Printer Friendly

Splog attacks: bogus blogs plague online research and threaten personal sites.

With the exploding popularity of Web logs for sharing personal news, information and commentary on almost every conceivable subject, there are now must-read blogs in most content areas including education. For example, influential technology blogs include Engadget and Slashdot, as well as insider blogs from employees at Apple, IBM and Microsoft. However, if your staff and students search for blogs on school-related topics using online tools such as Technorati, Feedster or Bloglines, much of what they find will be bogus.

Purveyors of spam are now exploiting the ease of adding comments to legitimate blogs, by inserting links that lure readers and build traffic for unrelated commercial sites.

Such spam blogs, or "splogs," typically collect money from advertisers as users click on their links, and some visitors purchase the promoted products. To illustrate, a column I wrote on school cell phone camera policies soon became linked to several non-education sites that sell camera equipment and services.

But sometimes the bogus links are not even remotely related to the search topic. For example, the term WebQuest--a teaching concept developed by Bernie Dodge and used in schools throughout the United States--is strangely tied to sites such as Aluminum News that supports the aluminum industry. Even though the content has little to do with K-12 education, the blog owner inserted the sentence "This Weblog will serve as a WebQuest Data source for my students" to hijack searches and deliver viewers that raise site ranks among search engines.

Compromised Searches

Many bogus sites are themselves set up as blogs, and blogger Philipp Lenssen estimates that as much as 60 percent of blogs hosted on Google's free Blogger.com are splogs. And particularly annoying are the links to junk ads that have long irritated e-mail users, including pitches for getting cheaper mortgages, losing weight, growing hair, purchasing pharmaceuticals and enlarging body parts. "I use Technorati to keep track of the buzz about WebQuests in the classroom," Dodge says, "but little by little my searches would lead to blogs with other stuff mashed together. It's as if they took the word WebQuest and threw it into a blender with sentences about arthritis joint pain or golf bags."

Splogs are rapidly becoming huge online problems, particularly for Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, because these major search tools also provide free services for creating blogs. For example, Blogger recently dismantled 13,000 spam-filled blogs that were created in a single weekend. Splogs are choking the Web with useless content, blighting the blogosphere and subverting blog-facilitated discussions. Since spammers continue to seek this fertile new ground to push their wares, as the expanding SplogSpot directory will confirm, the problem will get much worse before it gets better. As Tim Bray who produces the blog Ongoing put it, "Ladles and gentlemen of the blogosphere: we have an emergency on our hands."

Informed Schools

Scott Allen, an online editor for About.com, says the blog providers have a responsibility to monitor and prevent the illegal and inappropriate use of their services, and various user-verification and spare-flagging measures are presently being developed. In the meantime, use the resources below to make sure that your staff and students are informed about research issues related to splogs, and report new examples to grassroots initiatives such as Fight Splog and Splog Reporter. Mark Cuban, a majority owner of the IceRocket search tool, calls splogs the "biggest problem on the Net after identity theft."

RESOURCES

BlogPulse

www.blogpulse.com

Fight Splog

www.fightsplog.com

Fighting Splog

fightsplog.blogspot.com

SplogSpot

www.splogspot.com

Splog Reporter

www.splogreporter.com

Odvard Egil Dyrli, dyrli@uconn.edu, is senior editor and emeritus professor of education at the University of Connecticut.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Professional Media Group LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:The Online Edge
Author:Dyrli, Odvard Egil
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Words:609
Previous Article:Jonathan Kozol takes on the world.
Next Article:The elephant in the room: race and class in America.
Topics:


Related Articles
Intelliseek adds Blog analytics to its BrandPulse Internet solution.
Adventures in the Blogosphere: as Internet journals come into their own, African American voices are rising above the noise.
New words for a new media.
Planet blog.
Blogs: the new information revolution? RIM professionals have an opportunity to provide leadership and guidance in the development of policies to...
School blogs: here's how to offer students and staff members in your district an online voice.
To blog or not to blog: this new communication tool is catching on in Europe--but tread carefully.
The brand (brave?) new world of online public relations: ready or not, IHEs must strategize about how they appear in mentions on the web.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters