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Watcher Presents: A Guide To The Identification of Spambots

Last posted Jul 03, 2019 at 07:04AM EDT. Added Apr 24, 2010 at 03:05PM EDT
22 posts from 15 users

As many of you already know, I am the resident spam hunter here on Know Your Meme. But I may not always be around to do this job, so I present to you this guide on how to identify and ki- I mean mark those damn spambots.

Visual Identification

Spambots are NOT smart as they are just computer programs. The people who coded the spambot programs have a similar level of intelligence to their creations.

For an avatar, the common spambot will do one of three things Defualt, use a stock photo of a person, or a stock photo of what they are trying to sell you (or maybe something completely freaking unrelated).


This is what the laziest of lazy spambots do.

This is Know Your Meme's default avatar. But you most likely already knew that.

Stock Photo: Person

The spambots that do this are a bit smarter than the others, but that is not saying much.

Two examples of stock photo people used by spambots. Note the professional look of the photography.

Stock Photo: Random

On other occasions, the spam bot will upload an image realted to what the are trying to get you to buy.

Flowers. How lovely. You are still a spambot. Die.

Identification By Name:

Spambots tend to be less than creative with their names.

Spambot Names: Type 1

Common generic names. Overly generic, in fact.

Spambot Names: Type 2

The name then number type. Not a spambot exclusive as many real people do this. Not a good source of examples.

Spambot Names: Type 3

Nearly any user with "host" or "gator" in their names.

Spambot Names: Type 4

Some spambots use names related to what they are trying to "sell" you.

Identification By Actions:

A favorite passtime of spambots is the great and tedious effort that they put into the "About:" section of their userpage in an attempt to fool you into thinking that they are, in fact, human. As you have probably surmised, the spambots are not in fact human. This can be seen with the complete copypasta'd rambling gibberish that addorns their userpages.

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Hi I am currently travelling around the world and have been for a couple of years. I just wanted to get it out of the way before I settled down in life. I have had some great experiences in my time and in the future would love to share with you some of my experiences on my own profile. Make sure you check back from time to time to have a look at my updates or better still PM if you have anything to say. Thanks for reading. My page : Yamaha Classical Guitar.
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this is not a advertisement,because we really make good and cheap Prom Dresses, Cocktail Dresses, Gothic Wedding Dresses, Wedding Gowns, Cheap Wedding Dresses online and sale to over 30 countires,but of course our main business country is USA.and our size can be standard or plus size.All our wedding dresses,wedding gowns,prom dresses and bridesmaid dresses can be customized size and color without adding the cost!Wlcome to contact us freely!

These incoherent ravings usually contain the link to what they are trying to sell to you. And by sell to you I mean take your credit card information.

Other times, the spambots just forgo the description and nicely line up their links, for all the world to see.

One more thing, the common spambot will usually upload the image that they use on their profile to the Know Your Meme image stream.

Very rarely will spambots actually post their spam in comments, entries, or forum posts. Not very common, but it does happen.

Spambots sometimes get stuck, as demonstrated by this image and the six Mark Lindens.

In conclusion:

So, yeah. Passing on my knowledge. But I am not leaving KYM, do not worry. Just letting others help, in this hopeless and never ending battle.

Last edited Apr 24, 2010 at 03:34PM EDT

Two more things to note:
1. So far, I have found only 1 (2 if you nitpick) ad spamming accounts controlled by a human. Eh argued and wasn't afraid of anything (except logic).

2. Not every link that you see on a profile makes it an add account. My people just sign up to Know Your Meme to link to their Blog/Youtube/Twitter/DeviantArt. While many may frown on such shameless self promotion, it is not breaking any rules.

Last edited Apr 26, 2010 at 03:21PM EDT

I'm going in
Not sure about these ones

Iran wrote:

I can't see your images.

It's likely that the links he had are dead now.

Here is the default avatar. I'm sure you've seen it before.

Most run-of-the-mill bots just make one post or post something to their profile and then go to other sites.
The stock photo of a person is just a stock photo. It doesn't look like an amateur photo, it can serve a lot of varied purposes, and it unusually photogenic. Zeddie Little could actually qualify as being like a stock photo. It looks like an obvious pose, it's a well-taken photograph…it has that "stock photo" feel.

Here's another example.

As for a stock image of an object, just think about medication/drugs, clothing items, pictures of music CDs…various items that relate to what the bot is likely selling.

You might also be on the lookout for people trying to promote their music or videos on YouTube. Their avatars tend to be of the actual person instead of many of our avatars (e.g., ponies, animals, anime characters, video game characters, etc.)

However, it's important to look through their activity in most instances. Some people create accounts that have all of these attributes but don't have any activity. In fact, I had an account for nearly 3 years before doing anything with it. I used my real name (which is a bit odd,) and I had no avatar. However, I wouldn't be here if you decided that I was a bot and a moderator deactivated my account (that IP cannot be used anymore.)

