January 18, 2004

The face of evil: TrackBack spammer

recent0.jpg... And there you have it. Two days after we install Movable Type 2.661, which uses redirects on comment links to neutralize the incentive to spam there, we get our first trackback spam. Check it out here, just this once, so you may know your enemy.

The site, on the www.kewler.net domain, nominally sports a blog format, contains plagiarized "posts", and is in fact just a vessel for picking up clickthrough commissions from Amazon and Google. Naturally, my very next act will be to pen an email to these companies' complaints departments.

Other interesting feature: The ping goes one way: There is no mention of MemeFirst on the spam site. This is possible, as Joi Ito has pointed out. (Here is another post on another site about trackback spamming, from last summer, asking why there wasn't any yet.)

The perpetrator is Austrian, though the phone number is clearly faked. From Whois, the domain's info:

Registrant Contact:
kewler
jez kewler (jez_kewler@hotmail.com)
+43.12345678
Fax: none
willowweg 7
1040, AT 1040
AT

Googling "Jez Kewler" shows a person by that name has his own weblog, here, which sports his picture and a link to www.kewler.net. Case closed. Clearly, this guy is a rank amateur spammer, but stupidity has never instilled pity in me. How can we make him pay?

Posted by Stefan at 02:07 AM GMT
Comments
#1

Sent to Google and Amazon:

Hi, I run a weblog called MemeFirst, and today we got our first trackback spam. It led to a site that basically acts as a vessel for clickthroughs to Google and Amazon.

Naturally, we blogged it, and provide some identifying information about the person who spammed us. Here is the link:

https://www.memefirst.com/000269.html

I was wondering if you could check to see whether in your opinion, Jez Kewler has violated your usage policies. I believe he has. We would appreciate it if you took appropriate action, in order to keep the blogosphere as spamfree as possible.

Thanks. I'd love to hear what you think on the matter.

Regards

Stefan Geens

Posted by: Stefan Geens on January 18, 2004 02:44 AM
#2

Did I do a bad thing? When I posted a blog entry a couple of weeks ago about the latest developments in the WTC redesign, I wanted to tip my hat, at the very least, to Gothamist, where I first found the news. There wasn't any obvious place for me to link to Gothamist in my piece, but at the bottom of their entry, it says "TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.gothamist.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/6299". I took that as an invitation to trackback to them even if I wasn't linking to them: why else would they print that otherwise-useless URL? So I put that URL in the list of "sites to ping" when I posted my entry, and now there's a trackback from them to me on their site. After reading this, though, I seem to get the impression that one-way pings are a bad thing, and I shouldn't do them. Tell me if I breached netiquette here!

Posted by: Felix on January 18, 2004 04:08 PM
#3

Felix-

One way pings aren't bad when the content is totally related. Your post referenced Gothamist's writeup, and you pinged them. They pinged back... Not a big deal, methinks.

I actually just posted this morning about Kewler posting TB spam on a post I wrote back in November about Paris Hilton. Kewler "wrote" about Paris being on the worst dressed list, and pinged my site to the one post I wrote about the video coming out. I don't think that's related. They didn't reference me, and I didn't reference them.

If they had posted a link to me, referencing my site, and I pinged them back, it would be "one way" as you are discussing, and as Gothamist did to you.

Make sense?

Posted by: djspicerack on January 18, 2004 05:05 PM
#4

Agree with DJSpicerack. Though trackbacks were intended to facilitate discussion between blogs, so the implication was that you would ping the site you were discussing, they have been used as a notification mechanism, though if that is all you're doing I think it politer to leave a comment which introduces your link. But in any case, it's not spam.

It's not even spam if you are pinging an unrelated post in a misguided attempt to steer traffic your way. It's obnoxious, but I merely delete those, as long as the offending blog is a legitimate place of creative expression.

What is spam is trackbacks to a "blog" that is in fact a visitor trap, that exists for the sole purpose of generating clickthroughs. That's what we have in this case.

Posted by: Stefan Geens on January 18, 2004 05:18 PM
#5

Tools:

Thanks for writing to us at Amazon.com.

I'm glad you thought of contacting us with your question.

As we are a retailer, however, I am not equipped to answer this
question for you. You might try searching for this information
using your favorite web search engine.

However, if you do need to contact us in the future, you may send us
an e-mail via this online form:

http://www.amazon.com/contact-us

Thanks for your interest in Amazon.com. We hope to see you again
soon.

Posted by: Stefan Geens on January 19, 2004 03:43 AM
#6

Well, looking at the Amazon Associates Operating Agreement, I have to say I don't see anything saying that an Amazon Associate can't be a spammer. Which is not to say that Amazon shouldn't boot him anyway.

Posted by: Felix on January 19, 2004 04:27 AM
#7

one-way pinging? jeez, i have no idea what you're talking about.

Posted by: Marc on January 19, 2004 08:45 PM
#8

I suggest a different title to the story. What about "The face of very slightly annoying, if you speak geek as a first language"

Posted by: charles on January 20, 2004 02:58 PM
#9

We could send a subscription to Time under his name, call taxis for him at all hours, order pizzas for his house....

Posted by: kartika on January 21, 2004 06:27 AM