Social sites are not just games or freebies. They exist based on the premise that they can use human nature against itself in order to create free content from users to be consumed by other users. At the end of this road we have Facebook, where they spend tens of millions of dollars to program users to create and consume like you'd program an alarm clock.
The spammers of course are in it for nobody but themselves, so it's tough to ding them any more than the rest of folks. At least most of them seem honest about it.
There's a third party here too, though: the honest internet citizen who likes creating and sharing content and making money while doing so. They don't run bots and they actually review the stuff they talk about.
The spammers make their money because they can "fake out" the system to think they're the honest money-making folks. The danger here is that we're going to only end up with two giant contenders, the addictive social sites and the spammers. That the little guys get crushed. To me it seems that the web, once wide open, is closing in bit by bit. (That probably sounds hyperbolic. Apologies.)
Anyway, you can easily exchange "bank account" with "credit card" - and it seems that they don't allow that sort of thing, based on the other comments in this thread.
None of this is any different than basic capitalism. Now this isn't an anti-capitalism rant, it's just an observation. Rite-Aide and Walmart can buy entire city blocks and run their businesses at a loss for years to fake out and overcome honest citizens' businesses and we celebrate their success.
I suspect if people could invest in spammers there'd be a different public perception of them.
Completely agree. I'm not sure I see anything wrong with what the spammer is doing. He may be polluting the Pinterest 'stream' with affiliate links, but it's not like the people on Pinterest aren't on there just to look at random stuff they may never see anyways. Obviously he must be showing people stuff they want if he's making money on it.
It shouldn't even be called spam since every link on Pinterest is technically solicited. Every user on there wants to see new stuff, that's the point of the site. It's nothing like email spam that I didn't ask for, or junk mail that was sent to my house just because they grabbed my info from somewhere.
(It would be trivial for Pinterest to manually do this, say, for Amazon, which could instantly crush a spam model based only on Amazon, without any spam network detection/banning required)
Personally, though, I think affiliate links in social networks are pretty innocuous, if not slightly positive.
If you start stripping affiliate IDs, I'll just write a redirector and link to that, or link to an existing redirector. Are you going to ban all of bit.ly? Or t.co? or letter.obscure_tld from your website?
It wasn't that hard to pick out URLs that were not user facing (that a bookmark let would never see)
Make a crawler that follows your redirects. If it hits an affiliate page, you can presume (with some likelihood) that it's a spam link.
If you put in intermediate redirects that the crawler wouldn't pick up, there's a chance your targets won't either and you'll lose customers.
Otherwise, the spammer will be able to run his/her own URL shortener service in a 5USD/month VPS and be able to show a spammy link to the users and a regular-looking link for the crawler.
BTW: a "crawler" implemented with Mechanical Turk workers would be a little bit harder to detect, but would also have its downsides.
How are these challenges exactly? Just set the user-agent and enable cookies. Done.
"...also operate from many distinct and perpetually changing IP addresses."
Okay. Change the IP it operates on every few days.
It's to process URLs, and it's just a part of what I need, but knowing that others might like such a thing means I'll see if I can open it up afterwards.
I'm looking to achieve this by two methods:
1) If the link contains the ID of the end page (i.e. ASIN for Amazon), then reconstruct the URL of the end page.
2) For places in which #1 fails, follow the link and seek to determine whether a permalink or canonical URL exists at the end page.
Ironically I seek to strip affiliate codes in order to add my own in my given use case... but I'm using golang and am trying to structure it all in a flow based way in which stripping and adding codes are just separate steps.
So it doesn't seem to me to be too hard to then expose each side as a service by itself.
I plan to iterate over it and do sane things with it:
* Is it an embedded image and is Chrome reporting the domain as malware? = Convert to link instead of image
* If it a link that was only transiently available? = indicate that it is no longer available and suggest searching instead
My aim is to self-heal user submitted content that links elsewhere, as much as it is to monetise that content where it's possible to.
I plan to visit links on a schedule and react as necessary. I hadn't really figured in affiliate spammers, but that would just be part of the self-healing now... detect change in destination and re-run the bit that strips affiliate codes.
Skimlinks already ignores their redirect if the link is already affiliated so I'm guessing they could just reverse this logic & have a solution.
Amazon will think the traffic comes from the blogpost. The person getting spammed won't get any protection if they filter amazon links.
