Long term users of YouTube will know that its commenting system has always been home to some of the most unpleasant, purile and single-braincelled comments in the universe.
But what it didn’t have much of a problem with was link spam. That’s because Google - who own YouTube - prevented commenters from leaving messages which included clickable links. Life was just that little bit trickier for those trying to peddle phishing scams or direct web traffic to malicious sites.
All changed, however, when Google revamped YouTube’s comments system at the start of this month - throwing out the old comments system, and replacing it with a set-up that required users to post their feedback on videos via a Google+ account.
Google presented this as a way of getting higher quality feedback, because users would have to use “real” names, but you can’t help but suspect that the company’s motivation may also have been to promote usage of its social network.
There’s an obvious drawback though. Google+ allows you to post links. Which means, it’s easier than ever for spammers, make-money-fast-scammers and malware-spreaders to get airtime for their dangerous or irritating links.
Of course, this may not be a technique which works in the long term as (hopefully) Google+ will suspend accounts which repeatedly abuse the system. That may sound like a solution to you, but it’s actually going to be a right pain in the neck if you’re unlucky enough to have your online accounts compromised, and exploited by spammers who want to use *your* name to spread their spam messages across social networks.
Some comment spam has been little more than a nuisance, like this example of ASCII art scam protesting about the new comments system.
But users like Swedish video games commentator PewDiePie (16 million subscribers and counting), chose to disable the new Google+-powered YouTube comments system entirely, such was the level of abuse.
PewDiePie wrote earlier this month:
Turning comments off until they are working properly.
Due to the recent changes of the YouTube comment system I’m forced to disable comments.
Since front page/top comments are filled with: Links to virus sites, Advertisers, Self Advertisers, Spam, Copy and paste pics of dogs (I’m ok with those though) :p … Anyway, the list goes on.
As PewDiePie suggests, part of the problem is that YouTube now gives prominence to those comments which receive the most replies. Seeing as abusive comments are likely to receive a large number of angry replies, it’s no wonder that they actually are seen by more people as a result.
Now Google says it is fighting back against the new wave of YouTube comment spam.
In a post published on the YouTube Creators blog yesterday, YouTube admitted the roll-out of the new comments system had created new opportunities for spammers and abuse.
While the new system dealt with many spam issues that had plagued YouTube comments in the past, it also introduced new opportunities for abuse and shortly after the launch, we saw some users taking advantage of them.
We’ve worked hard to combat the increase in spammy comments and have made a number of updates, including:
* Better recognition of bad links and impersonation attempts
* Improved ASCII art detection
* Changing how long comments are displayed
Clearly Google has no intention to listen to those petitioning against Google+ being the basis of YouTube comments, ASCII art or no ASCII art.
Let’s hope that Google manages to police malicious and spammy links better, or it may become riskier than ever watching YouTube videos.