Do you love the Web 2.0 movement? Do you believe in the interactivity of the Internet? Might you run a blog that asks for comments, or do you submit comments to blogs? And in your interactive actions, do you worry about blog spamming?
And we're not talking about annoying Nigeria 419 email scams, we're talking about comment spam.
The annoying comment spam that has forced bloggers to put up captcha tests (automated tests to tell computers and humans apart), to stop all the computer generated spam from overloading any open comment with spam comments.
OLPC News employs a captcha test to separate the two, humans from machines, but alas it is not perfect. Often humans overlook the tests in their haste to post and then feel slighted when their comment is lost to the junk bin and doesn't appear.
And the spam comments can be so voluminous, they overwhelm the OLPC News backend systems even if they never are actually published. Still, captchas are the best defense against bots and indispensable to any site wishing to foster conversation.
But what if it became cheap enough to pay people to submit comment spam, humans who can pass captcha tests? As Charles Arthur in the Guardian explains:
I also expect that once a few [OLPC's] have got into the hands of people aching to make a dollar, with time on their hands and an internet connection provided one way or another, we'll see a significant rise in captcha-solved spam.And a big business at that. Nigerian 419 spam brings in $100 million per year from the USA alone, and blog spamming is an even easier and possibly more lucrative business. A business that Edward Hasbrouck reports has already infiltrated travel industry website comment sections:
But, as my spammer contact pointed out, it's nothing personal. You have to understand: it's just business.
Elias Plishner, V.P. of the interactive division of the McCann-Erickson advertising agency, boasted that, "We have an entire division in Singapore [where labor is cheaper than in the USA] devoted to seeding online forums and bulletin boards with targeted content" for our advertising clients.A business that oddly enough, is as scared of millions of bored and poor Internet-connected children as you might be. To quote Charles Arthur in the Guardian again:
[E]arlier this year, I spoke with someone who does blog spamming for a living - a very comfortable living, he claimed. But he said that the one thing that did give him pause was the possibility that rival blog spammers might start paying people in developing countries to fill in captchas: they could always use a bit of western cash, would have the spare time and, increasingly, cheap internet connections to be able to do such tedious (but paid) work.Feel that fear too? The horror in imagining a millions-strong army of OLPC-enabled captcha-solvers unleashed on Web 2.0, filling blog comments with spam that no automated filter could stop.
Now stop to think about solutions if human-generated comment spam starts to overwhelm. Ian Ozsvald suggests that:
We can’t employ people to act as human filters, that’ll get too expensive too quickly. Instead we’ll need to improve current A.I. techniques in the field of Image Processing and Natural Language Processing.I respectfully disagree. I can see employing human filters as the natural combat against human comment spam. Those same cheap-labour centers, OLPC-enabled students even, can be hired to filter comments either real-time or in batches. It may not be pretty, or perfect, but it would be effective.
In fact, I may even attempt it on OLPC News using Amazon's Mechanical Turk service as an economical way to save the occasional valid site comment that falls into the always-full comment spam junk folder so we can focus more on content creation and less on comment management.