Friday, August 01, 2008

The Blogger Anti-Spam Bot Bites The Big One

Since January 2008, Blogger has been working hard to keep hacking, porn, and spam out of the blogosphere. This work is not by humans, though, but by an army of unattended computers, called by many the Blogger anti-spam bot.

The anti-spam bot is not static. It has to be constantly updated, to keep up with constant activity by the producers of the many large splog farms that inhabit the blogosphere. It's going to produce false positives, as well as false negatives, and it's going to produce inconvenience to many bloggers.

This week, a recently applied update appears to have taken an excessive amount of innocent blogs with it. Major inconvenience to many. Can you say "egregious false positive rate"?

One blogger seems to have a way around the problem - at least to let your readers know what's going on.
If you still have access to your blog, you can still post a new widget at the top of your blog that contains text to tell your readers what has happened.

Using Page Elements, create a text widget with a brief message, and position the widget in a conspicuous place on the blog.
Note to Readers - Blogger's spam robot has run amok and has tagged 1000s of blogs, including this one, as "spam." Obviously, I am not a spam blog.


So, if you can't post but you can access the Layout wizard, you can at least let your readers know why you aren't posting.

As far as resolving this for your blog, I'm sure that you have done what a few other bloggers have instinctively done, and started the well known blog review request process.

In this case, and based upon the level of complaints seen so far, I suspect that's going to be a waste of time from you. Unless Blogger brings in extra staff, there's no way that they can review all of the requests generated by this experience. How long does a review requests typically take? Multiply that by 100 (minimum). Would you really want to wait that long?

> > (Update 17:00): Blogger admits to the problem, and implies that they are resolving it on their own.

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8 comments:

Bill Boushka said...

Why doesn't Blogger simply reinstate the captcha rather than disabling a blog? Wouldn't doing this prevent automated robots from posting? Wouldn't this prove that the blog is not spam? It seems from the Group Forums that a lot of different things happen in practice. An answer to this would make an interesting post here for many concerned bloggers!

Chuck said...

Blogger is fighting a war against enemies that don't play by any rules. They thought that they were making a smart move against the spammers, but they were wrong.

Bill Boushka said...

I guess I was naïve about the captcha problem, as I found when gumshoeing today. I found the earlier discussion on the captcha issue on your “Networking nitecruz” blog from Aug 2006, and I also found the discussion at securitylabs.websense (article 3073) was well as some discussion on McAfee Avert Labs (including discussion of the “Captchar” Trojan). I see that this is quite complicated. The problem seems to have gotten worse in the spring of 2008, which may help explain some apparent increase in “false positive” complaints on the Google Help Forums.

Sometimes, when a blogger complains, I find that the blog is still up or has been restored; other times it has been removed. But in the blogs that can be seen, there’s no obvious pattern of what might have caused the automatic flagging. The complaints of false positives in the Forums appear, to me at least, to be legitimate. But they may number only a tiny fraction of the true count of splogs.

I can imagine some solutions. Part of the problem, just as with email, is philosophical. If you make something free, it invites abuse that can become uncontrollable. Maybe some of Blogger should not be free but should be managed as shared web hosting, priced comparably to plans from other companies (I work with NTT/Verio and Network Solutions). Then blog archives, for example, would be more sheltered from this problem. I can imagine some company policy changes in the Google Account management that could make the abuse described in the websense article less likely.

I would look forward to seeing another detailed, updated article on the problem on your blog. I’ll watch the 50 minute video you mentioned in 2006 soon. I will work something up on my own and possibly put in on my Wordpress site later.

I’ll add, here, I’m a retired IT person with a largely old-fashioned IBM/MVS mainframe background. At a somewhat advanced age, I still contemplate going back to work. I’d love to help a company solve a huge problem like this. When I see a problem like this, it makes me wish I were working there myself. You never know!

Ramazanova said...

Bill, I could still post on my blog even though it had been flagged !!

It's not this that pisses me off, it's the fact that when they flag your blog as spam, the Robot.txt changes to 'disallow' automatically.

So any progress we might have made with search engines will all be undone as we wait 3 weeks to get control of our blogs again !! x

Chad Brand said...

Chuck,
I run a top investment blog and it has been locked as a false positive. Review requests have been ignored. I am still able to post to my blog, but Google is no longer crawling my site (robot.txt disallow) so search traffic is down from 2500/month to nothing. Is there anything I can do other than use that review request form?

Chuck said...

Chad,

Thanks to the spammers, Blogger setup this 2 step review request process. Did you try both steps? If so, then you need an open thread in the forum, so I can point to that thread when I escalate your problem.

Chad Brand said...

Chuck,
After requesting reviews for about 2 months, I just added my blog to the spreadsheet today. How long should I wait until open a new thread in the forum for escalation?
Thanks!

Chuck said...

Chad,

The sooner that you post there, the sooner that you might be noticed. Be objective, and provide dates so we can tell from your post how long you've been waiting after each step.