Comment spam is getting worse (but not for me personally)

The comment spam problem has taken a new turn recently: it’s gotten so bad that it’s taking down the servers hosting the blogs they’re polluting. In response, some hosting providers are disabling comments and even blogs system-wide.

Here’s a recent e-mail from my own hosting provider:

We have seen a significant increase in weblog comment spam lately. Movable Type installations seem to be the worst hit, but Greymatter is also affected. The increase in comment spam has been causing a lot of server instability. We have begun blocking connections from the IP addresses we have found to be the origins of most of the spam, but that will most likely only work temporarily. We request that everyone with a weblog application installed please do what you can to reduce the likelihood of your site being a target. Install any applicable anti-spam plugins or disable comments on your weblog altogether. Let us know if you have any questions.

More on how bad it’s been getting from Ben Hammersley and Reid Stott.

So the upshot is that even if your own blog is protected (hint: MT-Blacklist) or is otherwise unaffected by comment spam (no comments, or uses Blogger), and even if your web site doesn’t even have a blog (but others on your server do) this has an impact on you.

The Movable Type team has concluded that the bulk of the problem is a bug that causes page rebuilds even when a comment is filtered. In a nutshell, every time one of Movable Type’s scripts runs, the server does some work. Every time a new entry is made or a comment is made to an entry, a script runs and several pages are rebuilt. That’s a lot of server activity and a lot of rebuilds if you have a lot of comments. The problem is that there’s too much activity even when the comments are blocked. A fix is coming. (See also this and this.)

Apart from the hit to the shared servers on which my sites are based, which should not be minimized, my blogs are relatively unaffected. On this blog, comments were disabled on new entries in July, and since then I’ve shut off the older comments in stages. DFL’s comments have long since been closed; even so, it, like Ankylose This!, uses Blogger, which has a method for filtering URLs to prevent the presumed boost in the Google rankings (it’s believed that you score higher in Google searches the more pages link to yours, which is the whole premise behind this comment spam nonsense).

That leaves The Map Room, which is protected by MT-Blacklist. And I automatically close comments on entries older than 45 days — which helps, because it’s older entries that are usually targeted. Still, it gets its small share of comment spam, which I excise as soon as I can.

I appreciate that many, many bloggers have it much, much worse.