Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

December 11, 2009

We’re Overreacting To Google Real Time Spam

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:00 pm

Outspoken Media has a great post dealing with Google’s new social search feature where they talk about the possibilities of real time spam and threats to children. The author gives some great examples which serve nicely to fuel the fear mongering – but should we really worry about it?

Ted Dziuba once said “The revolution won’t be televised, but it will be twittered; and then completely forgotten as it scrolls off screen.” Every time I see another post about Google’s real time social results I can’t help but think of that quote. It’s not just funny, it’s also true.

When SugarRae was doing her test tweets for the post they all showed up in my Twitter reader. I quickly gathered what she was doing and started monitoring those search results she was spamming while she was spamming them. The average tweet only showed up in the search results for a few minutes – tops.

That led me to do some experimenting of my own. It seems if you tweet from a new account, or one with very few tweets, followers, etc, then it’s not very easy to show up in Google.

Now, I know any spammer who knows what he’s doing can easily have multiple accounts following trending topics and posting stuff to keep himself fresh – but will even that matter? For a topic like “Miley Cyrus” there’s so much noise out there that even the best spammer’s efforts will easily be lost among the crowd.

So what about less popular topics? I just don’t see them having tremendous spam value either. Sure, you can do some nice cloaking like SebastianX points out, but I just don’t see that lasting too long. It’s the same cloaking technique used in the past to trick Google’s spiders, and they’ve developed pretty good techniques to prevent it. Those techniques easily transfer over to the real time results – so I don’t expect this trick to last long.

Won’t somebody think of the children though?
One of the commenters on the original post said “I don’t consider exposing potential dangers to children fearmongering” but that logic is flawed. Theoretically, everything is a potential danger to children. To live by this philosophy you’d have to wrap your kids in bubble wrap and leave them locked in a room until they’re 21 to keep them safe – it’s the only way.

Let’s face it. There’s far worse things that children can find by searching Google than somebody trolling Twitter. Your child is way more likely to be abused by a family member than he is to be harmed by somebody online. If I had kids, I’d spend more time worrying about what they’re doing with their cell phone (sexting anyone?) or who they’re friends with on Facebook than what they could see in Google search results.

It reminds me of when people threw a fit about Google Streetview saying that a predator could use it to see where children live. Guess what, predators can also drive down your street anytime they want – but nobody’s raising concerns about that.

At the end of the day though, it all comes down to educating your kids. Every new technology that arises can pose a potential threat. If you teach your child not to talk to strangers (or, more importantly, not to be looking for sex from old men,) then it won’t matter whether the original solicitation came from an email, text message, IM, facebook, google social, or an old fashioned snail mail.

So what’s my take?
At the end of the day I just don’t see Google’s social results being that useful. If I wanted to see what people were saying on Twitter, I’d simply search Twitter and get much better results than Google can ever offer. If I want news, I’ll search Google News. It’s the same thing here. As far as the spam goes, I don’t see it being very profitable for spammers so I’m not keen to jump on the fear mongering bandwagon just yet. Who knows, maybe somebody will prove me wrong and make millions by spamming the results. If so, Kudos to you!


  1. Agreed.

    I think, often, freaking out about a new technology new does more damage than the new technology itself.

    Comment by Phronk — December 11, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

  2. Thanks for the mention, Ryan. I won’t make a living from spamming GRTS anytime soon. It’s not worth it, although Google’s anti-cloaking filters are weaker than you think they are. 😉

    Comment by Sebastian — December 14, 2009 @ 10:11 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress