User:OrenBochman/Fighting linkspam

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fighting linkspam[edit]

Linkspam is the name for links added to Wikipedia to advertise a company, website, or organization, or that divert readers to an unrelated destination. Linkspam is often off-topic, placed in articles that the links have nothing to do with. On-topic links to non-notable websites are also considered linkspam. Wikipedia is not an advertising service. Linkspam detracts from Wikipedia's content and degrades its quality. Because of Wikipedia's long-standing policy of open access, linkspam remains a perennial problem, much like vandalism, and Wikipedians must diligently fight linkspam wherever it appears.

Spambots[edit]

Spambots are programs or scripts ("bots", or "robots") designed to automatically run a user account to add spam links non-stop at fast rates. They are tireless and may continuously add three to six links per minute, but the actual number varies and some spambots can be slower or faster than this. If allowed to continue, a spambot can do a huge amount of damage to Wikipedia. As a result, Wikipedians must swiftly stop them. Because spambots are simple programs that lack conversational ability, a spambot posing as a user will usually ignore any message you add to its user talk page. If you discover a user you think is a spambot, get administrator help or report the spamming account immediately.

Spammers[edit]

Spammers are users who place linkspam on Wikipedia. The links they add nearly always lead to external websites, often of a commercial or unsuitable nature (e.g., porn), though their motive isn't always to make money. Spammers usually work fast, placing spam links rapidly one-after-another. Spammers tend to focus on commercial-related articles, such as "Credit card". Most spammers do not respond to messages posted on their talk pages.

Who in the world would want to spam Wikipedia?[edit]

Many spammers are just people linking to their hobby site, or to a web forum they enjoy. These users may not be familiar with Wikipedia policy nor realize that their links are inappropriate. Sometimes companies hire professional spammers to spam Wikipedia for the purpose of increasing their search engine ranking. Some have the simple motive of advertising directly on Wikipedia to increase their website traffic, regardless of how it disrupts operations here.

Spotting linkspam[edit]

Types of linkspam[edit]

Promotional spam links

Spam links are generally added for the purpose of promoting a company, organization, or website. These are referred to as "promotional spam links". Requests for discussion with these people are usually completely ignored, and the same link is typically added to many articles. Most often, links are added to articles related to the subject of the website in question; for example, a website named "http://www.books.com" would usually be added to "Books", "Online books", and other articles of similar nature. Sometimes spam links are added that appear to be free but gain money from a large assortment of banner ads. Sometimes users insert spam links that stand to make no money whatsoever. Regardless of financial gain, promoting any company, organization, or website is link spam.

Off-topic spam links

Another genre of spammers are those who add links unrelated to the subject title, usually with a misleading description or edit summary. These people tend to include links to "shock sites" or other websites of an inappropriate nature, and are nearly always acting maliciously.

Where are spam links added?[edit]

Where on a page

Many spam links are added to the "External links" section of articles, but occasionally they might be posted to the "See also" or "References" sections by mistake. For that reason, look for these section titles when examining edit summaries.

Some links are added using standard format:

[http://www.example.com Example.com has *the best* range of products
and examples available on the web!]

Or, just as often:

http://www.example.com - Example.com has *the best* range of products and
examples available on the web!

Experienced, possibly repeat, spammers might use the <ref> ... </ref> tag in mid-article:

... Wikipedia is a free,<ref>[http://www.example.com Example.com
has *the best* range of products and examples available on the web!]</ref>
open-content encyclopedia ...
What pages are most susceptible

Quiet, backwater articles are generally the most vulnerable, in the long run, to spam attacks. Popular biographies are also susceptible. Extremely general articles tend to be a frequented area for spammers who don't understand how focused Wikipedia tends to be (a lyrics database spam link on Song is a good example). Articles about cities, counties and states tend to get spammed by organizations based within their borders. Practically all articles about commercial topics are likely to get "hit" at some time.

The wording of a sentence can "provoke", or facilitate, spammers - here are a couple of examples:

"Soap.com was set up in 2007 for the purpose of selling best-quality soaps."
In this case, the "selling best-quality soaps" will often provoke a commercial spam link.
"Engineering.com claims to excel in designing fine cars."
"Claims to excel" and "designing fine cars" are likely to give spammers fun.

