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The Attack Of The Clones

One noticeable spam problem became visible in late 2009, thanks to yet another Blogger error.

This error left a lot of bloggers (some legitimate and others actually spammers) reporting both confusion and indignation.

The confusion was seen, in two (seemingly) separate topics of indignation.

My blog seems to be locked, but when I fill out the CAPTCHA, I get
Your blog is not locked, and does not need review.
What do I do, now?


My blog is not spam! Honestly, how could Blogger legitimately call my blog spam?

Both of these reports, echoed by dozens of bloggers and spammers, show two sides of the same story.

The first report was typically about blogs that were righteously locked - yet a mistake caused the message

Your blog is not locked, and does not need review.

The second report exemplifies the despair and frustration felt by thousands of honest people who simply want to publish to their blogs. And there are dozens of similar, and dissimilar reports.

Note: This isn't fiction - I'm not stealing content from the Tom Clancy "Net Force" novels. This is real.

Spammers publish new blogs, constantly, using botnets.

Spammers, in order to publish one or two active splogs (blogs containing actual hacking, porn, and / or spam content), use the power of the Internet. Each splog publisher ("splogger"), who may have at his control thousands of hijacked computers, publishes thousands of blogs each day.

A spammer starts with empty blogs, which do not appear spammy.

A splogger starts by simply publishing empty blogs, in a constant, all day activity. You may see the empty blogs some time, if you go "Next Blog" surfing. They have a title, an archives gadget in the sidebar, and maybe one or two posts with random garbage. And a Profile gadget, with a link to the "owner", each "owner" with 10 blogs.

He then adds random content, scraped from the web - maybe, from your blog.

The splogger next takes one legitimate blog - in this case, your blog. He scrapes content from your blog, takes a dozen or so of his empty blogs, adds your content to each, and republishes each blog. Now, there are a dozen clones of your blog, plus your original, in BlogSpot.

He then adds spammy content, to a few of his blogs.

Next, the splogger takes a couple of his recently created clones, adds the payload - hacking, porn, and / or spam content, or possibly, links to other blogs or websites containing the payload - and republishes his now active splogs.

Each time, he just uses a couple blogs (cloned from your blog), and keeps the others as reserve. He has dozens of other splogs with active content out there too, using content scraped from other legitimate blogs. The clones of your blog, joining the clones of other blogs, are now active members of his splog farm.

As Blogger deletes discovered spammy blogs, the spammer uses more like yours.

As the splogs with active content are detected and removed by Blogger, the splogger simply activates other reserves, placing payload into each, in turn. By the time all of the reserves, that are clones of your blog, are used up, the well designed spam blog farm will have clones of still more legitimate blogs, ready to be activated.

A spam blog has a distinctive life cycle.

Considering this process, we see the 5 Stage life cycle, of each blog in the splog farm.

  1. Empty (just published).
  2. Reserve (previously empty, republished with scraped content added).
  3. Active (previously reserve, republished with payload added).
  4. Detected (previously active, locked by the Blogger Spam Classification bot).
  5. Deleted.

The plan here is that each splog will pass through each stage in the life cycle, in proper sequence. Since the splogger publishes thousands of splogs daily, if Blogger were to simply lock then delete the active splogs, the splogger simply activates the reserve splogs, as needed. This is good project management, by the sploggers.

Blogger shortens the life cycle, using fuzzy blog identification.

Blogger aims to shorten the splog life cycle. When the anti-spam bot detects an active splog, they search their database of suspected splogs, find similar blogs with no active content (the reserves), and lock the reserves too.

Unfortunately, when Blogger locks the reserve splogs, they are also going to lock your blog. Fuzzy spam detection techniques can't tell the difference between your blog, and the clones, because there is no difference.

If a spammer clones your blog, your blog will look just like a spam blog.

A successful clone is a non distinguisable replica of the original blog. Your blog looks like one of the reserve splogs. This leaves you, and bloggers like you, reporting

My blog is not spam! Honestly, how could Blogger legitimately call my blog spam?

If the spam blogs went untouched, the search engines would index your blog.

When you look at this differently, though, you see that Blogger is actually helping you. Were your blog, and the clones, to remain in BlogSpot undisturbed, the search engines would see the clones, and levy a huge duplicated content penalty on all aliases of the content - including your original blog.

If you are able to declare your blog as legitimate to Blogger, Blogger can later delete the sploggy clones - and the search engines will, hopefully, continue to index your blog, as legitimate and unique content.

In 2012, Blogger took the Next Step, and made "Next Blog" a less productive launching ground for splog farms. With blog owners carelessly deleting and renaming their blogs, however, the blog clone farm continues as a useful model for spam distribution.


