion” site:

The system works wonderfully. Educators often call it “scaffolded problem-based learning.” Essentially students will be solving real-life problems while being encouraged to explore, but are also guided by a teacher along their way, who will be able to point out a number of different ways of accomplishing the problem. Scaffolded learning acknowledges that real-life problems will always have more than one way to solve the solution, that students will always learn best by doing instead of watching, and that curiously should drive exploration (as a personal thought, it’s kind of funny that we’re basically finding things out that were already discovered hundreds of years ago).

These are far too-relevant to be generated by auto-spamming bots.  I’m wondering if, somehow, legitimate comments are getting relabeled.

If you make a comment, and it doesn’t show up, please drop me a note to check the spam filter, and I’ll try to make sure that your comment gets posted.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Neil Brown  |  August 29, 2012 at 9:20 am

    The reason that the first comment is relevant is that you wrote it! It’s from this post:

    http://computinged.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/contextualized-computing-ed-works-its-just-not-there/

    The bots are reposting comment from your blog posts — another strategy is to repost other people’s comments. This guarantees that it’s relevant and looks normal, but what the bots then do is add/replace links in the message to point to their chosen site. Very clever.

    Reply
    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  August 29, 2012 at 10:12 am

      Ohhh! I get it! I didn’t write the second post, though you might be right — it could be someone else’s comment that got copy-pasted here. It is clever.

      Reply
  • 3. ffmm  |  August 29, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Mark,
    I am getting an increasing number of plausible looking spam comments on my Typepad blog where the spamming engine copies and pastes stuff from elsewhere on my blog – sometimes from others’ bona fide comments – and submits that as a comment. Thankfully the originating name for the spam has so far been obviously bogus (handbags, shoes etc). So easy to spot. But sooner or later I expect I will get conned into approving something.
    Seb Schmoller

    Reply
  • 4. manuelinor  |  October 22, 2012 at 1:36 am

    I came across your post by googling “anglo far east gold blog spammer”!

    I’ve received 3 of these comments as well – all apparently originating from the anglo far east website, but with different email addresses. And yes, they are oh, SO relevant to my associated post. I like to think my inherent cynicism enables me to spot a fraud, but I approved the first of these comments (after much deliberation and futile googling) because it seemed to be too relevantly-detailed to be auto-generated. However, I’ve received 2 more since on different posts and something just doesn’t ring true.

    The comments are not copying words from my own blog, so I am curious to know how (if the source is indeed ‘non-human’) they find text that is so specifically relevant. I am not at all tech-savvy, but I love a good mystery :), so if anyone has any insight on this I’d love to know!

    Reply

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