You loaded it, you might as well read it

November 3, 2000

And… we’re back! (Where, you might ask, did we go? I’m not really sure. Some weeks just move faster than others, I suppose. This concludes the lame excuse portion of today’s entry.)

You CSS-enabled people will notice a Zeldman-esque look to the site and a reformat of the front page. I’m not 100% sure I’ll stick with it (I certainly don’t intend to keep typing ’ every time I want an apostrophe) but I do think it looks pretty swell. Assuming, of course, your browser doesn’t have an ancient, half-assed stylesheet engine—like, say, Netscape Navigator 4. If the stylesheets are making things worse, you may wish to disable them or switch to a modern browser (Opera, Mozilla, Internet Explorer, or the obscure ones). Bad CSS support is worse than none. #

On to the news:

Spam comes in many forms; from endlessly-crossposted usenet messages, to unwanted commercial e-mail, to web pages designed to fool search engines into directing surfers to specific (usually pornographic) web sites. The latter are sometimes called “keyword spammers”, and they usually work by putting every possible word associated with a topic on a page in the hopes that search engines would rank them highly among pages dealing with that topic. My favorite engine, Google, mostly avoids this problem by rating pages according to the way other pages link to them. If lots of people link to your site, then it gets rated highly. Furthermore, links from a high-rated sites raise your rating more than a links from low-rated ones.

This seems impenetrable to spam. In order to fool Google, you would need to get lots of sites to link to you which are themselves highly rated. Impossible? Perhaps not. In fact, Google has already been spammed. A porn site has gone to a lot of trouble to set up thousands of pages which, to Google’s software, look like legitimate discussions of various nude celebrities and which frequently link back to the originating porn site. If one searches, say, for “Liv Tyler nude”, one finds these fake discussion pages right at the top. (All the articles use Ms Tyler as an example. If this keeps up, she may become the generic example of celebrity porn search engine spamming, similar to the generic participants in cryptography examples, Bob and Alice.)

Note, however, that the scam only partially succeeds. The porn site itself does not appear highly in the search results, even though lots of phony discussion sites link to it. Google doesn’t give numerical rankings with the search results anymore, but I suspect that all the pages Google is returning are low-ranked, at which point Google only has more-easily-scammed algorithms to differentiate the pages. This is because no one links to the phony discussion pages. They don’t even link to each other.

At least, that was the case a week ago. But since this is the web, people reporting on the subject have linked to the phony discussion pages, so now Wired’s credibility is contributing to the scam. (Which is why I’m not linking to any of the sites. ZedneWeb doesn’t have much clout with Google, but I still won’t use it to support spammers.) (via Wired via Tomalak)

By my count, the word “porn” appears six times in today’s entry. That’s probably not enough to get me listed in search results for porn, but it may get me blocked by less-intelligent anti-smut filters. Oh well. #

On other subjects

(The U.S.) Congress has passed a law making it illegal to leak classified information and the Library of Congress has approved the portion of the DMCA which forbids anyone from attempting to break copyright-protection schemes. Predictably, both are inciting protest. The former is greatly disliked by those who feel the government should not keep information from the public at will, and the latter is under attack from librarians and researchers, both of whom feel that this new restriction destroys the concept of fair use, upon which much research and scholarship is based. Copyright is a balance between the good of the copyright creator (the ability to profit from one’s work is a great incentive) and the good of society.

It is important to remember that intellectual property is not the same as property. Effectively, copyright is a government-granted monopoly, and therefore must have limitations. (via Swaine and Tomalak) #

ZedneWeb: Your source for nude celebrity search engine spamming and endless copyright tirades.