When Will Google Stand Up to Spam?

Dear Google,

Right now your results pages for several “long tail” keywords are in disarray, spammers have permeated the top ten results, sometimes they outright overrun them.

Your Blogger service is a spam haven. Though spam bloggers are moving more toward their own set ups, Blogger is still easily the number one spam blog platform. Little has been done to lock down the platform and the steps that you have taken have proved ineffective.

Finally, your Adsense product is still the favorite tool for spammers, either by posting directly to spam blogs or by using the blogs to generate search engine reputation to direct traffic to seemingly legitimate sites that use Adsense. This results in advertisers paying for poor-quality clicks and drives click prices down for legitimate Webmasters everywhere.

The Internet spam problem is not going to go away or even cease growing without you stepping up to the plate. You have your hand in every aspect of spamming, including hosting, promotion and financing. Yet, despite your motto of “Don’t Be Evil”, the problem only continues to grow.

When are you going to step up Google? The future of the Web depends on it.

Free Advertising

Google, you talk a great game about being able to detect duplicate content, but yet junk content is still getting through and it is still altering the results. Spammers may not be outright winning, but they are gartering many victories, especially on highly-profitable long-tail keywords.

This is definitely an area you have a lot of motivation to stop the spammers. Your ability to get people to the correct results immediately is what made you the number one search engine and, should your reputation erode, you’ll likely watch your lead in the market waste away.

Yet, despite this obvious incentive, little has changed. Spammers are cunning, but the resources and engineering of Google would seem to be a mismatch. Instead, it seems to be a cat and mouse game with the cat several paces behind.

Meanwhile, competing search engine companies, such as Microsoft, are pioneering new ways to deal with search engine spam and being heralded for their research and innovation. When a company like Microsoft, known for being something of a dinosaur, it out innovating you in an area related to your core business, there’s a clear problem.

What isn’t so clear is whether or not you are simply hiding your own advances and are, thus, genuinely struggling to keep up despite its best efforts. If that’s the case, then the situation with spam, at least as far as search engines go, might be more dire than thought previously.

Free Hosting

The problem is compounded by your enforcement of your popular Blogger service. It’s been nearly two years since you first started drawing heavy fire for the amount of spam coming from its servers and, as of yet, no real change has taken place.

Simply put, over three-quarters of all Blogspot blogs are spam, even today. Your attempts at creating counter-measures, such as captchas, were weak and failed miserably. Your service has been clearly overrun by spammers but, since there are so many legitimate bloggers on the site, it is impossible for search engines to just blacklist or ignore.

Blogspot has become little more than free hosting for spammers, one that is both easy to use and with a great deal of search engine muscle. Because of this, search engine results have suffered. At one point, it was so bad that Icerocket stopped listing new Blogspot blogs in an attempt to cut down on spam.

It is stunning for me to think that over three-quarters of your blogs are spam and yet you are not taking drastic action to stop it. By doing nothing, save shutting down spam blogs that you are directed to, you are practically giving tacit approval for people to use Blogspot to scrape, spam and profit.

Effective anti-spam measures at Blogspot might not rid the Web of spam or even a majority of it, but it would be a huge step. It would also force spam bloggers to either create their own networks, making them easier to detect and ban or use lesser products.

It may not be the biggest battle in the war against spam blogging, but it would be a huge victory nonetheless.

Free Money

However, the worst element of the spam blog battle is the way you handle the money end of it. Your Adsense service makes it far too easy for spammers to to turn an easy profit. Obtaining an account is easy, doing so gives you the ability to place an ad on any site owned by the account holder (supposedly within the bounds of the Adsense TOS) and reporting a site to Adsense is notoriously hard.

Spammers are able to abuse Adsense with almost complete impunity and, while you’ve made a big racket about fighting click fraud, fighting the abuse of Adsense on spam blogs has not made headlines. This is true despite the fact that these sites produce low-quality flicks for advertisers and drive per-click revenue down for legitimate Webmasters.

The problem, at least from the perspective of many bloggers, is that Adsense spam blogs make you money as well. Every click on Joe Scraper’s site makes him a few pennies and a few for you as well. As evil as it may be, shutting down something that is actively making money doesn’t make a lot of business sense. This has lead many to suspect that this is why you’ve dragged your feet in stopping spammers from using Adsense to make their money.

Still, this is a critical issue because making Adsense un-spam friendly would be the single biggest step you could take, however, it’s also the one you have the least incentive to take. How much money would any company spend to shut down a profit center?

But despite the conflict of interest, the Internet still needs your cooperation Google. Without it, the spam problem is only going to get worse and may, eventually, require individual users to host filters, much like they do with Email spam today.

Conclusions

Can you stop spam blogs? Probably not. But you can shove back and push them into the fringes of the Web, making them a nuisance rather than a continuing problem.

However, doing so would involve drastically changing how you do business. You would make less money and have to invest more in solving these problems. You could still make a hearty profit, but you would no longer be raking the money in as fast as you could.

It’s a big sacrifice and I wouldn’t even ask it of another company. It would be foolish to expect, for example, Microsoft to make these kinds of concessions in a bid to create a better Web.

But you, with your “Don’t Be Evil” slogan, have a higher responsibility. You established yourself as a company that was going to make money without giving in to the corporate greed that seems to permeate our society.

It is time to live up to that promise.

It’s time to ask if your slogan is just a marketing tool, designed to make you look good in the eyes of a weary public, or an actual way of doing business.

The latter is going to involve making sacrifices, some of them very deep but it is a long-term strategy that can help you avoid the pitfalls of other corporate giants.

I worry that it might be too late. Myself and others interested in copyright and spam issues have watched as you’ve slowly turned to the dark side, both ignoring the DMCA (hurting both users and copyright holders) and turning a blind eye to spam. It seems that, perhaps, you’re already too far gone.

Hopefully that is not true. But the evidence is starting to show otherwise.

The ball is in your court Google, it’s time to decide what to do with it.

Tags: Content Theft, Copyright, Copyright Infringement, Copyright Law, DMCA, Google, Plagiarism, RSS, Scraping, Search Engine, SEO, Spam, Splogging, Splogs, Microsoft

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