Spam is a constant thorn in the side of every Internet user's daily life. From the mundane to the surreal, these emails appear in our inboxes so frequently, messages from South African attorneys offering $10 million dollars get marked as spam without a second thought to savvy users.
We define spam as the misuse of communication systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately to our deviants. Typically, the content of spam messages is aimed at advertising a product that is often counterfeit or potentially malicious. With the rise of social networking, there's been an increase in more direct spamming -- companies who directly target your social network profiles.
"Over the last few years, deviantART has had a small but unfortunate stream of such abuse. Usually, it’s as easy as banning the offending members and moving on to more pressing problems, but recently something happened that caused us to re-evaluate how we handle spam issues."
Since the start of September, some commercial spam entities have been using deviantART’s high search-engine rankings to increase the search-engine rank of their own websites in a maneuver called “spamdexing.” How they manipulate search-engine results is fairly simple: create an account on highly ranked social-networking sites, post a journal or blog with some text, and include one or more links to their website. When someone arrives on that page via a related search and clicks through, the offending websites receive a higher rank in searches. This is an abuse of the search engine system, because higher-ranked websites are supposed to be the most relevant to the user’s search and not spam sites, which can be anything from innocent-but-annoying to malicious.
When we launched our Journal Portal, we immediately noticed that something was amiss, as we were receiving a high volume of these spam journals. That night, we closed a large number of accounts related to this spam attack.
Over the next couple of days, we continued closing accounts, but we noticed this seemed to be a prolonged and deliberate attack. The team quickly met to discuss tactics for handling this, because it was becoming clear this was going to require a more concentrated effort just to keep up. During the meeting, we identified key issues we needed to concentrate on, and we came up with a plan of action.
Implement the ‘nofollow’ attribute to all outgoing URLs.
Prevent spam Journals from being posted.
Actively target spam accounts and IPs to be closed.
Without giving too much away about what we’ve done, these are the basics. ‘Nofollow’ is essentially an HTML element which tells some search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the link target's ranking in the search engine's index. It was introduced specifically to reduce the effectiveness of this exact behavior and makes the spam Journals and comments worthless. They’re not gaining any benefit being posted, so hopefully that will encourage them to give up. (We’re not alone in implementing "nofollow." Other large sites like YouTube and Digg have implemented this for similar reasons.)
Another of our prevention methods is a blacklist system. We are blacklisting websites and companies that spam us. Once we blacklist a spammer’s URL, it can't be used again, and you won't be able to click through to them from comments or Journals posted on deviantART.
Spammers are the reason we can’t have nice things.
What you can expect from us:
We are going to actively target spam accounts. This will involve checking for spam activity on a daily basis.
We will blacklist anyone using our website as a platform to spam their website/company.
We will ban any accounts found to be used to spam us.
We will continue to work on blocking spam before it’s posted and will work to make sure you never see it in the first place -- while trying not to alter the way genuine users access this site.
We will be treating commercial spam as a high-priority issue in the Help Desk.
DeviantART does not support spam, and we don’t want you to have to tolerate it either. If you see someone spamming their website or company, please let us know via the Help Desk. Let’s send a message to these spammers that they’re not welcome on deviantART.
The measures we've put in place will not affect genuine deviants. Outgoing links can still be posted per normal. Your deviantART experience has not changed at all -- except that you'll see less spam.