Why Spam Comments Look So Ridiculous

A question I hear a lot is why does email and comment spam look the way it does? I’ll admit, I never had a perfect answer. Poor automatic translations is the best I’ve come up with, and while there’s certainly got to be some truth to that (Have you ever tried to use Google Translate to speak to somebody in his own language?), I know it’s not the only thing at work here.

But Mental Floss, as it often does, seems to have it figured out.

These days, in order to get through the filters, a comment should not only look plausible, but avoid repeating itself over a large swath of blog comment space.
One way to avoid repeating the same comment over and over without having to write thousands of different original comments is to replace the words in one comment with various synonyms. Recently, a spammer accidentally posted an entire spam template to Scott Hanselman’s blog, where you can see how this synonym substitution works. For example, one comment template reads:
I {want to|wish to|desire to} {read|learn} {more|even more}
{things|issues} {approximately|about} it!
“Approximately” and “about” are indeed synonyms (“He is {approximately | about} six feet tall”), but not in this context. This is why so many of these template-generated comments look so odd. As many freshman writing seminar instructors can attest, automatic thesaurus substitution is a dangerous thing.

the article goes on to give several examples of this in action, and it all makes perfect sense. But what still doesn’t is how it can be that an otherwise reasonable person can get something that looks like this in his inbox out of the blue from the Nigerian prince and part with hundreds of thousands of dollars without a second thought. Get on that one, Mental Floss.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.