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This article was published on April 19, 2011

¿Habla Spamglish? Speaking the language of spambots

¿Habla Spamglish? Speaking the language of spambots

It’s the bane of every blogger. Comment spam, blog spam…whatever you want to call it, has reached epidemic proportions. Bloggers from all backgrounds set aside time to sift through the steady stream of pseudo-comments that sit waiting for ‘approval’.

Most experienced bloggers can spot a counterfeit comment from a hundred yards. The grammar is normally passable, and it often adopts a rather complimentary approach, but it just never seems quite right.
Counterfeit Comments
A quick perusal of the thousand-odd comments awaiting approval on my own blog (most of the comments will never see the light of day, I must add…), reveals where the spammers are going wrong.

“Very well written information”, opines a certain Terrence Verhulst. There are two things wrong with this. Firstly, you wouldn’t normally phrase a sentence in such a way. It’s not wrong per se, it just sounds a little awkward. And secondly, as with most spam, it’s vague.

A quick look at a few other comments, and a pattern starts to emerge. Spambots churn out the kind of comments everyone would love to receive…but only if they’re genuine. Here’s a few other nuggets:

“You can definitely see your expertise in the work you write.”
“The world hopes for more passionate writers like you…always follow your heart.”
(Puerh Tea, 12/04/2011)
“Hi dude! I fully agree with your thoughts. I really like what you’re doing here.”
(Ephixius, 11/04/2011)

Warm words for sure but, alas, they are all bogus. Most bloggers have probably gone through the motion of pausing for a brief second in the vain hope that such comments are real, before accepting their hollowness and promptly carting them off to the spamyard forever.

‘Spamglish’ is evolving

And just as bloggers are now well adept at spotting spam, ‘Spamglish’ – as I like to call it – is attempting to evolve too, armed with more sophisticated blog-penetrating techniques. The humble synonym, it seems, is now a popular vehicle for spambots striving to circumvent both human and automated spam filters…but they’re fooling nobody. Synonym

The word ‘keep’, for example, can mean a number of different things in English depending on the context. And this helps explain these two comments currently awaiting approval on my blog: “Good work…retain it up”, and also “Nice one, continue it up”.

And ‘leave’ can also mean a number of different things, which explains “I depart it to you to decide”.

And then there are the human spammers who are just plain lazy:

“Good day, I’d rather be frank. I definitely need more back-links to my <link> instructional website and I would be thankful if you can agree to accept my comment here…”

It goes on, but would it really have taken all that long for them to have a quick peruse of my blog post and formulate a genuine opinion, making specific reference to the content? You never know, this spammer may actually have got their link.

But the easiest way to detect a genuine comment is to keep your eyes peeled for something sarcastic or derisive. A quick glance over any of the popular blogs across cyberspace reveal many such comments seem to have beaten the spam filters, and you can be certain humans were the creators.

Until spambots develop a personality or a sense of sarcasm, it seems that humans will continue to have the upper hand in the blogosphere. But only after many man-hours spent sifting through the comment rubble. Only another 1,273 comments to go…