Therefore, it is very important that any articles on commercial topics are written from a neutral point-of-view.

Examples of Spammer Contributions[edit]

This spammer added links to a web TV site. Note the topical difference between the link additions and the articles they are pinned to.
Link spammers often add irrelevant and non-focused links to city, county and state articles missing the fact that Wikipedia is not a mere collection of external links.

Make sure it's spam before you remove it[edit]

Before removing links, as described in the next section below, it is important to check the spammer and the spam links:


1. Has every single edit the spammer has made been to add a link?

Check the contributions page for the user you suspect of being a spammer, and examine the pattern of the user's edits:
  • Has the spammer edited more than one page recently?
  • Has the spammer added the same link to each page? Is there no edit summary, or is the edit summary the same each time?


2. Does the spammer respond to talk invitations?

Be sure to give spammers at least two chances to reply before reporting them. The reason for this is because it is possible they were editing a page while you sent them the message, and therefore won't notice it until they exit the edit window. If they add another link after that, then they have obviously seen and disregarded the message, in which case you should take one of the steps listed below in the "reporting spammers" section.
  • If the spammer responded, was their response uncivil or obstinate?


3. Is the website strongly biased or in some way promotive of a product?

Promotive websites tend to "puff up" their product to make it seem better than someone else's. See WP:PEACOCK for examples of promotional language unsuitable for Wikipedia articles.


If any of the above is true, the link is probably spam, and should be removed by following the instructions below. If you suspect a link is spam, but aren't sure, ask for assistance from one of the anti-spam teams presented later in this article.

When dealing with spammers, it is very important to assume good faith. Though remember, while you should assume that an edit was made in good faith in absense of evidence to the contrary, that does not mean that you should automatically assume an edit is good for Wikipedia. Remove inappropriate links on sight, regardless of the intentions of the editors who posted them.

Occasionally, an editor in good standing will add a spam link in good faith, believing it to be an appropriate external link. If it is linkspam, it should still be removed, but in these cases, rather than reporting the editor or using warning tags, discuss the matter with the editor on his or her talk page. If the editor disagrees that it is spam, do not overlook the possibility that you may be mistaken - seek to reach consensus by discussing the matter on the article's talk page.

Dealing with spammers and linkspam[edit]

So, you've spotted a link spammer. Now what?

It's time to deal with both the spammer and his spam links...

Removing spam links[edit]

Carefully following the advice in this section is very important. There are two ways of removing spam links! I tend to favour the second method, but it is only really of much use when a spammer is adding (not modifying) the same link on many pages and the link is clearly inappropriate for Wikipedia. I'd personally recommend using the first way when you detect a spammer and then following up with the second if required.

The first method[edit]

This method requires basic knowledge of reverting. If you don't know how to comfortably revert yet, I'd recommend asking an administrator or other experienced user for help.

  1. Warn the spammer using one of the warning templates described below.
  2. Click on the spammer's "contributions" link, or enter the full URL into your web browser manually. It will be:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Contributions/USERNAME
where 'USERNAME' is the spammer's username. (Substitute spaces ' ' in_the_username_with_underscores '_', not '-'.)
  1. Click on the "diff" link.
    TipTip for those using a tabbed browser: You can open multiple tabs with each of the articles. Right click (ctl-click on Macs) and select "Open Link in New Tab" or something to that point.
  2. You should see an "undo" button at the top of the right-hand diff. Click it.
  3. Append "rvs", "rv spam", "reverting spam", or some other descriptive edit summary to the end of the summary box.
  4. Click "save".
  5. Click the Back button on your web browser two times, and move on to the next "diff" link.
  6. When you have undone all the spammer's contributions, click the Reload button on your web browser, and see if the spammer has made any more contributions.
  7. If so, give them a higher-level warning, and if they spam beyond a recent final warning, see here - just make sure they have made at least two edits since you issued a final warning them (remember the "two chances" rule above).
  8. Restart from step three again if necessary.
The second method[edit]

Being simpler than the first method, this is probably a good way to start off removing spam links if you're new, or want to make a mass-removal of a link. Before implementing it, however, check that the link is clearly inappropriate - ie., open it in your web browser to check. I am generally assuming the spammer has already been blocked.

