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Author Topic: Why are there no sites to shame and punish companies that spammers promote?  (Read 4494 times)

mouser

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I understand how terribly hard it is to track down and deter/punish the individuals that post spam comments to forums and send spam emails.

That seems like an impossible task.

But what continues to bewilder me is why there don't seem to be any mechanisms for shaming/punishing/reporting/deterring the COMPANIES that spammers promote?

We get dozens of spam posts and profiles changes every day that are deleted from the DonationCoder.com forum before anyone seems them.  All of these spam posts are promoting a given store or product.. Why on earth is there not someplace for forum/blog admins to report these companies that could impose some penalty that would stop them from hiring or incentivizing these spammers.

The commercial spam ecosystem is very clear -- the companies are paying the spammers to do this stuff -- or paying middle men that they know hire spammers.  We can't stop the individual spammers but de-incentivizing the companies seems trivial -- google could put them out of business in 10 seconds if they wanted to..

Every time i see some story about some stupid new google pr stunt i wonder.. hey wouldn't it be cool if every once in a while they devoted some energy to shoveling off a layer or two of the advertising spam that the internet is drowning in?
« Last Edit: April 13, 2013, 07:28:45 AM by mouser »

Ath

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So a wall of shame, with a specific downvote on Google searches if found there? That surely would need cooperation from Google then :huh:

mouser

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A public wall of shame yes, created from submissions by trusted forums+blogs, of companies who are being actively promoted by spammers.  With the understanding that these companies that are being promoted will be severely penalized by a wide variety of entities (search engine placement, amazon marketplace support, end-user boycotting).

Rover

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I like the concept.  Sort of a reverse Angie's List.

Of course I see a huge potential for about.  Want to get Walmart in trouble?  Start SPAMMING ads for them.   :P
Insert Brilliant Sig line here

mouser

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While that's a theoretically concern, i don't it's likely to be a real issue in practice.

Writing a negative review about a competitor must be extremely tempting, with a high rate of return, no downsides other than getting caught, easy deniability, and very difficult to catch for a variety of reasons.  But paying for huge volumes of fake spam from a company has none of those upsides and a huge downside that i think would make it very unlikely.

For one, the volume of spamming you'd have to fake to show up on a list like this would be extremely risky for a competitor to engage in.  Because of that and because a company would have to be paying someone to create all this fake spam, the risk and potential of getting caught is high.

Writing a couple of fake negative reviews slagging off a competitor requires only a family member with an amazon.com account and a willingness to pretend to hate a product.  Sending off a few thousand spam advertisements for a competitor every month requires money and leaves a trail that would be hard to erase.

And unlike writing a fake negative review -- this is a case where you would actually be PROMOTING your competitor with tons of paid spam advertising, and HOPING they get penalized for it.

I just don't see it happening.

TaoPhoenix

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There's something more complicated going on here. After a 12 second nod to "first world problems", let's poke at this.

1. I believe the posts are coming from second/third world countries. Last I looked into that kind of thing, 1000 spam posts might only cost $50. Could be less. So the money is "trivial".

2. What if the company doesn't care? The problem with a wall of shame is believing that the company cares. But if they have some kind of model that revolves around flash mob type sales, who cares if they get on some wall? Have y'all *looked* at the companies involved? They point to some domain like "Prada-Handbags-4-cheap-for-all.com" or whatever. Like any savvy consumer would buy there! Not!

3. Meta-Models
Then it gets even wilder. What if they don't actually plan to sell much of anything at all!? Let's suppose they have 10 of each item just to cover emergencies. Maybe someone would click the link and go look. What then if they were an *AD company*? Then the viewer looks, doesn't buy, but they get served an ad impression, so "They Win".

Those are just starter points. I know, it's old hat to say "It's ___ year", but it is. Basically like we all knew, the rise of the internet is the single most disruptive tech change for the past 40-50-60 years. Life REALLY did used to be simple in the 70's. I'll stop here just to get the thread moving.

mouser

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I think your item #1 is almost certainly correct.

Your item #2 is not though. Of course they wont care if they "get on a wall" -- but if that wall was used by google to remove them (or even just decrease in web search), or have their emails marked as spam, it would devestate their business overnight.  that's my whole point -- this entire industry of behavior could be eliminated in short order if the folks who are ALREADY defacto choosing winners and losers and badguys and goodguys decided to take some action against these spammers.

The email blacklisting services are absolutely deadly and cavalier much of the time -- marking innocent people as spammers based on some very shoddy criteria.. all they have to do is coordinate with the people who track forum spammers and they could actually do some good in this world.

Point 3 im not really following -- i think your saying that listing them on some public wall of shame might get them desired attention.  I think that could be solved in a variety of ways -- but the key thing to understand is that the PUBLIC shaming wall is not the important feature of this idea.  The important feature is to have a kind of central clearing house for trusted information about companies who are directly or indirectly paying for spammers to pollute forums and blogs in order to advertise their products, and have the self-appointed traffic cops on the internet simply adjust their (already set up and daily used) lists to penalize them.

TaoPhoenix

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I think your item #1 is almost certainly correct.

Your item #2 is not though. Of course they wont care if they "get on a wall" -- but if that wall was used by google to remove them (or even just decrease in web search), or have their emails marked as spam, it would devestate their business overnight.  that's my whole point -- this entire industry of behavior could be eliminated in short order if the folks who are ALREADY defacto choosing winners and losers and badguys and goodguys decided to take some action against these spammers.

