Political Votes Increase Spam

Written by Jesmond Darmanin on September 9, 2008

In the United States the John McCain and Barack Obama presidential campaigns are not the only events cranking up into full swing. With vice presidential running mates now selected, there are recent warnings about political email and blog spam increasing.

Due to a legal loophole in the CAN-SPAM Act that allows politicians to send political email without limits, this will contribute to the volume of spam increasing. This also creates opportunity for spammers. So beware of spam disguised as legitimate political email. Since this presidential race is running so close, both sides will be ramping up email campaigns.  With the emotional content of the issues both candidates are trying to present, people will be easily tempted to open email from unknown senders.  Spammers count on this type of behavior, which causes people drop their guard.

McCain’s political machine is offering points that be converted to rewards, for people to post comments about his presidential platform of U.S. issues. This has been encouraging people to post unrelated comments to blog articles. On McCain’s Web site, visitors are invited to “Spread the Word” about the presumptive Republican nominee by sending campaign-supplied comments to blogs and Web sites under the visitor’s screen name. The site offers sample comments (“John McCain has a comprehensive economic plan . . .”) and a list of dozens of suggested destinations, conveniently broken down into “conservative,” “liberal,” “moderate” and “other” categories. Using a cookie cutter approach, all blog spammers have to do is cut and paste.

This astroturfing approach encourages people to spam blogs with comments that are emotionally charged, rather than a real objective belief of the real political issues being addressed, by the commenter.

David Wissing, the founder of the Hedgehog Report, a blog about Maryland politics, said his comment traffic has been running about 60 percent conservative and 40 percent liberal in recent weeks, which is typical. Wissing said he keeps an eye on reader comments — he recently banned a poster for using multiple screen names — and hasn’t seen postings that use similar or identical language, usually a telltale sign of an AstroTurf potential spam program.

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