Spamming for profit

I never wanted to spam the Internet. Google made me do it.
This is what I told myself back then.
If spamming is so wrong, I wondered, how come it always works so well?

A long read, but a good read. Jeff Deutsch explains how starting in 2009 he was able to work only a few hours daily and still rake in a $50,000 a month in profit, by becoming a professional spammer.

It’s a pretty interesting perspective piece, since I spend my days and nights on the other side of the fence working on Akismet, which combats spam on millions upon millions of sites, including all of

So, without further ado: Confessions of a Google spammer

Dealing with “Like Spam”, and a few spitballed solutions..


This isn’t a new problem, merely a new approach to getting spam on your blog and in your posts.  The angle?  “Like” a page.  Seems innocent enough, but there’s a little more to it.  Likes are shown on each one of your posts, with links to the person’s Gravatar profile.

So what’s the problem?  Well, on those Gravatar pages, there are usually links to SEO and money-making websites, so there’s a possibility that your blog posts are helping their ranking in popular search engines, or that *your* followers may check them out thinking that we’re all like minded.

It’s frustrating, but we’ve been told that the WordPress folks are working on a solution. Until then, this is just me talking aloud.

What do you do now?

So what options do you have right now if you’ve experienced this on your WordPress blog?

  • Disable “likes” on posts that seem to attract these sorts of people (although in my own personal experience, there’s not a specific post type that is more appealing than others).
  • Disable “likes” altogether on your blog until there’s a better solution.
  • Visit the users Gravatar page and report their profile as spam.  I haven’t had a lot of success with this, but I’m sure there’s a backlog, WordPress accounts outnumber the staff millions to one.

What’s the solution?

That’s a matter of opinion.  From reading the support forums and many many blog posts, it’s evident (as expected) that just about everyone has their own idea about how “likes” should be handled with a few very vocal about not having them at all.

These are just some ideas I had to deal with the issue:

Solution #1 – Moderate “Likes”

This lines up with how WordPress users deal with comments, allowing the blog owner to choose how they would like to deal with “Likes”.  Maybe a simple radio button in their site config with some basic options:

  1. Allow all “Likes”
  2. Hold all “Likes” for moderation
    • This option would allow you the opportunity to do a little investigating and determine whether or not you want their like displayed visibly. Perhaps an additional link to report “like spam” to the WordPress staff.
      • Downside:  Lots of extra cycles would be required for staff to investigate all the spam claims.
      • Downside: For mainstream blogs that get a *lot* of likes, it could be quite time consuming to approve each one.
  3. Hold new “Likes” for moderation, allow previously approved users to like without moderation
    • Downside: User can create an account with no spam content, like a bunch of sites and then go back and add spam content to their site without the blog owner being aware.

Solution #2 – Edit “Likes”

This seems like a less likely solution.

  • Allow blog owners to delete “likes” at will. Once a like has been deleted, the profile cannot “like” the page again.
    • Downside: This doesn’t really address the issue, you’d spend all day (if you have a busy blog – not like this one) removing likes.

Solution #3 – Gravatar crack-down on self-hosted sites

This could be resource intensive.  I’m not suggesting a review of every Gravatar account, just an update to the terms of service and strict policy enforcement going forward.  The spammers will out themselves, the WordPress community will make sure of that.

  • Hold linked sites in Gravatar “verified” profiles to the same standard as users.
    • Violations should result in permanent blacklisting:
      • Gravatar account revocation.
      • URL’s associated with the previous account would be disallowed in *any* future Gravatar account.

Solution #4 – Combine solution #1 and #3.

I think this may be the best solution.  The combination of self moderation (for smaller sites) and policy changes to allowable websites in profiles may help reduce the numbers of spam likes and comments tremendously.


I don’t really have a conclusion, just a myriad of thoughts on the subject.  I’m sure the WordPress folks are all over this on the backend and have probably already contemplated every possible scenario.  I’m anxious to see which solution they run with, and to see these spam likes stopped.