Naw, you're just a nice Mouser who isn't thinking in the gutter enough.

Theory:
Those kinds of links themselves are just "redirects" and pointers and other things so they don't plan to be searched, they plan to be "live clicked" by the site userbase. I am postulating that these companies aren't run by idiots, they have been doing this for over five years (!!) so they have some kind of shuffle-aggregator-splitter plan going.

TaoPhoenix

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Point 3 im not really following -- i think your saying that listing them on some public wall of shame might get them desired attention.  

This is the *Semi-Reverse* of what I am saying. I believe that they *don't care* if they get on a wall, because the wall would likely only capture some throwaway element. If they have a hyper-fast revolver-system, their throwaways are good for a week max, so who cares if they get on a wall. The trick they could bank on to counter your wall of shame idea is very few people could/would track down DEEP links such as "prada-handbags-now" is run on ip 26.352.18.287 (I made that up), which *also owns* "leather-handbags-you-know-you-want-them", which THEN links to "GBI" (Global Brands Inc, purposely nothing sounding name), which is then a shell for 12 sister companies, each of which uses a different payment processor ...

etc.


Tinman57

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  I remember when spam started becoming a problem way back when.  There were companies that hired marketing companies to place ads for them.  Little did they know that these marketing companies were spamming their ads, a few of them put apology letters on their website stating that they did not approve of their marketing company spamming.

  The BEST thing to do when you receive spam is to report it so it will be shut down.  Of course the spammers have to constantly move around once they're identified and shut down, but if you do nothing they're free to keep spamming from their site.
  You can report it to your ISP, usually something like "abuse@your ISP.com".  Then you can also report it by sending the entire email, including headers to "nonregistered@coldrain.net".  There are others as well, but for the best spam reporting "How To" site with all kinds of information and apps, go to http://spam.abuse.net/userhelp/#report .

app103

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There already is a list to which volunteers have been contributing...bloggers, webmasters, forum moderators, etc.

Web Of Trust (WOT)

They have a browser plugin, too, which shows those ratings next to search results, and a nice warning that pops up on sites that have bad ratings.

More people should use it and contribute info about sites, both good and bad.

I have been marking the domains of those that spam this forum for a long time.

And these ratings do matter to companies, as some have even paid to attempt to have their bad ratings improved. But those that get caught by the dedicated users will have that reflected on the site's ratings page, as well. And companies can't excuse away bad behavior because some users know better than to fall for it and will respond on the company's ratings page to any attempt to do so, and proof of bad behavior will be provided when a company asks users to consider changing their previous ratings.

example 1a, example 1b, example 2, example 3a, example 3b

And for those that wonder how easy it is to manipulate a site's ratings to cover up their spamming activities...

Quote
Can a site's reputation be manipulated?

When someone first hears about the concept behind WOT, their first objection is that someone could easily spam the system with tons of ratings and rate down their competitors or otherwise manipulate reputations, but that's not true. In order to keep ratings more reliable, the system tracks each user's rating behavior before deciding how much it trusts the user. WOT applies sophisticated algorithms to detect and eliminate any manipulation of reputation.

Quote
How reliable are the ratings?

Usually in reputation systems each rating is weighted equally and reputations are computed as the average of all ratings, which makes them extremely vulnerable to automated attacks. Therefore, we decided early on to value ratings by their merit and use some of the principles of Bayesian inference for combining the ratings into reputations. The short version is that the system analyzes each user's rating behavior from several aspects in order to determine their reliability. When you start using WOT, your ratings have little weight, but if you keep rating sites consistently, your ratings will be considered more reliable over time. The meritocratic nature of the system makes it far more difficult for spammers to abuse, because bots will have a hard time simulating human behavior over a long period of time.

barney

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Personally, I hold no ruth for Web of Trust (WOT).  I played there for a while, but left when I could find no means whatsoever for redress.  That came about because a couple of acquaintances, separate instances, were basically kicked off the Web by WOT.  The only thing either of them did wrong was to make the wrong, vindictive enemies.

WOT is based upon the concept that [place your number here] people can't be wrong.  Well, Hitler got elected - and many of those can't be wrong people changed their minds ... but that mass of folk were wrong by today's standards.  The Salem Witchcraft Trials in early US were effective at removing folk, particularly women, from life - sometimes upon a single accusation that was supported by a jealous or vindictive populace [which couldn't, by definition be wrong].

WOT is just an example, as was pre-WWII Germany and Salem, of how a Wall of Shame can be corrupted and re-purposed.  Be cautious in advocating/implementing such, for it is a very, very slippery slope.

Mind,  I hold no ruth for spammers and their customers, either.  But once established, a Wall of Shame is extremely difficult to tear down.  However, it is very easy to corrupt from original intentions.

KRSMAV

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I hesitate to propose illegal responses to illegal spam, but I'm curious whether anyone has tried a DDoS attack on the reply links in spam messages?

TaoPhoenix

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I hesitate to propose illegal responses to illegal spam, but I'm curious whether anyone has tried a DDoS attack on the reply links in spam messages?

I disapprove of this, because I look at the reply links as a hobby, and they look more like hacked add'ys than a big entity.