So the images are only meant to help you identify bots. I tend to go through any links activity and look for spamming activity before deactivating them, but other moderators are busy and may miss accounts that appear to be spambots but aren't.

If you post in this thread, and I'm the one to delete the account, then I'll always give the reporter 1 karma (it helps me remember which reports have been addressed and to encourage people to report images. You can accumulate quite a bit of karma that way, but just don't resort to posting only one user per post and making 10 posts in the span of 7 minutes.)

If I think that I'd be rash in deactivating one of those accounts, then I'll usually give karma for the other accounts a user reports, but I'll quote that post and say which ones I didn't report and why (usually, it will have something to do with their actual activity.)

Since most spambots rarely post a lot (they make one spam thread or spam entry and never return,) I tend to err on the safe side. If it looks like a spambot but doesn't act like a spambot, then I'm not deactivating it.

Take the user "Free Microsoft Points."

Seemed exactly like a spambot, right? Stock avatar image (of some cute, young girl), name that seems to be selling something…but her activity wasn't spamming anything.

Now, I'm probably about to deactivate her account, because there's a link to a site that's promoting something now. That's new and it wasn't there before, so amanda, Fandroid, Random 21, and I were ready to deactivate her on the spot. But she responded to us and participated in a couple of forum threads indicating that she just had an odd name.

Since she didn't have any activity, no one deactivated her. But with the link I now see that's promoting "Free Microsoft Points," user gotsa go.

(I get the feeling that mods will see that email saying that I deactivated her and I'll have to explain myself.)

In any case, these are just tips. No one piece of evidence is enough, but it helps to identify them if you come across them.

Last edited Jan 08, 2013 at 12:48PM EST

Watcher said:

Very rarely will spambots actually post their spam in comments, entries, or forum posts. Not very common, but it does happen.

…Huh? I thought that's all that spambots do. I see it on YouTube quite frequently. Is there something different about Know Your Meme?


Watcher created this thread a very long time ago, and spammers act differently than they once did.

The easiest way to identify a spammer is by their links in their profiles, walls, and forum posts. They're usually either blatantly selling something, or it's a bunch of nonsense with the spam link in it a few times.

Verbose wrote:


Watcher created this thread a very long time ago, and spammers act differently than they once did.

The easiest way to identify a spammer is by their links in their profiles, walls, and forum posts. They're usually either blatantly selling something, or it's a bunch of nonsense with the spam link in it a few times.

Go figure. I just wonder why spambots would bother with random nonsense, as that would just make the links harder to read. Or is that still the "try to fool you into thinking they're human" angle?

Luigifan wrote:

Go figure. I just wonder why spambots would bother with random nonsense, as that would just make the links harder to read. Or is that still the "try to fool you into thinking they're human" angle?

My guess has to do with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience.

So when you're just saying "Try raspberry ketone!," you're probably just trying to sell it upfront.

But when the text around it doesn't make sense, it's probably based on phrases that are often used in search engines. That way, people are more likely to stumble across that line and possibly become interested in what the random links are in there (many people who aren't Internet savvy have no clue that they're not supposed to click sketchy links or what sketchy links look like.)

Just wanted to add something here that Watcher touched on, but just occurred to me today: the "common generic names" thing. I realized that a full, regular human name is something that I almost never see real users have as nicks. (Adam Deland is a rare counterexample.) This is more for mods, but if you look at a list of users, and you see a user with a full name, I bet nine times out of ten, that user is a spambot. I had some fun picking them off today; I just went down the list of new users, and found half a dozen spambots in a few minutes. So if like me, you sometimes get bored and find banning spambots lightly amusing, this seems pretty effective.

dirudiru wrote:

Where can I find this users list, or is it mod-only?

All users used to be able to see it, but the page was removed and the userlist is only accessible by moderators now.

If I am wrong, however, I wouldn't mind someone correcting me.

There's sort of a way to see a user list for non-mods, but it's not as streamlined; try this. I don't think spambot hunting is going to be a useful pastime for non-mods, though. Best just report them if you happen upon them in the appropriate thread.

I've banned a little over 100 in the last couple of days, and I have a method that I'd be happy to take suggestions on how to refine to find more. I do a Google search of the site with a keyword or phrase I expect only spambots to have on their profile. Yesterday, I searched for "extract"; today, I searched for "promo code". I think months ago I got good mileage out of "weight loss" I'll take any ideas for new search terms that might yield a good crop of spambot bans.

Perhaps most mods know this, but so long as I'm on a roll with it again, the common name thing is being used a lot again: if a user has a full common name, with or without spaces, they seem to almost always be a spambot. ("Ciaran Bennett", "AdrianPiper" and "Alox tolker" as examples) Furthermore, I'm seeing a resurgence of spambots named with a random string of letters followed by a random string of numbers ("fngj683", "djnac482", "flofm493", "dfkmo345" as examples) so if it's short, unpronounceable, and followed by three digits, it's virtually a sure thing it's a spambot.

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