Annals of spam

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I last posted about spam comments on New Language Log in September, when the spam queue was nearing 9,000 items. Now it's over 77,000, and there have been waves of spam of many different types. We do get spam comments that take a moment's thought to discard. To start with, they're grammatical (while in the old days, many of the spam comments were entertainingly ungrammatical), but then they betray their spamminess by a cluster of properties: they are comments on postings from some time before; they have no real content, but merely say something congratulatory (like "Great site!"); and the URI they provide is to a commercial site (sometimes this is immediately obvious, but sometimes it takes some checking).

Recently we're gotten some even cleverer spam of this sort. The new feature is that the spam is labeled as coming from someone we know and have mentioned on Language Log; I've fielded spam that said it was from John Wells (the distinguished phonetician) and spam that said it was from Ben Goldacre (the Bad Science guy). The URIs looked suspicious, however (they weren't the ones I have for Wells and Goldacre in my address book), and both turned out to be commercial sites (I didn't actually go to these sites, but googled them up).

What makes these messages so troublesome is that it's conceivable that Wells or Goldacre might actually write a Language Log comment. Something that purported to come from Bill Griffith, Sarah Palin, Jon Carroll, Louann Brizendine, or Paul J.J. Payack, say, would be immediately suspect, even though we've mentioned them on Language Log. But Wells and Goldacre are imaginable.

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