  1. Manually maneuver your web browser to:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Linksearch
or click here.
  1. Enter the URL you wish to remove in the box and click "Search".
  2. Open each page provided, and scan the edit box for the link in question. When you find the link, remove it and all the text associated with it.
    TipTip for those using a tabbed browser: You can open multiple tabs with each of the articles. Right click (ctl-click on Macs) and select "Open Link in New Tab" or something to that point.
  3. Append "rms", "rm spam", "removing spam", or some other descriptive edit summary to the end of the summary box.
  4. Click "save".
  5. Click the Back button on your web browser two times, and move on to the next page until you have done all of them.

Warning templates[edit]

"Warning templates" are templates that, when used on a spammers "talk" or "discussion" page, produce a message of a specific severity. Increase the warning level if spam links continue be added after the previous warning. Do not report spammers for blocking unless they have recently received a final warning, notably {{subst:uw-spam4}}. (Note that the boxes in the examples below were provided for the purposes of this lesson, and are not included with the actual template messages.)

{{subst:welcomespam}} will produce the following message:[edit]

Welcome

Hello and welcome to Wikipedia. We appreciate encyclopedic contributions, but some of your recent contributions seem to be advertising or for promotional purposes. Wikipedia does not allow advertising in articles. For more information on this, see

If you still have questions, there is a new contributor's help page, or you can write {{helpme}} below this message along with a question and someone will be along to answer it shortly. You may also find the following pages useful for a general introduction to Wikipedia.

I hope you enjoy editing Wikipedia! Please sign your name on talk pages using four tildes (~~~~); this will automatically produce your name and the date. Feel free to write a note on the bottom of my talk page if you want to get in touch with me. Again, welcome!

You should use it as the first warning for people who are good-faith spamming to their hobbyist website, for example.

{{subst:uw-spam1}} will produce:[edit]
Information.svg
Welcome to Wikipedia. We invite everyone to contribute constructively to the encyclopedia. However, the external links you added do not comply with our guidelines for external links. Wikipedia is not a mere directory of links; nor should it be used for advertising or promotion. Since Wikipedia uses nofollow tags, external links do not alter search engine rankings. If you feel the link should be added to the article, then please discuss it on the article's talk page before reinserting it. Please take a look at the welcome page to learn more about contributing to this encyclopedia. Thank you.

Use it as the first warning for spammers whose links are unsuitable, but not malicious.

{{subst:uw-spam2}} will produce:[edit]
Information.svg
Please do not add inappropriate external links to Wikipedia. Wikipedia is not a mere directory of links, nor should it be used for advertising or promotion. Inappropriate links include (but are not limited to) links to personal web sites, links to web sites with which you are affiliated, and links that attract visitors to a web site or promote a product. See the external links guideline and spam policy for further explanations. Since Wikipedia uses nofollow tags, external links do not alter search engine rankings. If you feel the link should be added to the article, then please discuss it on the article's talk page before reinserting it. See the welcome page to learn more about Wikipedia. Thank you.

Use it as the first warning for spammers whose links are clearly inappropriate or out-of-place, but not malicious.

{{subst:uw-spam3}} will produce:[edit]
Nuvola apps important.svg
Please stop adding inappropriate external links to Wikipedia. It is considered spamming and Wikipedia is not a vehicle for advertising or promotion. Since Wikipedia uses nofollow tags, additions of links to Wikipedia will not alter search engine rankings. If you continue spamming, you will be blocked from editing Wikipedia.

Use it as the first warning for spammers whose links are obviously inappropriate, and likely being added in bad faith.

{{subst:uw-spam4}} will produce:[edit]
Stop hand.svg
This is your last warning. The next time you insert a spam link, you will be blocked from editing Wikipedia. Persistent spammers may have their websites blacklisted as well, preventing anyone from linking to them from any site that uses the MediaWiki spam blacklist, which includes all of Wikimedia and Wikipedia.

Use this message as the first warning for spammers who are maliciously adding spam links in bad faith. This warning is also technically interpreted as "final".

Reporting spammers[edit]

For long term, repeat spammers, see What to do about long-term spammers, below. If you think the spammer is actually a spambot, you should report it right away.

Before reporting a spammer to be blocked, check that they:

  • Are spamming now.
  • Have received a final warning (ie., {{subst:uw-spam4}}) in the last 24 hours.

