Franklin Veaux (tacit) wrote,
Franklin Veaux

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When good companies go bad: how Google learned to stop worrying and love spam

Okay. So, Google's founders have an unofficial slogan, which is a part of Google's genetic DNA: Don't be evil. Nice idea, that; do well and do good.

But in my experience, "don't be evil" has become more of...well, a suggestion than a statement of corporate policy. No, I'm not talking about the way Google records information about searches or how the Goolge toolbar inserts paid links into other people's Web sites--frankly, I don't care about any of that.

I'm talking about something different: spam. And the fact that Google likes it.

Oh, now I'm not suggesting Google engages in spam itself; when you're Google, you don't need to spam. Everyone uses you anyway. I'm talking about the fact that Google supports spammers. And it's not even a question of supporting spammers for profit, like Savvis does, or allowing people to host spam software, like MCI Worldcom does, or allowing people to host virus and malware droppers, like Peer 1 does. What those companies do is reprehensible, of course, but it's also understandable: they profit directly from it. The spammers give them cash, they look the other way (or in Savvis' case, actually help shield the spammers).

No, Google supports spammers, but doesn't even do it for profit. Google supports spammers because it simply can't be bothered to hire anyone to do anything about it.

The entire net abuse community shuddered when Google took over Deja News and started Google Groups. Google, of course, insisted that Google Groups would serve a valuable function, and would not be used by spammers; they set up an abuse address, they promised that spammers would not be tolerated, and so on, and so on.

Now, a few years later, it seems that Google's motto has changed from "Don't be evil' to "Don't bother."

Google Groups has become, as many people predicted, a wretched hive of scum and spammers. I've personally seen more spam coming from Google Groups in the past few months than from any other single newsgroup source in the world--Google has dethroned the previous reigning champions of UseNet spam (,, and in the sheer volume of spew and in their stubborn refusal to stem the tide. In just the past few hours, I've collected some nuggets of Google's outstanding offerings to the Internet community

From: "katama" <>
Subject: $6.00 to $20,000 in 4-6 weeks.* Legal Home Business!!!
Date: 28 Mar 2005 21:12:36 -0800
Lines: 59
Message-ID: <>
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
X-Trace: 1112073160 23976 (29 Mar 2005 05:12:40 GMT)
NNTP-Posting-Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2005 05:12:40 +0000 (UTC)
User-Agent: G2/0.2
Injection-Info:; posting-host=;

Internet Home Business

Minimum financial requirements:
Any credit, debit or bank account with at least $6.00 balance.
Minimum computer literacy:
Follow onscreen instructions and operate a mouse.
Minimum time investment to start:
Approximately (5) hour's computer time on-line


#####LE 18 Sec. 1302 & 1241 of the Postal lottery laws, provides
guidance to the legality of this specific business opportunity. The
policy and procedure of this venture is discussed in depth at Fairhaven
College Discussion Board link below:

No Fake Names! No False Information! Follow Policy & Procedures with

"This program remains successful because of the honesty and integrity
of the participants. Please continue its success by carefully adhering
to the instructions. In this business, your product is not solid and
tangible, it's a service. You are in the business of developing
mailing lists. Many large corporations are happy to pay big bucks for
quality lists. However, the money made from mailing lists is secondary
to the income, which is made from people like you and me asking to be
included in that list."

Example: $6.00 + 5hrs. + Integrity = $20,00.00 in 4-6 weeks

Step1. Go to, open and activated an account for free
that allows you to send and receive funds via secure e-mail
notification. This may take a couple of business days to verify
account information and confirm identity.
Step2. After activating your Paypal account, use your new account to
pay $1.00 to the following email addresses in the order they are
listed. (Total $6.00)
1. ( 2. ( 3. (
4. ( 5. ( 6.
Step3. Email each of the six email addresses and request that you be
added to their lists.
Step4. After requesting that you be added to each core lists, edit
this notice as follows:
Move everyone in the core mailing list up one position eliminating the
first address. Place your email address in the sixth position and save
Step5. Find Internet newsgroups, discussion boards, message boards,
forums, chats, in financial services field and post this notice a
minimum of 200 times. The more postings, the bigger the list and the
more return. That's it!

Again I cannot emphasize the importance of following each step
carefully and honestly.
Good luck. God bless. Watch the money role in.

From: "PayAce" <>
Newsgroups: soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm
Subject: Aces around the world are joining now, are you?
Date: 24 Mar 2005 02:34:51 -0800
Lines: 24
Message-ID: <>
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
X-Trace: 1111660496 6749 (24 Mar 2005 10:34:56 GMT)
NNTP-Posting-Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2005 10:34:56 +0000 (UTC)
User-Agent: G2/0.2
Injection-Info:; posting-host=;
Xref: soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm:320154

Aces around the world are joining now, are you?

Do not delete this massage!

Ace Global is here to stay!
Join our team, and be a part of the internet`s largest and powerful
moneymaker and much much more, it`s FREE.
Join as a free member and you get 100 Euro in welcome bonus, this is
your start capital to build your business.
It`s Important to join now, and get the rest of the world in your
downline, and belive me they are coming.
25000 members now and growing.
Join our conference calls every week, and get the latest news about our
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You need to join us to see what you get, it`s FREE.

