Update: …And LiveJournal Too

To update yesterday’s post about WordPress.com being relatively free of spam blogs, I was contacted by Anil Dash, a Vice President at Six Apart, about their LiveJournal service.

According to Dash, the LiveJournal service, though having a larger user base than WordPress.com and being equally free to use, is also relatively free of spam blogs. He attributes this to both a similar kind of vigilance that WordPress.com exhibits in fighting spam blogs but also lists an unusual ally, the social networking element.

It turns out, LJ’s best defense may be the Myspace-like features.

Friends Have Benefits

According to Dash, spam blogs and spam accounts don’t have friends other than spam blogs in the same network. No one, in their right mind, would knowingly befriend a spam blog.

This knowledge makes it easy for LiveJournal to not just crush individual spam blogs, but entire networks. This works very similar to Microsoft’s proposal for dealing with Internet spam, but in a much more controlled environment.

In short, by detecting one spam blog and then looking at that blog’s friends, you can detect others and, by looking at their friends you can eventually fan out until you’ve detected the entire network with relative certainty.

This is hugely powerful in that, rather than dealing with spam blogs one at a time, LiveJournal can stop large groups of them with relative ease, once again preventing them from ever gaining a foothold on the service.

An Interesting Solution

Using the social network against spammers is definitely a very powerful technique, however, it isn’t one that will work for sites without that kind of functionality. It might work well for Myspace or Xanga, but not so much for WordPress.com, Blogspot or other services that don’t emphasize those elements.

It will be interesting to see if social networks take advantage of the human element to aid them in stopping spam and what, if anything, spammers to do to counter that. Already on some networks, like MyBlogLog and Myspace, there is a great deal of “friend spam” being sent out. If humans can be duped into linking to spam profiles and spam blogs, then such a technique would become much less effective as filtering out the legitimate users would become more time consuming.

Still, at the moment at least, it seems to be working well for LiveJournal as Dash reports that they are regularly targeted by spammers but have little trouble keeping them at bay. I hope that is how it remains.

Conclusions

Personally, I am still very concerned about LiveJournal’s other copyright and splogging issues and I am working with Dash as well as others at Six Apart to address them. In the meantime though, many will consider the syndicated LiveJournal accounts to be a form of sanctioned spam blogging on the service as they effectively scrap content from other sites without permission.

Hopefully those issues will be resolved soon.

Regardless, Six Apart’s ability to keep spammers off of their service is very impressive. Hopefully others services, especially those who have been inundated with spam, will learn from their techniques and be able to better control their own servers.

If that happens, then perhaps the Internet can become a much more spam-free place.

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