Vicky said…
Thanks for all the information it's been helpful. :) Now I wait..
Maskil said…
Please could you clarify what you mean by your opening sentence:
"The latest spam problem, which became visible a couple weeks ago, thanks to yet another Blogger error..."
Was it a Blogger/Blogspot problem that caused the error, or that made it visible?
Pinoko said…
Another useful information for me.. thanks nitecruzr!
usefull information
Godlike said…
I don't know about you, but when it comes to spam it can be very very annoying. I would say that people caught spamming have their email blocked, all other blogs erased and banned from blogger interface forever by IP, name, address and any other data they fill in.

And for a new account there should be some harder measures to take into consideration so people won't make accounts for just 1 blog.

It's sad how people can't understand that SPAM won't pay their bills, not now not ever. People online get smarter these days. I personally don't know anybody buying something through spam. But idiots are allover the place, so it might be 1 or 2 fouls that do.

PS: these "sales" wont pay your bills.
MarkyB said…
This is very helpful. As long as my 'non spam' blog is restored I will be grateful to Blogger for getting rid of any blogs that were a clone of mine.

Is there anything I can do to my blog to prevent a future incident like this?
Anonymous said…
It's a very useful information .I gained really a valuable knowledge from this post.Great and i'm waiting for my blog to be restored.Thanks.
Gopi said…
Ok interesting..So does this mean when I search for my blog entries if I find a link that is connected to my blog but has nothing to do with my blog its a splog?? I found afew like that which bewildered me. I hope my blog is restored soon.
Nitecruzr said…
does this mean when I search for my blog entries if I find a link that is connected to my blog but has nothing to do with my blog its a splog?

A blog that is apparently copying content from your blog, and possibly others, may be a splog. What's apparently relevant is the ratio of amount of (copied material + fraudulent material) / the amount of original material.
Ridodirected said…
I encounter a few weeks ago but not in bloggers/blogspot its in another site. When I click the picture another empty blog comes out. Maybe that is what you mean a spam blog. But when I scan my updated norton it says all is clean and beside Im using firefox too. Hope there is some software that could help detect this.
100Staples said…
Yep. Thanks for the info. I can only hope ...
Skip2MyLou said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lorelei said…
I read your post on splogs; scary. Just wondering, if I was a victim of that, would people click on my link and end up going to a porn blog? Oh, nauseous thought! Also, if I was blocked and wanted to prove I had a legitimate blog, how would I go about doing that?
THANK YOU for this post! Now I can see why my network keeps being seen as spam. I will take your advice and am seriously grateful to have read this post. I wish the link to this post was on the Blogger homepage! Thanks again. ;o)
David Newby said…
Very complex. I had no idea this much stuff was involved with blogging. Thanks for your help
Ohm Jal said…

my all blogs were disappeared from my account and opening also. So please help me to restore my blogs...

You are providing niche blog tips and solutions
Nitecruzr said…

Any "Please restore my blog!" requests have to be posted in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken.
Mike Yang said…
This is fascinating stuff, and extremely helpful for a first-timer like me. Is there anything we can do to avoid being 'cloned' ? Obviously someone can always just copy-and-paste, but is there at least some way to prevent them doing it in an automated, en-masse fashion?
eve said…
Thank you for making this clear to me.Now I learn how bad spam blogs are.I just hope and pray my blog be restored and go online again.I should be very careful next time. Thank you.
whonesia said…
Thank you for the information, but concretely, how can I restore or activate my blog? when I'm not a spammer ..???
This makes me a bit traumatized by blogspot. because 4 is my blog on bended dna considered spammers. 1,000% while I am NOT a spammer blog ...??? pathetic!
Nitecruzr said…

If your blog does not contain spam, you have to get it unlocked. Your only choice is to follow the instructions provided to you, in a discussion which you start, in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken.

As you read the instructions provided, please examine the numbers involved in the problem, and consider how you could assign some blame for the problem, to the spammers who make the whole procedure necessary.
Taripre$ said…
This was really good, makes sense now cause I had my first blog taken down by google and never heard anything back from them after I submitted the info they asked for to get my blog up after the spam allegation...was wondering about that!! Not saying I'm not sketchy about the whole thing, but now it makes more sense.

Tutorials4Share said…
Hi there,
My blog's just detected as spam blog by mistake this morning and I was really very angry. After spending an afternoon searching and reading, now I have known why the mistake happened to my blog. Thank you very much for this helpful post!
LifeLittleCraft said…
It is quite frustrating when one group of people ruin it for the hard-working bloggers out there. Thanks for the info.
Thank you for the perfect explanation why blogger bots locks legitimate blogs
Unknown said…
I do not know about this before. thanks for sharing the information. i will take care of my blog from this type of spamming

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