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Preventing "Spammers" from being notified of new Posts

  1. Okay but it seems weird to me, given the fact that I did choose to enable the follow blog widget and have WordPress.com email my posts to any users.

  2. Yeah, they followed as WordPress.com users, then choose the email option later. Any WordPress.com user can do this.

  3. Okay, so that means we have no control over which email service we wish to use provide our posts to WordPress.com users. If they are WordPress.com users and select email service then WordPress.com automatically delivers. I've got it now.

  4. That is correct. Email subscriptions are part of the Reader, so if they decide that they want emails too, we'll send emails.

  5. So here's the summary so far as I have understood:

    1. Email Widget is the culprit of alleged fake/junk subscribers.
    2. People are clicking on verification links in the email to subscribe blogs and they are not automated bots but people with unknown ulterior motives.
    3. WP Reader is not a culprit in this case (my experiment suggest).
    4. Alleged fake/junk email addresses subscribing to your blogs are different from WordPress.com registered users who are clicking on Like buttons to increase the prospect of their own visibility through the use of other people's blogs.
    5. Alleged fake/junk subscribers can also subscribe your blog via email through the use of WP Reader and/or the Admin Bar even if your blog does not provide a direct Email Subscription widget. But they will have to be registered WordPress.com subscribers in the first place.

  6. 1. No, it's how people follow your blog via email if they want to. I wouldn't call it a culprit. That's like blaming a drunk driving accident on the car.

    2. Correct, or they're legitimate people with really lame email addresses who are really interested in what you write.

    3. Correct.

    4. Correct, no obvious connection so far.

    5. Correct.

  7. @ismailimail
    Your checklist jives with mine.

    @macmanx
    If you are keeping a list of requests and or suggestions for how to address this then approving every follower will give us bloggers the control over our blogs that we want and need. Let them all apply to become followers and before that happens allow us to delete the dubious dross first.

  8. Just for the record, I'm one of those people who prefers to follow blogs via email. I've never used readers. If I can't figure out how to follow your blog via email, then chances are I won't remember to visit you again.

  9. @timethief , I love your idea!

    That would be great, or we should at least have the option to remove subscribers after they've subscribed. This would be absolutely terrific. Every WP user I've spoken to about this has agreed that being able to control our followers' list would be a tremendous improvement to the WP experience (now I'm thinking of the Jimi Hendrix experience).

    Anyhoo, I too received 10 new fake/spam followers today: they are all WP users, none email subscribers.

  10. Thanks for the feedback!

    If the suspect followers are indeed WordPress.com users, please visit their blog via one of the links in the notification email.

    If it's a spam blog, please report it: http://en.support.wordpress.com/report-blogs/

    This will shut down their account (pending approval of the report), and it also has the added benefit of determining if it really is a fake follower or a legitimate follower who just has a lousy account name.

  11. I'm a little late to this party, but I wrote an article about the LIKE Spammers who are ruining our blogs:

    http://bolesblogs.com/2013/04/11/preventing-avatar-spam-and-gaming-facebook-likes/

    I turned off LIKEs and a benefit is my pages load so much faster without having to process all the LIKEs.

    I believe the email Followers want a more instant anywhere notification so they can come and Spam us with a LIKE. Turning off LIKEs has reduced my LIKEs by a quite a bit -- so there was a quantifiable benefit to their false LIKE-ing.

    I would love to know how WP.com considers LIKE-ers and Followers -- are they part of our individual blog communities or not? If they are, why are they all not Akismet processed and shown in our RIGHT NOW Dashboard as a manageable and editable entity?

    If LIKES and Follows are not part of our blogs, then that makes them universally untouchable because the hive mind of millions of users has no way to mass report their clear bad behavior without jumping in here to share "anecdotal" evidence that may, or may not, be taken as empirical.

  12. Likes are considered part of the social network interaction on your blog, just like how Facebook considers Likes, Google considers +1's, and Twitter considers Retweets.

    Essentially, the "ownership" of the Like belongs to the Liker. It's their action, and if they Like a post, they are welcome to note it. You can't force them to Like or not Like a post, but you can turn off Likes so it's not even an issue.

    We do acknowledge that there are some bots gaming the system and have recently established some rate limiting which has shut down the bots and shouldn't affect most human Likers.

    The action of following a blog is similarly the "ownership" of the follower. If they enjoy a blog, they're welcome to follow it, but you can certainly make your blog private if you don't want followers.

    Think of it from the follower's perspective. You follow a blog, but the blog you follow doesn't like Liberals, so they (if they could) remove you as a follower. That wouldn't seem quite fair to you. To further complicate matters, there's nothing stopping you from following again.

    This is why I made the suggestion earlier of investigating the blog of the follower (usually provided in the notification email). If it really is a spam blog, just report it http://en.support.wordpress.com/report-blogs/ and let us take care of shutting them down for good. It's also entirely likely that the alleged fake follower is a real person who really wants to read your blog and just has a lousy username. Investigating the blog will help you to confirm this and put your mind at ease.

    So far, we have noticed absolutely no connection between the Splikes and the alleged fake followers.

  13. Hi macmanx,

    Thank you, I have now reported all the alleged spammers. As I was doing it, I received yet another fake/spam follower - and interestingly, my view count hasn't changed (yes, I've been counting them over the last 2hrs because I suspected this was happening with the other spam followers, and made a note of the count). So, this to me suggests a bot.

    The plot thickens... **X-Files tune**

  14. Folks can follow your blog directly from the WordPress.com Reader without resulting in a View, because they haven't actually viewed your blog, just a post that they found interesting in the Reader.

    https://wordpress.com/#!/read/

  15. Ah, of course. Duh! Thanks Mac.

  16. maxmanx --

    We can't really turn off LIKEs, though. We can remove them from displaying on our blogs, and we can stop email notifications for them, but they still remain active -- "on" -- in the WP.com ecosystem and are still being counted whether we like it or not. SMILE! If we want to turn them on again, all the previous Spam LIKEs will still be there in perpetuity.

    Your point about Followers and ownership and fairness is interesting because I lost a regular commenter who was a hardline conservative, and we rarely agreed on anything, but he was always respectful.

    However, other liberal WP.com blog owners would use Akismet to punish his comments by marking what he said as Spam even though he was only disagreeing with them and not Spamming their blogs... unless Akismet now counts dissent as Spam.

    When he complained to WP.com about this, he was told that blog owners can mark any comment as Spam without repercussion because, I believe, Spam is in the eye of the one reporting it or something. This was discussed in the comments here:

    http://bolesblogs.com/2012/05/10/obama-chooses-love/

    When I would get the LIKE email notifications, the blogs were sparse, but there was some sort of a MAKE MONEY BLOGGING link as a part of the "check out their blog" part of the email.

    So, somehow, these Spam LIKE-ers/Followers know how to at least game the WP.com LIKE email notification system to encourage a click-through. I'm not sure I could report one of those blogs as a Spam blog for a single article or not, because they do have other content that looks ordinary an inconspicuous on the surface. They're pros.

  17. We can't really turn off LIKEs, though. We can remove them from displaying on our blogs, and we can stop email notifications for them, but they still remain active -- "on" -- in the WP.com ecosystem and are still being counted whether we like it or not.

    Yes, turning off Likes on the blog will keep people from Liking posts on the blog. They can still Like posts through the Reader though, and that's an oversight which we are working to correct, so when that's fixed, turning off Likes on post will completely disable Likes for the post.

    As for comments, unlike Likes and Followers, we consider all blog content (including comments) to be the property of the blogger, which is why you have the ability to edit, delete, and mark comments as spam.

  18. I appreciate WP's attention to the problem, macmanx, but unless and until I can delete Likes from cheaplouisvittons99 and friends, I won't be turning Likes back on. As far as I'm concerned, Likes are equivalent to brief comments and blog administrators should have the power to moderate them like any other comments.

  19. @macmanx
    I'm almost ready to do the same thing and disable likes on the blog. It really peeves me that my blog post excepts can be "liked" in the Reader and elsewhere without the button clickers even clicking in to read the full post. Without doubt it peeves my readers as well http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2013/04/09/wordpress-com-follower-management/

    There is no cogent case that has yet been made for retaining the ability to click "likes" anywhere other than on the posts themselves. That's why it's gratifying to know Staff are aware of the issue and the demand for that ability to be removed ASAP.

  20. This is interesting as there are now around a dozen of these threads complaining about spam followers and spam likes. I'm having the same issues and would like to add my vote for a delete follower function or an approve follower function. I'm a little concerned with the number of statements alluding that there is no benefit to spammers thus their following our blogs is essentially harmless. Perhaps so... but in my opinion this is hurting the integrity of the blogging experience. We ALL rely on our blogging stats, hits, likes and subscription numbers to get a sense of the popularity of our blogs. This recent spamming attack is making those stats useless. Hopefully there is a solution in the works. Most other social media allows "blocking", blogging for most of us is just a much larger form of social media. Please add this function!!

  21. I'm a little concerned with the number of statements alluding that there is no benefit to spammers thus their following our blogs is essentially harmless. Perhaps so... but in my opinion this is hurting the integrity of the blogging experience. We ALL rely on our blogging stats, hits, likes and subscription numbers to get a sense of the popularity of our blogs. This recent spamming attack is making those stats useless.

    I don't accept the "harmless" argument.

