An unstoppable flood?

I am sickened that this is frequently among my top three or four posts, so I have deleted both the original post and the comment that I had copied it into.

Suffice it to say that there was a spam comment caught by Akismet which appeared to contain links to pornographic images of children. These images are illegal and since they show criminal acts of abuse, and I wanted to report them to the authorities. We should all do whatever we can to help the police track down paedophiles.

Or so I thought.

Useful suggestions about what to do came from tammy vitale who suggested a PR campaign and from Phil who suggested the Internet Watch Foundation, which I did in fact contact. I also cut and pasted the original message and passed it on to Crimestoppers.

However, if you read the comment thread you will see that WordPress take the pragmatic view that there is so much of it out there that there is nothing anyone can do.

It upsets me that I have come to think they may be right.

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16 responses to “An unstoppable flood?

  1. I’ve been getting some appalling stuff too – not that I’ve opened any of it; I absolutely do not want to read/see spam about incest or rape.

    I e-mailed WordPress about it earlier today and got this shrug-of-the-shoulder reply:
    ***
    Hi,
    There is nothing anyone can do.
    Even Governments cannot stop it.

    You have Akismet working to stop this garbage – 3.7 million so far
    today (http://akismet.com/stats/) – so just delete it all.

    Mark
    ***

    I’m thinking about deleting my wordpress account – and contacting the police, though I would look mighty foolish if it turns out to be empty spam.

    Perhaps we should all be checking whether we’re being sent this stuff – and bombarding wordpress until they start taking a more responsible attitude to it?

  2. I never *ever* check my spam. I will start now: what do other hosting sites do about spam?

  3. Governments have tried to stop spam but there is always an unprotected computer which allows it to be promulgated. That is what a lot of those strange emails do to you. They make everyone a possible porn-spam distributor. I don’t read wordpress’ answer as a fob off. I read it as a frustrated cry in the wilderness. The cost of blocking all the spam is horrendous. I’m not a wordpress apologist, it is just that I have recently had a long discussion with my own ISP about the same problem.

  4. It’s not about stopping it getting to us, is it? It’s about doing something about it once something like that arrives? I have to say that ignoring the possibilities of content like that does rather smack of passing by on the other side.

    Perhaps the wordpress people thought it was the fact that you were recieving porn spam generally that was the problem rather than a query regarding who best to alert to this particular content?

    I confess I don’t have the faintest idea who should be alerted if wordpress do turn out to have a policy of ignoring it entirely, but I think someone should. Don’t the people who chase these things down need examples to, er, try and chase down?

  5. That’s just not right, is it? I’ve just checked my spam thingy for the first time in quite a while, and thankfully don’t have anything quite that bad. I should think it would be best to pass that on to the authorities. But which authorities could actually do anything? If they really have got the content they’re promoting, then governments most certainly can, and should, do something about it.

    We’re all used to deleting and ignoring spam by now, but that is beyond what one could ignore. Which authorities are the appropriate ones?

  6. I’ve never received anything like this. If I wanted to do *something* about this type of spam, not knowing where to start, I’d start with a news channel. One that reports on stuff like this. Or a letter to the editor of a local paper (nationals tend to be over lettered, locals aren’t at least here in the States). If you want info “out there” that this is going on, ltr to editor can start it. Or a press release to a local (if you need a template for writing a press release, I can give you one). And/or call a national legislator (my 2 senators are great), and/or google: reporting underage sex spam. Those, of course, are only starting places, but each one should give you a “next” (especially if you ask – who else should I talk to?)

  7. Surely reporting it to the police is the way forward? I would hope that wordpress would also report it to the police – but they don’t seem to be doing this.

  8. Thanks everyone for your comments so far. Please keep them coming. I want to point WordPress to this conversation and say “look – this is what you users think”.

    I looked into reporting it to the police, and one problem is that police forces only have power in their own countries. But that is no reason for not reporting it. Police forces do work internationally on this.

    Whoever said that there is a difference between spam advertising legal activites and spam which advertising child pornography is right.

    This is not about spam, it is about catching paedophiles.

    Thanks all.

    Aphra.

  9. Agreed, AB – this is not about spam .
    It is about the appropriate authorities going to where this stuff is emanating from and tracking down the people who are abusing and assaulting defenceless children or adults.

  10. These are photos of a crime being comitted or they claim to be. If someone offered you a snuff movie you’d report that to the police.

    I would expect WP to report it to the authorities..

  11. Thanks to all for commenting. I have had a long, considered and fairly sensible reply from WordPress. I still want to think about this though, so while I do that, I’ve started blogging again.

    Any more comments, views, opinions, thoughts, notes or jottings are welcome. I am, as I said, still thinking this one through.

    Aphra.
    Pensively.

  12. Right, so it sounds like WordPress do have a policy then? Er, what is it?

  13. I eventually had a thoughtful reply from Mark, but he was still focussing on the sender of the smam rather than the sites promoted.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Hi,

    Offensive content that we find ou our domain is removed immediately.

