Wikipedia:Spam

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There are three main types of spam on Wikipedia. These are: advertisements masquerading as articles; external link spamming; and adding references with the aim of promoting the author or the work being referenced.

Advertisements masquerading as articles

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Articles considered advertisements include those that are solicitations for a business, product or service, or are public relations pieces designed to promote a company or individual. Wikispam articles are usually noted for sales-oriented language and external links to a commercial website. However, a differentiation should be made between spam articles and legitimate articles about commercial entities.

Blatant examples of advertising masquerading as articles can be speedily deleted by tagging the articles with {{db-spam}}. The same applies to pages in userspace. Other advertisements posted on Wikipedia can be dealt with by either proposed deletion or listing them on Wikipedia:Articles for deletion. On some occasions, the content can be removed temporarily on the basis of a suspected copyright violation, since the text is often copied from another website and posted anonymously. Before trying to get an advertisement masquerading as an article deleted, please check the article's history to see if an acceptable revision exists there. If so, please revert to the latest acceptable version of the article.

When an article on an otherwise encyclopedic topic has the tone of an advertisement, the article can often be salvaged by rewriting it in a neutral point of view. Elements of articles about products or services with brand names can also be combined under a common topic or category to facilitate unbiased and collaborative information by including information about the competition and about different alternatives.

Tagging articles with spam or prone to spam

Some articles, especially those pertaining to Internet topics, are prone to aggressive spamming from multiple websites.

If articles have spam, and you haven't the time or ability to remove it, you can tag them with {{Cleanup-spam}}. This template expands to the following:

Another possible tag to use is {{Advert}}, which expands to the following:

The third useful template is a substituted template {{subst:No more links}}, visible only while the page is being edited. After spam links have been removed from a Wikipedia article, this template can be substituted into the top of the external links section of the frequently spammed article as a pre-emptive measure.

                    <!--======================== {{No more links}} ============================
                        | PLEASE BE CAUTIOUS IN ADDING MORE LINKS TO THIS ARTICLE. Wikipedia  |
                        | is not a collection of links nor should it be used for advertising. |
                        |                                                                     |
                        |           Excessive or inappropriate links WILL BE DELETED.         |
                        | See [[Wikipedia:External links]] & [[Wikipedia:Spam]] for details.  |
                        |                                                                     |
                        | If there are already plentiful links, please propose additions or   |
                        | replacements on this article's discussion page, or submit your link |
                        | to the relevant category at the Open Directory Project (dmoz.org)   |
                        | and link back to that category using the {{dmoz}} template.         |
                        ======================= {{No more links}} =============================-->

Finally to advise the Wikipedia community to watch an article for abuse you can add to the talk page (under the project banners and other page header stuff, but before any discussions) {{subst:Prone to spam}} which looks like this:

External link spamming

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Adding external links to an article or user page for the purpose of promoting a website or a product is not allowed, and is considered to be spam. Although the specific links may be allowed under some circumstances, repeatedly adding links will in most cases result in all of them being removed.

Citation spam

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Citation spamming is the illegitimate or improper use of citations, footnotes or references. Citation spamming is a form of search engine optimization or promotion that typically involves the repeated insertion of a particular citation or reference in multiple articles by a single contributor. Often these are added not to verify article content but rather to populate numerous articles with a particular citation. Variations of citation spamming include the removal of multiple valid sources and statements in an article in favor of a single, typically questionable or low-value, web source. Citation spamming is a subtle form of spam and should not be confused with legitimate good-faith additions intended to verify article content and help build the encyclopedia.

Source soliciting

Source solicitations are messages on article talk pages which explicitly solicit editors to use a specific external source to expand an article. The current consensus on Wikipedia is that templates, categories and other forms of anonymous solicitation are inappropriate. Every article on Wikipedia can be expanded as a matter of course, but the question is in the details on a per-article basis. It is not possible to simply say "all articles of X type can be expanded using Y source".

There is no hard rule on when this crosses over from being a legitimate attempt to improve the article into being internal spam, but some guidelines and questions to consider:

  • Is the solicitation being made anonymously through the use of a template or Category?
  • Is the solicitation being duplicated across many articles at the same time, particularly when the articles relate to different topics?
  • Has there been no discussion (of a specific and substantive nature) on why the source should be used in each article?
  • Is the source controversial, such as being non-peer reviewed, outdated or polemic (see Wikipedia:Reliable sources)?
  • Is the source a commercial one?

External link spamming with bots

A few parties now appear to have a spambot capable of spamming wikis from several different wiki engines, analogous to the submitter scripts for guestbooks and blogs. They have a database of a few hundred wikis. Typically they insert external links. Like blog spam, their aim is to improve the search engine rankings of the external sites, not to directly advertise their product.

If you see a bot inserting external links, please consider checking the other language wikis to see if the attack is widespread. If it is, please contact a sysop on the Meta-Wiki; they can put in a Wikimedia-wide text filter. Any Meta sysop can edit the Wikimedia-wide spam blacklist to add or remove the patterns that are recognized by the filter, with the changes taking effect immediately. New links can also be added to the list if a new spammer should start making the rounds.

Sysops are authorised to block unauthorised bots on sight. Spam bots should be treated equivalently as vandalbots. Edits by spambots constitute unauthorised defacement of websites, which is against the law in many countries, and may result in complaints to ISPs and (ultimately) prosecution.