    In light of the facts that
    (1) we have no reliable means of gauging audience growth;
    (2) no cogent case for retaining the ability of anyone with a WordPress.com/Gravatar account to be able to follow our blogs without our consent has been made;
    (3) and WordPress.com developers are capable of devising an approve and manage follower function;
    I'm wondering exactly when that work, or alternatively, when work on another reliable means for gauging audience growth will be undertaken.

  22. I am inclined to agree with the above comments requesting that we be able to remove followers. I have seen a huge increase in what I suspect to be spam followers in the last couple of weeks, and I, too, feel that it skews our stats. Just today, EXPERTS IN THE REMOVAL OF: Bats Raccoons Squirrels Skunks Chipmunks Mice Rats Possum decided to follow my blog, and while I find that somewhat ironic and amusing, I would prefer not to be depressed every time I look at the number of followers versus the number of views of my blog. I don't see how removing followers is any different than refusing comments. Yes, we might have poor judgement about who is "real" versus who is a spammer, but the same could be said for when we refuse to approve a comment.

  23. This sharp rise in "followers" who have no blog, who use only a gravatar profile with no URL or email address attached, who write in a language I can't identify or are selling everything from apartments in Jakarta to "Yo, babe! Toys for your intimacies!" is driving me crazy. In some cases, it's making me nervous.

    There has to be a reason for it, and if there's a reason, there should be a solution. People are beginning to blog about the problem, it's so bad.

    We need to have the ability to block followers. Their "right" to follow whomever they please should not supercede our right to control our own blog. The pleasure of blogging at WordPress is being seriously degraded.

  24. Does WordPress not care about this issue? Is there any attempt to fix it? The comment above is perfect. "the pleasure of blogging at WordPress is being seriously degraded." I've read several blogger's posts about this and the majority of the commenters are also experiencing this problem. It's rampant and it didn't slowly grow to the level it has reached. It popped up overnight. So as @shoreacres said "there has to be a reason for it, and if there's a reason, there should be a solution."

  25. Here is a great ray of hope posted today from Staff:

    A Like provides a link back to the Liker’s Gravatar profile, which could be filled with marketing links and such, just like a spam comment but with no words.

    When we started digging into this, we found certain WordPress.com users somehow Liking hundreds (sometimes thousands) of posts in the span of an hour, often within seconds of publication. In short, there’s no way that they were reading the posts to begin with.

    http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/why-cant-i-like-anyones-posts/page/2?replies=37

    I'm glad we are finally being taken seriously! Many of us here deep-check links and LIKES and Followers on an hourly level that Staff may not have the time or resources to abide.

    We're the canaries in the mine. When we start piping up here before our deaths, it's good to get noticed of our alerts. SMILE!

  26. @boles
    Hi there,
    There are multiple threads that were posted long before you entered the fray. We already knew that we can report Gravatars on the bottom right hand corner of every Gravatar page there is a "report abuse" link and when we click it there's a drop-down menu we can select "spam activity" in it.

  27. @timethief --

    What's your point, and why are you bothering to grind a history lesson about something everyone following this thread already knows?

    When you say "we already knew" -- you mean, who, exactly?

  28. Hi @timethief. I think that's great that there is a report abuse button. And I've already seen some of these sites are no longer active. Here's my point. Why all of a sudden do we have to monitor 5-10-20 new blogs a day that are following us when we didn't have that problem before, literally a couple of weeks ago (at least I didn't)? I don't really want to spend a bunch of time every day trying to figure out who is legit and who isn't. Some are very obviously spam, some not as much, but still likely spam, because frankly why is someone who writes in Arabic (or whatever language) following my blog? Obviously something was changed in the platform, perhaps its the new "blogs you may like" function... But lots of people aren't happy!

  29. I'm in total agreement with @littledubs's last comment: a really troubling thing about this for me is that this isn't a longstanding problem. I've been blogging for almost 2 years on WordPress and this has never been an issue before; it seems to have emerged in the last few weeks. Which seems to indicate that it's a problem that's suddenly emerged - and one for which I think there should be a more straightforward solution.

    I appreciate that I can report abuse - but I've gotten 20 new followers, (all spammers on examination) in the last 3 days. So now I have this chore to do of having to go and report them all. (Maybe I'm being a baby about it...but it's really a bit of a pain!!)

    As I believe somebody else already said, worrying about this, for me, seriously degrades the experience of blogging on WordPress...which is a huge shame! Up until now, I've been extremely pleased with the whole experience of blogging on this platform.

    I REALLY think we should have the ability to block followers.

  30. Even if we do report these 'spam' followers (and you can only do that if they're WordPress users; some are not) and perchance it results in their blogs being shut down (or somehow or other 'flagged' as offenders), it still doesn't eliminate them from our list of followers - meaning our numbers are still skewed. WP needs to to listen to the hundreds of users who've been affected (and are ANGRY) by this and invoke a 'block follower' function ASAP!

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