    If law enforcement people required that they have information about the people who set them up then they would get that. It would of course be false information. But we have control over the blogs here and we act accordingly.
    We have no control at all over spam.

    All we can do is protect bloggers from seeing it.

    The spam that we get is just the same spam that hits Blogger (which is owned by Google) and MySpace (News International) and LiveJournal/Typepad (SixApart). They are much wealthier companies and in the case of the first 2 they have phenomenal resources – but even they cannot stop these spams. They could maybe do more – but Akismet does the best job of them all.

    As to the nature of the spams… I have no idea what happens if a link were to be clicked. But I do know that in all probability there is nothing there. That a computer was plugged into the next, [presumably “plugged into the net” – AB] used to send thousands of spams and unplugged.

    It’s almost impossible to trace and totally so for us with our resources.

    Look at the stats I sent you.

    Akismet is stopping around 5 million spams a day.
    It is protecting less than a million blogs.
    Technorati say there are 57 million blogs – http://www.sifry.com/alerts/archives/000443.html – so the scale of this spamming is just enormous.

    There is spam on many many subjects (I saw spam to sell door handles recently) and this sexual abuse spam is the vilest part of that.

    If we thought that submitting our information would be of use then we would do so very happily.

    If we were asked for the information it is available at any time.

    But the agencies that deal with this either as spam or as sexual offence somewhere cannot use it. The problem is too huge, too widespread, too vague.

    If we could do more, we would. We really would…

    Mark

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    I still need to absorb this.

    Mark seems to be talking about tracing the senders of the spam, rather than following through to the website, and it may be that the website does not in fact contain child pornography, but that it is used to load malware onto your PC, and so on. Porn sites are the greatest source of malware because they are easy to set up and they get large numbers of visitors.

    I rather like the idea of a paedophile downloading malware and not actually seeing child-pornography. And the eggs the Easter Bunny brings are not fattening, my insurance company handles claims sympathetically and global warming can be solved by technology developed in Texas.

    I sent the text of the spam comment to Crimestoppers in the UK. However, I am less hopeful than I was about this. It seems that the international nature of the internet means that national law enforcement agencies are not interested in gathering this sort of information, because they are not able to follow it up.

    As I said, I want to think about this a bit more.

    Aphra.

  14. Have you contacted the Internet Watch Foundation and asked them about what you might be able to do?
    http://www.iwf.org.uk/

    Phil

  15. Does anyone else get the impression that this Mark bloke gets about 5 000 hysterical emails a day saying they’ve got porn in their spam boxes with undertones of frothing at the mouth about its mere existance on a family friendly blog service?

    At least they’ve thought about it. I did wonder if they’ve actually _tried_ submitting the info they’ve got at any point though.

  16. Thanks for the link Phil.

    I had looked at iwf before, but they imply that they cannot help with this particular category of stuff, (ie comments on sites not hosted in the UK). I completed one of their forms anyway, and they have the following process-chart showing what they can deal with:

    http://www.iwf.org.uk/public/page.31.43.htm

    I find that quite encouraging. I had actually cut and pasted the whole thing into the Crimestoppers website on the evening that I found it, so I hadn’t done nothing.

    Yes, Sol, you are right. I still think that WordPress think I am complaining about spam, rather than about the websites themselves. I will probably email them back with the IWF link above.

    I did a whois search on the URL and – not surprisingly – got a whole bunch of contradictory information. On the other hand I am not very good at interpreting whois data, so it may not be as contradictory as it looks.

    +++++++++++++++++++++

    I had thought about deleting my WordPress account Teuchter, but decided to start the conversation instead. Someone told me my standards were too exacting recently, and I am trying to put up with more and see what it feels like. My first email back from Mark was very much the same as yours.

    Z, I only check my spam because I like to know what the webgeist is. Spam for door knobs is new (Hardcore hardwear, perhaps?). Most of my emails are for shares in African Mining companies at the moment. If ever I want to invest in an African Mining company, I will of course buy shares from someone I don’t know who doesn’t know my name either who has sent me an email.

    Archie, I think you are right, WordPress are exhausted by the problem of random spam comments. This is not in quite the same category though, is it? Or are my exacting standards tripping me up again?

    Mr Librarian, you have summed up perfectly what I have been trying to say to WordPress.

    Tammy, I hadn’t thought about newschannels. I tend to be a “report to the authorities” type of person and one who rather foolishly trusts the system. I am not a campaigner, just a citizen. But your advice is very good, and if I ever need a template for a press release I will come to you. Thank you.

    Nice fritiliaries aberdeenquinie, and again you have it bang on the button. Who are the appropriate authorities?

    Z, in fairness, I have not clicked on the links so I don’t know what is there. There may be photos of children being raped, there may not be. What I do know is that most of the people who do click on the link will want to see photos of children being raped.

    It seems crass to follow that with “seasonal hugs to you all”.

    Aphra.

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