On the other end are the users. If you ban proxies, finger their ports and ask them to solve a captcha every time they hit the submit button; you'll create some serious animosity. Stopping spam means having to invest, come up with complicated algorithms and you still might accidentally ban innocent users who will blog about this or tell their friends .
The real question is... does it matter that affiliate links are being posted if it needs a guide to let the everyday users notice it . My niece doesn't even know what a affiliate link is and neither do most users. I mean if there's a 100% method to stop it, implement it. However, should you invest money and dev time into problems that nobody has solved to this date...
e.g: pictures of cakes on a recipe board about desserts that link back to a cookbook and he gets 4 cents per click through...
That's the most abusive part. As a Pinterest user I want to see what other real users are pinning. I don't want to see what 4,000 bots are pinning.
The utilitarian argument here invalidates this premise of the pins needing to be human, which is what is interesting. If you are getting utility out of it and you didn't know it was a bot, you are actually still better off.
Having said that, you do make a very good point.
If a bot could find things I like, and put it in a sensible pinboard, then I'd probably follow it.
I don't care about Pinboard skimlinking any affiliate links, even ones I'm using. (another post in this thread explained how bots would avoid that limitation with redirects.)
I do mind, a little bit, if a bot owner is making hundreds of dollars a day by manipulating flaws in Pinterest, because arms-racing could make Pinterest much less useful.
(I am not affiliated with Pinterest. Just curious from a product perspective.)
If you have any handy, can you send one my way?
EDIT: Email daniel at piccsy dot com. He's the founder.
The contributors have to be manually added to the board though.
Content farm = spamming to make money off of adsense and display advertising. What you are referring to would be more accurately termed a gateway page, for which the sole purpose is to direct a user off to an affiliate link or another site.
The interesting thing is that Pinterest founders have an incentive to look away, while promoting their growth to the VCs, raising massive rounds whilst potentially cashing out big time. Tumblr seems to be going a similar route, maybe its a Twitter-initiated trend of bot-generated companies?)
there are actually plenty of bots out there already:
I think the spammer moved his affiliate tag to womansdesign-20.
Edit: DanielBMarkham's comment does a better job of conveying why this would be a bad approach.
Take a look at how many of the accounts there solely spam affiliate links from Amazon, are from a Twitter account, and repeatedly post the same items.
So alright, we aren't on the same page, but you're saying exactly what I just said.
Just because I used 2 different signals to prove to you that the method doesn't generate a lot of false positives, doesn't mean that looking at amazon links is a bad method.
If I was at Pinterest, I would slap a captcha on all Amazon links with affiliates until I had time for a fancier solution, and it would probably get rid of 99% of the spam.
I know the temptation is for this road to be traveled because it's most often the easier road in the short-run for someone to take. There is no doubt in marketing a product or service that you are going to have to knock on many doors. Most often this will mean having to spend money in the process of running ads in order to get the word out. Bots such as those used by the Pinterest spammer automate the process but do so by taking advantage of loop-holes in the system and in so doing exploit whatever platform they are using (in this case Pinterest).
It is one thing to offer a product or service and to let people know about it and quite another to use technology to exploit a Platform for the purpose of sending unsolicited information to those who you do not know. There are better ways to market products and to profit from the sale of them through proven, sound marketing strategies.
The use of spam bots are not a reflection of anyone who has pursued an education of good marketing techniques. Such people only serve to give marketers in general a bad name. Those who pursue get rich quick strategies like this are not they type of people that endure for the long-run.
That seems weird, like punishing people for their success, or letting others decide how much they should pay. (Unless, I suppose, that once you hit XX,000 followers nobody could follow you until you paid up.)
I'm being speculative here, I know but I think you are too. I think there'd be controversy regardless of disclosure though not disclosing it sure helped make the outrage easier to sell.
I could've faked that in 10 seconds with Firebug and then told them I make like $10,000 a day with my super hardcore h4ck0r bots and the would have believed it I guess.
This suggest a trivial fix for the problem on Pinterest's side, doesn't it?
For that matter if I were tasked with posting this spam, I'd do the same...
How is that? Where is the hidden registration button? Or do you simply get an automated invite after you request one?
This story is going to bring a lot of new "fresh blood" into spamming SNs.