Monday, April 09, 2007

Google fails to stop theft and abuse by spam blogs

Google's search engine lists spam blogs which steal copyright material from legitimate blogs and then generate income by hosting Google Ad-Sense adverts.

The content of my blogs - which is all copyrighted specifically to address this issue - is being repeatedly scraped (stolen) and used on spam blogs. The content of your blog might be suffering the same fate. I'm currently faced with an explosion in the amount of material being stolen. Read on to find out if you've got a problem like mine and what you can do about it.

What's a spam blog (splog)?
Spam blogs, sometimes referred to by the neologism splogs, are artificially created weblog sites which the author uses to promote affiliated websites or to increase the search engine rankings of associated sites. The purpose of a splog can be to increase the PageRank or backlink portfolio of affiliate websites, to artificially inflate paid ad impressions from visitors, and/or use the blog as a link outlet to get new sites indexed. Spam blogs are usually a type of scraper site, where content is often either Inauthentic Text or merely stolen from other websites. These blogs usually contain an high number of links to sites associated with the splog creator which are often disreputable or otherwise useless websites. (Wikipedia)
What sort of fraud or theft is it?
Content from my website/blogs is stolen (scraped) and reposted on a splog which hosts Google Ad-Sense adverts.
  • It's fraud because income generated for the host spam blog is generated by content devised by and stolen from other legitimate blogs (likes yours and mine).
  • It's fraud because all clicks on an advert on a spam blog are charged to the advertiser. The advertiser's name is also being linked to fraudulent activity.
  • it's theft because Google is involved in publishing stolen copyright material by continuing to index the website in its search engine after it has been notified about it.
How did I find out?
I have various phrases associated with my website/blogs set up on Google Alerts [] - not to be confused with which is nothing to do with Google. Guess who got stitched up on that domain name!

Every time the phrase is used in something indexed by Google I get an e-mail alert. The number of alerts I've had in the last 24 hours which are actually associated with spam blogs is getting quite ridiculous - hence this post.

I very much recommend that you also set up Google alerts for your blog's name and any similar 'phrases' to see if your content is also being scraped.

How did I report the theft and the abuse?

What I did was I found the website for reporting abuse of abuse of Google Ad-Sense, located the e-mail address and reported the abuse. The e-mail address is " ". (They call it a 'policy violation'. I call if theft.)

You should report:
  • the names/URLs/posts of websites/blog sites from which content is being scraped
  • if your content is copyright protected and whether there is a notice to this effect on site
  • your concern that income is being generated for thieves committing fraud through the use of Google Ad-Sense adverts on the offending site
You will get an automated response. This is it.
We've received your email alerting us to a potential policy violation on a site displaying Google ads. Although we're unable to respond to individual reports, we have forwarded your email to our team of specialists for further investigation.

We appreciate your help in maintaining the quality of the AdSense program.

The Google AdSense Team
Dissatisfied with this initial response to a statement of their involvement in a theft of copyrighted material, I wrote again and indicated I was about to start blogging about it and got this (automated?) response
Hello Katherine,

Thanks for writing in. I understand your concern about your content being re-posted on other sites. Upon investigation of the sites you've listed, it appears that the blogs in question have been since been suspended.

Please know that publishers participating in AdSense may not display Google ads on web pages with content protected by copyright law unless they have the necessary legal rights to display that content. Should you find that your content is being replicated on other sites, rest assured that we will take action as necessary to address the issue.

We appreciate your patience and understanding.


The Google AdSense Team
I've reported a number of further breaches in the last 12 hours and am back to the original automated response.

Why is it a problem?
The problem exists because Google has created opportunities for it the problem exist and is not doing enough to close down those who operate in this way. This is not a new problem. I did a little bit of investigation and found more than a few articles about it. Here are links to a couple.
Often, legitimate companies have their advertisements served on questionable sites through redirections designed to "obfuscate the connection between the advertisers and the spammers," the researchers wrote.........If those links are clicked, the doorway pages then redirect to other pages, potentially bringing revenue back to its controller via pay-per-click advertising offered by companies such as Google Inc. through its AdSense program.

A responsibility also lies with advertisers to assert greater control over where and how their ads are placed.

"Ultimately, it is advertisers' money that is funding the search spam industry, which is increasingly cluttering the Web with low-quality content and reducing Web users' productivity," they wrote.

How to get Google to do something?
So long as Google's search engine continues to index spam blogs and Google Ad-Sense continues to serve up adverts to spam blogs then:
  • blogs like mine - and yours - will continue to be scraped of content
  • copyright breaches will continue
  • income generated as a result will mean that content authors are being defrauded
  • people advertising using Google Ad-Sense will be defrauded.
I sat and pondered on why Google hasn't done anything. And decided that one of the reasons may be that advertisers are not aware of how bad the problem is. If advertisers started pulling their adverts and/or pressurising Google then maybe Google would get it sorted.

