Splogs – A New Place for Spam's Same Old Pitches

The Washington Post has an article today on “splogs”. “Splog” is a contraction of spam-blogs, blogs that are created using other people’s content (usually copyrighted) for the sole purpose of getting a few click-throughs on some pay-per-click ads or affiliate links to porn, gambling, pharmaceuticals, etc.

I was quoted in the article:

Yahoo and Google are the common carriers of the information age, and they have a reasonable responsibility . . . to prevent the illegal and inappropriate use of their services.

To expand on that a little bit… UPS and FedEx obviously can’t open up every package they carry to make sure it doesn’t contain illegal substances or evidence of illegal activity. But they do take reasonable measures to prevent drugs, explosives, or other hazardous materials from being shipped. The large blog providers, I believe, have a similar obligation.

One might think that ad system providers like Google have a conflict of interest. They make money from the advertising in the splogs. I think that would not only be short-sighted, but not a very complete view of even the current picture. The same people are going to click on the ad, and only on it once, whether itÂ’s on the legitimate site or the splog. And they are probably more likely to click on it on a legit site than on a splog.

Longer-term, if Google doesn’t do something about splogs on Blogger, then they’re going to have to do something about it in their search engines as a pure customer satisfaction issue, as the article points out:

Ben Popken, keeper of a blog called TheSpunker, recently searched the Internet for Swiss army knives and found himself stymied by splogs. Every time he typed in the topic on a blog search engine, he kept pulling up a site that appeared to be a legitimate blog but was filled with links to other Web sites.

“In one way, it’s a tribute to the openness of the blog system. It’s kind of ingenious in this diabolical way,” Popken said in an interview. “But something like this happening undermines the trust that blogs are based on.”

One more thought I had on this topic re: tags. I think tags are a great concept, but I’ve thought they were doomed from the beginning. How are they expected to be any different situation than meta keywords? I don’t see any way to prevent tags being spammed. For that matter, I even see some top bloggers sticking 17 different tags on like a 5-line post. With practices like that, how useful do we really expect them to remain? Technorati, et al., are going to have to reinvent the major search engines’ wheels in order to sift out sites using bogus tags just to get links and an occasional visitor.

Anyway, the article gives a good overview of the issue and the complexities surrounding it. One interesting new resource that didn’t make the article, but is worth checking out, is SplogReporter.com (via Frank Gruber), a centralized place for reporting suspected splogs (though it’s unclear from the site exactly what’s going to be done with this list – I plan to research more).