Content Filtering: Should Google be Involved in the Splog Battle


Lorelle VanFossen is probably one of the most respected bloggers in the WordPress community. If you want to see an example of someone who knows how to take blogging seriously but still keep it fun and up beat, she’s an excellent person to watch in action. I’ve been reading her “Lorelle On WordPress” blog for about year now, it was one of the first RSS feeds I ever subscribed to.

I saw this post in my feed reader today that was titled “Want to Help Google Clean Up Splogs,” and was drawn into it right away. For those who don’t know what a “splog” is, it’s the blog equivalent of spam: when a post appears on your blog serving only to offer a link to another site or blog in attempts to bring in money to that blog (usually the ones I have to weed out are pornography related). So I found myself caught in a bit of a catch 22 on this one.

There are some people in the internet community who have put two and two together and come up with a really great solution. Splog = content that I don’t want on my blog website that is mass duplicated with same info designed to generate money. Google = one of the most powerful search engines in existence. Therefore they conclude that Google should offer some kind of way to filter out splog entries in blogs. However, in this case 2+2 does equal a good result. In fact it leads to something that has the potential of going to a very dark place.

The whole idea of blogging, at least in it’s current idiom, is that you throw an opinion out and let the world respond. Blogging is, by it’s very nature, an open forum. As an American, I take for granted every day the right that I have to express myself with out fear of retribution from my Government. I can post any anti-government sentiment I want on my blog and nothing can be done because I have the right to my opinion. If I choose to move to a remote cabin in Montana, call myself the “Ultimate Cheese Wheel Trinity” and start my religious group of dairy lovers, as long as we do not break any laws (such as stock piling fully automatic assault riffles, or dealing in drugs) we can proclaim our message of “cheezy goodness” (yes, I spelled it with ‘z’) via our blog and not have to worry about government intervention. But, what if someone finds that our message of “cheezy love” is too radical and dangerous in a day an age where lactose intolerant people have finally established a place of equal recognition and respect for the first time in centuries. They don’t want be subject to such a bizarre and blasphemous attraction to the gift of the “Sacred Cow”. What would the children think if they saw such a thing on U-Tube?!

OK, so I went over the top a bit there, but I think I got the point illustrated there. The real crux of the issue is that at heart of Content Filtering lies this really sticky debate about how to allow open communities to exist and at the same time impose some sort of way to protect that community. Once again we return to the basic conundrum of the American Way of life: Protecting my Freedoms may cost me some of my Freedoms, so where do I draw the line.

This is where I draw the line on this issue: If I want people to be able to post openly on my blog, I have to accept responsibility for the posted comments according to my personal convictions or moral standards. I should have the right to choose weather or not I want to give this responsibility over to a company like Google, but I do not agree with having to submit to an all powerful content filter in order to make other people’s blogs adhere to those other people’s set of standards. The same goes for spam and splogs, one of the largest money making industries in the Internet World. Yes, it’s vial and fowl in my opinion, but I have the power to eliminate this particular wrong doing from my blog is I wish. The last thing the internet needs is a content filter who’s control does not lay with the individual user.

***Updated latter that day****

So Lorelle very kindly pointed out that I did not have a clue I was talking about…..apparently splogs are Blogs that exist as a way of generating money. They are the same blog, with the same penny here penny there money earning set up, that propagates out into multiple instances to make it look like each is a different blog. So, in essence, it like a mass money making scam.

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~ by trinity777 on July 16, 2008.

5 Responses to “Content Filtering: Should Google be Involved in the Splog Battle”

  1. I see that you finally got the point. This isn’t an issue of censorship or freedom of speech. When you find a splog, it usually has garbled text in it like:

    cleaning glasses etched in dishwasher clearance urethane golf balls clerk of court, buffalo, … clearance products cleaning candle wax from marble surfaces …

    It is often stuffed with links to products and services. It’s junk mail in the extreme.

    I think the ability for an algorithm to be created to detect these shouldn’t be as hard as you might think, not with the advances in filtering and identification based on a wide variety of specs. If we can spot these within less than a second, turning those characteristics into some identification process should be easy. These splogs tend to duplicate themselves identically, so once you spot a trend in formula, feel that info in and a you grab a thousand or so instantly.

    Protecting legit blogs is important, which is why this issue was brought out to the light of bloggy day for exploring. Google wants to know how to protect legit blogs and shut down abusers. I think it’s possible. Now we just have to figure out how.

  2. Thanks for following the Pingback this to post Lorelle. I know that the technology and the programing capabilities are out there to do just what you describe: Find the pattern, isolate the offending content. I’m sure that Google has grown in leaps in bounds with this kind of thing since they got involved with China. Google’s mission statement has always been to do no evil, and I can see this kind of a capability used to do a lot of evil (just like almost every great advance in technology can be used for evil).

    But something, and I just can’t quite put my finger on what, does not set right with me. To quote one of my favorite movies “The Tail is tingling.” I’m not a huge fan of AI, or automated process that remove humans from the equation as a general rule. But if a method can be developed that will protect the blogging community in an efficient way, and have an efficient appeals process for those who get blacklisted accidentally, then that would truly be an amazing technology to deploy through out the whole web could benefit from.

  3. I’m not a big fan of a computer being set up to do it’s thing unwatched either. But at the same time, splogs have such formulaic postings that I really don’t think a computer would mess up.

    However, I’m all for a computer checking and flagging something as a potential splog, and having a human come back and check what is flagged.

  4. I like that Idea too. Because computers are only as flawless as the people who program them and we all know how perfect human beings can be 🙂 Sounds like a really level headed approach to the situation, but there should still be some sort of swift appeals process that can get site back up quickly if they are black listed.

  5. Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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