If the spammer satisfies both the above requirements, report the user on the intervention noticeboard by editing the section named "User-reported". Add users to the bottom of the section. When reporting spammers, use a description like this:

For a registered user:

{{vandal|USERNAME}} - spamming past final warning. ~~~~

For an anonymous IP:

{{IPvandal|IP}} - IP spamming past final warning. ~~~~

Then enter an edit summary including the username of the spammer, and click "save".

What to do about long-term spammers[edit]

Repeat offenders are a special problem for Wikipedia. Long-term spammers are harder to detect than casual or beginner spammers, as they tend to be more discrete in the way they spam, such as intermingling many good edits with an occasional spam link, and often attempt to wikilawyer their way out of trouble when they are caught.

If you believe you have found a long-term spammer, report him or her on the administrator's incident noticeboard. Be sure to include the following information:

  • The username of the spammer.
  • Why you believe they are a long-term spammer.
  • The length of time the spammer has been active.
  • Provide evidence, such as pages hit, links added, and spammer patterns - provide a permanent link to the diff for each incident.
  • Any specific behavior that indicates the spammer is malicious and not just a mistaken editor.

For the edit summary, enter "Spammer alert", followed by the spammer's username, and click "save". Keep an eye on the discussion and be ready to answer questions and to clarify on any points you might have missed.

Anti-spam teams you can join[edit]

If you have a real interest in removing spam, you might wish to join one or more of the following projects.

Projects[edit]

Real-time chat rooms[edit]

Wikipedia is assisted by IRC channels on the Freenode network. To access them, you will need to have an IRC client loaded. The spam-related channels are:

Tools for spam fighters[edit]

For more information see WP:WPSPAM#Tools

There are several tools that are available for the regular user who would like to defeat spam. Existing bots can also aid you in eradicating linkspam.

  • XLinkBot is a bot created by Shadow1, now operated by Versageek and Beetstra that automatically reverts spam sites on its blacklist. You can add requests for sites to be blacklisted at User talk:XLinkBot/RevertList.
  • The IRC chatroom #wikipedia-en-spam is a very good place to spot spam as it has been added to Wikipedia; there are bots that report on every external link as it is being added to Wikipedia.
  • Special:Linksearch - find all external links to a particular site, useful when a spam link is added by many different IP addresses or accounts.
  • To combat repeat offenders, you may request to have links added to the Wikimedia-wide spam blacklist.
  • Daily digests of the logs from the linkwatcher, to see how many times each link was added and by whom: User:Veinor/Link count (today's page: [[:en:User:Veinor/Link count/Template:Day-1, 2019|here]], or [[:en:User:Veinor/Link count/Template:Day-1, 2019|here]] if the previous is a redlink).

Questions and answers[edit]

If you have any questions, please ask away! If you know the answers, please share your insights! Also feel free to add new lesson subsections above with your comments, observations, and how-to expertise on link spam.

Q:   Is link spam a form of vandalism?[edit]

A: From Wikipedia:Vandalism:
Vandalism is any addition, removal, or change of content made in a deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of Wikipedia.
The answer, therefore, depends if the spam is being added maliciously to harm Wikipedia (adding links to shock sites, for example). Generally, someone adding a link on a relevant article to their company website would not be attempting to harm Wikipedia, simply increase their web traffic. Because of this, it is always a good idea to assume good faith when dealing with spammers.

Q:   A while ago I had a huge spam fight with a guy who'd copied dozens of wiki-pages, pasted them into his own geocities page, covered in adverts. It may be instructive to see what this guy did - start at User:Acaca1 and see what he did. He also made dozens of sockpuppets to add similar links. Is there an easy way of tracking this down by, for example, searching using Google on urls? I ended up actually going to his website, making a note of all the pages he had copied, then heading back to WP to watch all those pages for his linkspamming.... The Rambling Man 20:55, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

A: I'd run the URL through {{LinkSummary}}, and check all the corresponding tools. It does a great job of tracking down the odds and ends, including if it has been discussed before in WP:WPSPAM. Here is an example of the output.


This template is updated as WP:WPSPAM develops more tools as well. Neato eh? JoeSmack Talk 17:21, 14 June 2007 (UTC)