There are both good and bad things that come from LWN's use of its own
content management system; one strong "good" point has always been our
relative freedom from comment spam problems. Many comment spammers seem to
rely on automated tools written for commonly-used publication platforms;
these tools don't work on LWN, so spammers have to do their work by hand.
That said, some
readers may have noticed that spammers have been making occasional
The biggest offender appears to be associated with a shady-looking apparel
store. Even though it's shady-looking, though, we know it's a legitimate
business, because the site's FAQ tells us so:
Is this a legit website? Yes.We are selling the items displayed on
our website. We have sent many packages to different countries.This
is James,a real Person,working for you now,not machine.Thank you.
However, we would like it to be known that even businesses as proper,
upstanding, and trustworthy as this one are not welcome to post their spam
on LWN. We have spent years building this site and even convincing people
that it is something worth paying for. How these people might think that
we would allow them to destroy it is beyond imagining. Comment spam, for
us, is truly a security issue.
Our recent discovery that nearly 3,000 LWN accounts had been created from a
single site known as the origin of much comment spam has also helped to
focus our minds on this issue. We don't know what the intended use of all
those accounts was, but we doubt it was anything good.
Thus far, we have responded to spam by deleting it immediately on discovery
and blocking the accounts and site it came from. The problem appears to be
growing, though, to the point that the manual deletion approach will
eventually run into scalability problems. Besides, we would rather be
writing useful stuff than scrubbing graffiti from the site. But options
for dealing with comment spam appear to be somewhat limited.
We could, of course, moderate all comments, but that approach, too, scales
poorly; it also delays and distorts conversations. Full-scale moderation
is just not a business we want to get into. There are blacklists
out there which identify known sources of spam, but they are far from
complete. One could try content-based filtering approaches, but they have
their own hazards.
What we are likely to do, in the plausible scenario that this problem
persists, is to impose some sort of moderation on comments from new
accounts. After a legitimate comment or two, the moderation block will be
removed and comments will be posted immediately; existing accounts would
not be affected. We might also automatically remove the block if a
subscription is purchased - spammers have shown a surprising reluctance to
support LWN, for some reason.
Nothing is decided yet, so plans could change. We'd be more than
interested in any ideas that readers might have; please post them as
(non-spam) comments on this article. One thing that won't change, though,
is our absolute determination that we will not allow LWN to be used as a
platform for the spamming of our readers.
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