Doc Searls unfortunately decided the other day that offering his blog under a relatively restrictive Creative Commons NonCommercial license instead of placing its contents in the public domain is chemo for splogs (spam blogs). I doubt that, strongly. Spam bloggers don’t care about copyright. They’ll take “all rights reserved” material, that which only limits commercial use, and stuff in the public domain equally. Often they combine tiny snippets from many sources, probably triggering copyright for none of them.
A couple examples found while looking at people who had mentioned Searls’ post: all rights reserved material splogged, commenter here says “My blog has been licensed with the CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 for a while now, and sploggers repost my content all the time.” A couple anecdotes prove nothing, but I’d be surprised to find that sploggers are, for example, using CC-enabled search to find content they can legally re-splog. I hope someone tries to figure out what characteristics make blog content more likely to be used in splogs and whether licensing is one of them. I’d get some satisfaction from either answer.
Though Searls’ license change was motived by a desire “to come up with new forms of treatment. Ones that don’t just come from Google and Yahoo. Ones that come from us” I do think blog spam is primarily the search engines’ problem to solve. Search results that don’t contain splogs are more valuable to searchers than spam-ridden results. Sites that cannot be found through search effectively don’t exist. That’s almost all there is to it.
Google in particular may have mixed incentives (they want people to click on their syndicated ads wherever the ads appear), but others don’t (Technorati, Microsoft, Ask, etc. — Yahoo! wishes it had Google’s mixed incentives). At least once where spam content seriously impacted the quality of search results Google seems to have solved the problem — at some point in the last year or so I stopped seeing Wikipedia content reposted with ads (an entirely legal practice) in Google search results.
What can people outside the search engines do to fight blog and other spam? Don’t click on it. It seems crazy, but clickfraud aside, real live idiots clicking on and even buying stuff via spam is what keeps spammers in business. Your uncle is probably buying pills from a spammer right now. Educate him.
On a broader scale, why isn’t the Ad Council, or the blogger equivalent, running an educational campaign teaching people to avoid spam and malware? Some public figure should throw in “dag gammit, don’t click on spam” along with “don’t do drugs.” Ministers too.
Finally, if spam is so easy for (aware) humans to detect (I certainly have a second sense about it), why isn’t human-augmented computation being leveraged? Opportunities abound…