Ugh. Does this happen to everyone?
I have a google alert set for my name and my book title. I do this because
I’m a huge narcissist it’s a valuable curation tool for anyone with an even slightly public profile. Last night, I received a google alert about a new blog post mentioning my name and my work. It was titled “Adding a New Dimension To Looks With Plastic Surgery.” (screenshot below – I’m not linking to it)
Huh. I didn’t talk much about plastic surgery in the book. This should be an… interesting connection.
Then I clicked the link. Here’s what I saw.
When The MoveOn Effect came out, I had the bright idea of creating a book-blog, where I could post upcoming events and write short pieces related to the book. It took about 10 minutes to put the thing together on wordpress. The free blog address was themoveoneffect.wordpress.com, and I also paid eighteen bucks for the domain name themoveoneffect.com. But the whole thing never really came together — the book tour was so hectic that I didn’t get around to updating the site, and I just kept blogging at shoutingloudly instead. So last month, I decided not to pay the eighteen bucks to renew the domain name. It’s a dormant blog, I’m working on a new book now, what’s the point in spending the money? Might as well just let it expire.
What happened next is that a spammer grabbed the domain name*, scooped up and duplicated the content**, and started writing new posts under the name davekarpf**. It’s a pretty basic scam — either you get a new spamblog to improve your search engine optimization, or you force the former owner of the domain name to pony up the cash to buy it back from you.
It didn’t occur to me that I should worry about something like this, specifically because themoveoneffect.com was already a dormant blog! There isn’t a lot of value in grabbing a domain name that no one was visiting or linking to. But apparently there’s just-barely-enough value for the spammers of the world. Great.
I’m working on resolving the issue. I’m not crazy about having someone posting beauty tip spam in my name. I’m also not going to pay a ransom, though. In the meantime, I see two takeaways:
1. This is why we can’t have nice things online. If you look closely at the screenshot, you might notice that the comments are turned off, and there’s no address for contacting the author. The title, facebook link, and first post on the page all signal that I’m the author (indeed, I created all that content). A random visitor to the site would have no reason to suspect that it was fraudulent impersonation, and no easy recourse for checking.
2. Spamming isn’t just for inboxes anymore. Spammers prey on blogs that are much further down the digital food chain than you might think. I study this stuff for a living, and have written research articles about spamblog-driven decay in online metrics, and this still took me by surprise. Spammers are the worst.
And that, dear friends, is the story of how my night got ruined.
…At least we’re finally getting some nice weather.
*This is legal.
*Definitely not legal. Blatantly illegal, in fact.