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Is it Really Just Social SPAMedia?


Spam. If only it were just the ‘meat product’ that spawned many stomachaches and a very funny Monty Python skit (If you would like to see it just skip to the end of the post now. It’s spamtastic).

Apparently, spam is kind of like a bacteria or a virus. How? Well, it is being fought on the e-mail front with a pretty good level of success. Sure spam e-mail still exists but improved filters, consumer awareness and a general hatred for the stuff has minimized its impact over the past few years. OK, so I may only be speaking for myself here. If you disagree we have a lovely comments section for your griping pleasure.

So what do organisms who are being fought do? They move to places where there is no hindrance to their ability to spread disease and discontent. In the case of the virus known as Internet spam it appears as if the new home is social media.

Businessweek reports

“Social spam can be a lot more effective than e-mail spam,” says Mark Risher, chief executive officer of Impermium, which sells anti-spam software. “The bad guys are taking to this with great abandon.”

Spammers create as many as 40 percent of the accounts on social-media sites, according to Risher. About 8 percent of messages sent via social pages are spam, approximately twice the volume of six months ago, he says. Spammers use the sharing features on social sites to spread their messages. Click on a spammer’s link on Facebook (FB), and it may ask you to “like” or “share” a page, or to allow an app to gain access to your profile.

While this comes as no surprise really, it is still a bit distressing. Why? Well, if the spam wars in social media are just under way then we may have a long battle ahead of us. Hopefully social media can learn something from the e-mail world but they are very different environments so you wonder if the lessons are transferrable.

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or anywhere else spam in the social media space is a growing problem. Facebook and Twitter have gotten aggressive in taking legal action against certain targets but like some lizards even if you pull off the tail it grows another one. The only way to kill something is to chop its head off. Well, spam is not the result of any one central conspirator.

No, in fact there is not a single entity to focus on. Spammers are truly like a virus in that they mutate and get stronger until there is a cure. Right now a cure for social media spam is likely to be a long way off and it will be more dependent on how each platform fights it vs. something that is a bit more universal and somewhat uniform like e-mail.

Right now a favorite target for spammers appears to be Pinterest.

Pinterest encourages users to form a virtual neighborhood watch and report spam before it spreads. Last month the site put up a blog post urging visitors to use its “Report Pin” button to tag spam.

On Pinterest, spam often lurks in the embedded links attached to photos, making it tricky for users to spot. [Michelle] Espinoza, the jewelry maker, said she contacted the company at least 10 times in as many days before the fraudulent links tied to images of her bracelets were banished.

So how is Pinterest handling this problem? Well, let’s just say that the response reported by Businessweek shouldn’t instill a ton of confidence.

Pinterest declined to make executives available for an interview. “Our engineers are actively working to manage issues as they arise and are revisiting the nature of public feeds on the site to make it harder for fake or harmful content to get into them,” said a spokesperson in an e-mailed statement.

How are you dealing with social media spam? is it interfering in your social media experience or is just something to tolerate as part of the online space? Let us know in the comments.

In the meantime, take a few minutes to relax and laugh at Python’s take on Spam, the ‘meat’.