So I've decided to start listing all the advertisers appearing on the same page of the spam blogs hosting my stolen content. This at least would alert advertisers to where their adverts were being placed.

Some of the advertisers are small operations - some are individual artists - and some are major companies - including Microsoft! All are potentially being defrauded by the sites hosting my stolen copyrighted content. None appear to be exerting sufficient control over where their adverts appear and all need to check what sort of site their adverts are appearing on.
  1. - an artist's pen and ink artwork
  2. - an architectural illustrator
  3. - buying pencils
  4. - on the spot caricature
  5. - quality pens
  6. - nail art pen
  7. - free trials of Microsoft sharepoint 2007 software
  8. - anabolic steroids book
  9. - training
  10. - stock reports
  11. - Indian blankets
  12. - holidays
  13. - holidays
  14. - Holiday apartments
  15. - Gulf hurricane relief (charity?)
I wonder how long it will take for a representative from Google Ad-Sense will turn up to comment on this post to identify what they are doing to halt this sort of abuse. Or maybe they don't pay attention to what people are saying about them on the Internet?

If you are an artist paying for Ad-Sense to advertise your art - you might want to pause and think about the wisdom of your investment. Your adverts might be turning up on spam blogs and getting listed on blog posts like this.....................

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Lorna said...

Thanks for the heads up.

vivien said...

yes, thanks and for the useful links

I've set some up based on headings - would that be the best bet do you think? or what would you suggest?

Making A Mark said...

The ones you probably need are:
1) your name (see where that's cropping up and whether there's any phishing going on
2) names of your websites / blogs (same rationale)

You can also have an alert for any phrase which is common to you and where you'd like to track similar usage eg sketchbook maybe

Making A Mark said...

It gets better - I've now discovered another one which is scraping content using Google Alerts - and has posted this blog post!!!

Just how many legal 'own goals' against copyright material on one blog can Google commit?

I need orange said...

Copyright is "opt out" not "opt in" -- everything is copyright-protected (theoretically) unless such rights are specifically waived.

This is clearly violation of copyright law. Fat lot of good that will do us...........

I appreciate very much your time and trouble to research this and to let us know. I have been to google alerts...... Though I get so little traffic that I doubt anyone would be interested in me. :-)

Making A Mark said...

Good point.

Unfortunately, there are vast quantities of people who are completely ignorant about the rights of authors and artists, what copyright means and what the legitimate exceptions are and tend to need it spelling out to them.

I didn't think Google was going to be one of those who behave in an ignorant way or that it needed a lecture on the subject - but apparently I was mistaken.

Or maybe their lawyers outlined the risks and Google chose to ignore them?

Ed Terpening said...

Katherine: here's another approach: screen shot SPAM blogs and send to the advertisers that appear on the site (as you note, they are the other victim here). Google is more likely to act if it effects their revenue stream--their advertisers.

I need orange said...

I agree entirely that most people probably don't know about copyright -- and, worse, I'll bet that most people don't care.

They *can* copy something, they *want to*, so they do.......

Alas. On an individual level this is annoying enough, but when it's automated in the way you describe -- abhorent.

It's sort of fascinating how the predators (as in nature) are lurking ready to take advantage of every new situation. If money *can* be made, someone stands ready to make it, issues of ownership -- or fairness -- completely beside the point.


Making A Mark said...

I've now found the domain name registrar for one of the prime culprits ( )and have e-mailed them reporting that the domain name is involved in theft and fraud and that I am reporting on all companies involved with this enterprise

Their name is NetFirms and their website is at Let's see whether anybody turns up to comment...........

I've still noticing a gaping hole in my inbox where all the responses from the google ad-sense abuse people should be sitting.

Making A Mark said...

I also tried putting into my browser address line - and got!!!

Now what's that all about?

Making A Mark said...

Plus - I've also discovered that if you click on the Google Adwords logo associated with the Google Ad-Sense adverts on one of these spam blogs you get to a Google page on which you can report a violation - one of which is copyright infringement. So I'm now doing that on every one I find.

I'm also checking out the DCMA.

Adam Cope said...

Sad sorry story of abuse.

The best way o communicating with google is via google sitemaps. there's a 'report spam' formula there. also the tech blog team at guardian are ...worth a try?

google's duplicate content filter was meant to shift out abuse such as this. but it clearly doesnt. Google has been broken for alog while now, me suspects.

the bigger story is of course that you run a good content rich blog (for free). get it publish first of all? or do what bruce mcenvoy at has done, which is to assert moral authorship to content. he's got some sort of legal notice up copyrighting his whole site (fabulous it is too).

i took my 'carnet de voyage en egypte' off line because of copyright abuse. funny feelings about giving it away for free & then someone else manipulates it to their own ends.

dont stop posting please

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