The self-described black-hat search engine optimization crowd — the folks who assemble sites peppered with ads that are designed to attract search engine traffic, aka “link farms” — had been using my script to steal other people’s content and republish it on their own sites.
Spammers call those link farms “autoblogs”. They’re a popular fad among black-hat SEO consultants (which is what spammers generally prefer to call themselves). His description is correct: they use automated tools to copy material without permission and re-publish it on fake blogs covered with ads. Typically they also send high volumes of pingback or trackback notifications to try to trick naïve bloggers into linking to them (thus boosting the spammers’ search engine rankings – often at the expense of the original authors of the stolen material). They rip off both the bloggers whose material they’ve stolen, and the advertisers who are paying for worthless ads run on bogus sites.
It’s a pattern of behaviour we’re all too familiar with at Akismet.com. Spammers take advantage of trusting (and trustworthy) bloggers, web sites and online services. And it’s the innocent operators of those services who, ultimately, are harmed the most.
Tom’s experience demonstrates an unfortunate modern reality: that spammers will take advantage of trust and openness. If you own any web site that allows users to consume resources – that is, any web site that allows users to perform an action – you need to monitor it for signs of abuse. An unsupervised or abandoned web site is a spammer’s playground.