See you at the coference call next week!

Newsgroups: soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm
Subject: The Greatest News Ever!
Date: 28 Mar 2005 08:00:26 -0800
Lines: 2
Message-ID: <>
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
X-Trace: 1112025631 6101 (28 Mar 2005 16:00:31 GMT)
NNTP-Posting-Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 16:00:31 +0000 (UTC)
User-Agent: G2/0.2
Injection-Info:; posting-host=;
Xref: soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm:320352 << The Greatest News Ever!

Google no longer reads Google Groups abuse complaints. Any reports of spam simply generate a lame auto-acknowledgement that Google is taking unspecified steps to "try to prevent large scale spam",

Thank you for your note. Google does not regularly monitor or censor
postings sent to Google Groups, but we do try to prevent wide-scale spam
and other forms of Usenet abuse. Please be assured that the information
you sent to us is being collected and taken into account. While we
understand how annoying off-topic posts can be, we aren't able to pursue
most complaints we receive about them. We are using the information you
provide to make large-scale improvements in preventing abuse. We
appreciate your help in our efforts to increase the quality of Google

Replies to this email address will not be received. If you have a general
Google Groups question or wish to report a post that you suspect is
illegal, please write to us at

The Google Team

Of course, nothing in this reply suggests or implies they will do anything about the specific case of spam that generated the complaint, and in fact they don't. One spammer, the infamous "Penis Size" spammer, has been posting thousands of times a week with complete and utter impunity for over fourteen months now. Google's not making money by supporting this little turdlet; Google just doesn't want to spend the money on staff to curb the rot.

And the rot keeps spreading. Google has purchased Blogspot, a Weblog site similar in purpose to LiveJournal; as a result, Blogspot's new abuse policy is...well, they don't have an abuse policy.

And the spammers have noticed. (Note to any spammers reading this: Have you had a difficult time concealing your true Web address by setting up redirectors on Yahoo Geocities, now that Geocities has started to get serious about shutting spammed sites down? Set up your redirectors on Blogspot! They'll stay active for months, if the're even removed at all!) Blogspot abuse is now Google abuse...which is, as you can guess, handled by /dev/null.

Which is not to say Blogspot takes no action at all. Drop a line to Blogspot support about a spammer, say by sending your spam complaint to, and they'll take prompt and immediate action: they'll block incoming email from your email address. Google and Blogspot simply don't want to hear about it. If they don't know that spammers are using their services, they don't have to actually do anything about the spammers, right?

It's easy to see how this happens. Abuse people cost money. Not only do they cost money, they don't generate any revenue; in fact, an abuse person who is doing his job properly actually costs an ISP money, because he shuts down paying customers. Even in a situation where losing a user costs nothing, as is the case with Google Groups, abuse staff still cost money--money that could be spent on pizzas or Segway scooters. And, when it comes right down to it, dealing with the people who abuse your systems is just plain bothersome.

Of course, Google doesn't like to eat its own dog food. Do a search on the Google Groups archive for any of Google's well-known spammers, such as their "Penis Pill" spammer, and you won't find those posts. (Go ahead, try it. Do a search on Google Groups for messages whose title is "NEW! ANCIENT METHOD ENLARGES PENIS 1 INCH IN 3 WEEKS!"--the penis pill spammer's oft-used headline. You'll see lots of rerferences to the spam, but not the spam itself. The Google "Penis Pill" spammer's messages, it seems, are good enough for all us Internet users, but not good enough for Google's own archives.)

As a result, more and more people are taking the problem of Google's reckless and irresponsible harboring of spammers into their own hands, and dealing with it in a particularly direct way: by blocking messages posted through Google Groups. Newsreaders come equipped with killfiles, and it's not difficult to block any message originating with Google's wretched haven of spammers. As a long-term solution, though, this leaves a lot to be desired. ISPs who run news servers still have to pay for bandwidth and capacity to cope with Google's spew; that's the fundamental problem with spam, it shifts the cost of advertising from the advertiser to others.

A better solution, in my opinion, is to treat Google just like any other ISP. The UseNet has a way to reign in ISPs that permit spammers to abuse their systems; it's called the UseNet Death Penalty. Essentially, when other system administrators have had enough of an abuser, they impose a UseNet Death Penalty, which means their news servers will no longer accept messages from the rogue ISP until it cleans up its act. The ISP responsible for the abuse is cut off from UseNet, unable to communicate with other UseNet news servers until it gets serious about stopping the abuse.

It may be that Google thinks it's too big and important; nobody would dare suggest a UseNet Death Penalty against them. It may be that spam is simply Google's blind spot; they're simply unaware, however farfetched that may seem, that they have a problem. It may be that Google simply doesn't care. In any event, as the days go by and Google Groups becomes ever a greater sewer of spam and slime, I become more and more convinced that the only thing appropriate for such an abuser is the same thing that would be done inany other case of UseNet abuse: a UseNet Death Penalty.
Tags: geek, rant, spam
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