Monday, December 29, 2014

Spellcasting Comment Spam

By Michael Dorf

Despite my best efforts to block "comment spam" on this blog, the spammers have found ways around my defenses. Thus, if you go to nearly any post that is more than a week old you will find advertisements for gold, pharmaceuticals, and other worthless items--sometimes in Chinese, Arabic, or other foreign languages. Some of the comment spam uses an algorithm that randomly quotes parts of the post, so that it appears to the casual observer as an actual comment, except that upon inspection it proves to be nonsense with links to spammers' sites.

The comment spam appears to be more or less randomly distributed, but there is also an intersting bunching phenomenon, whereby one kind of comment spam appears to attract more of the same kind of spam. My personal favorite is an October 2012 post on the Ex Post Facto Clause. As I compose this post (on Friday, Dec. 26) it has 154 comments, nearly all offering to cast spells, presumably for a fee. The spellcaster spamvertisements mostly take the form of testimonials from people who claim to have benefited from the advertised spellcaster's magical spell.

Naturally, I googled "spellcaster comment spam." I found a number of bloggers who, like me, had received spellcaster comment spam and were bemused by it. More interestingly, I found a few sites (like this one and this one) where "real" spellcasters alerted the world that the comment spamming spellcasters were frauds.

At this point, I'm tempted to try my own hand at spellcasting--in order to banish comment spam. But being more a man of science than witchcraft, instead I'm going to try an experiment. I want to see whether this very post can become a spellcasting spam magnet by virtue of the fact that I have included "spellcasting" in the title of the post and used similar words throughout. Readers who are not themselves spellcasters are invited to add a few "seed" comments but then I ask that you back off to see whether we can generate a self-sustaining tree of spellcasting comment spam.