The link spam problem extends far beyond Wikimedia projects, and is generally worse on smaller wikis where the community struggles to keep it clean. meta:Wiki Spam page (now obsolete) has some more general information and advice for users of wikis elsewhere on the Internet, while the MediaWiki Anti-Spam Features page describes features available in MediaWiki (for administrators running this software).

Inclusion of one spam link is not a reason to include another

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Many times users can be confused by the removal of spam links because other links that could be construed as spam have been added to the article and not yet removed. The inclusion of a spam link should not be construed as an endorsement of the spam link, nor should it be taken as a reason or excuse to include another.

Affiliate links

Even if they are related to the subject or are an official page for the subject, external links containing affiliate or referral codes are considered spam.

Videos

Adding links to online free videos that promote a site or product is not allowed [see exception below]. Often these videos have been uploaded in violation of their copyright, which adds an additional reason for not linking to them. A video is a spamming video if:

  • It has a banner plastered across the video giving you a website address to go to.
  • It has links on the video page—the page that plays the video—that go to a commercial site or to another spamming video, even if it is only one link among many legitimate links. — [see exception below]
  • It has text at this video page that would lead readers to a specific commercial site. For example, "book available at xyzBooks dot net" — [see exception below]
  • It is a clone of a video that has been deleted. Here is how this typically happens: (1) A spammer posts a video in violation of a copyright (2) the copyright holder (or other party) notifies the Video sharing service that the video is not authorized (3) the video sharing service reviews that claim (4) the video sharing service deletes the video (5) the spammer posts the video again. Note that the ID in the address for the video at the video sharing service changes when this happens.

Exception: Generally, a video is not a spamming video if it refers to the official site associated with the Wikipedia article. For example, if the Wikipedia article is on a movie named "xyzMovie" and the official site for the movie is "xyzMovie.com" then links or references to "xyzMovie.com" are legitimate for a video at a video sharing page. Although all other links at that video page should also be legitimate, some judgement is needed. If the posted video just advertises a bunch of products associated with the movie, then it is a spamming video even though it refers to the official site.

Bookspam

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Sometimes Wikipedia sees bookspam, which is the insertion of text mentioning books to call attention to the books, rather than to contribute to the article. This often takes the form of inserting book listings into reference sections although the book is not used as the source of any information in the article. Bookspam is also seen as the addition of books to "external links", "further reading" or similar sections, although the books added do not add any useful and relevant information.

Avoiding giving an opportunity to spammers

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Examples in articles tend to attract spam, as in these sentences:

Such sentences tend to attract editors to add more examples because it is far easier to add a link to the end of this kind of sentence than to add encyclopedic content. Examples should only be given if they are highly relevant to the article topic, and should always be sourced with independent, reliable sources.

How not to be a spammer

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Sometimes, people come to Wikipedia with the intention of spamming—creating articles which are mere advertisements or self-promotion, or adding external links to a web site over many articles.

Some people spam Wikipedia without meaning to. That is, they do things which Wikipedians consider to be spamming, without realizing that their actions are not in line with building an encyclopedia. A new editor who owns a business may see that there are articles about other businesses on Wikipedia, and conclude that it would be appropriate to create his own such article. A web site operator may see many places in Wikipedia where his or her site would be relevant, and quickly add several dozen links to it.

The following guidelines are intended to suggest how not to be a spammer—that is, how to mention a web site, product, business, or other resource without appearing to the Wikipedia community that you are trying to abuse Wikipedia for self-promotion.

  1. Review your intentions. Wikipedia is not a space for personal promotion or the promotion of products, services, web sites, fandoms, ideologies, or other memes. If you are here to tell readers how great something is, or to get exposure for an idea or product that nobody has heard of yet, you are in the wrong place. Likewise, if you are here to make sure that the famous Wikipedia cites you as the authority on something (and possibly to pull up your sagging PageRank) you will probably be disappointed, because Wikipedia uses nofollow on all external links, thereby causing search engines to effectively ignore them.
  2. Contribute cited text, not bare links. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a link farm. If you have a source to contribute, first contribute some facts that you learned from that source, then cite the source. Do not simply direct readers to another site for the useful facts; add useful facts to the article, then cite the site where you found them. You are here to improve Wikipedia—not just to funnel readers off Wikipedia and onto some other site, right? (If not, see No. 1 above.)
  3. The References section is for references. A reference directs the reader to a work that the writer(s) referred to while writing the article. The References section of a Wikipedia article is not just a list of related works; it is specifically the list of works used as sources. Therefore, it can never be correct to add a link or reference to References sections if nobody editing the text of the article has actually referred to it.
  4. Do not make a new article for your own product or web site. Most often, when a person creates a new article describing his or her own work, it is because the work is not yet well-known enough to have attracted anyone else's attention, much less independent and reliable sources against which the content can be verified. Articles of this sort are usually deleted. Wikipedia does indeed have articles about popular products and web sites, but it is not acceptable to use Wikipedia to popularize them.
  5. If your product is truly relevant to an article, others will agree—try the talk page. We usually recommend that editors be bold in adding directly to articles. But if the above advice makes you concerned that others will regard your contribution as spam, you can find out without taking that risk: describe your work on the article's talk page, asking other editors if it is relevant.
  6. Do not add an external link to your signature. However, external links to Wikimedia projects are exempt from this rule. For example, Wikimedia Meta-Wiki. (Although Interwiki links are preferable to external links for that purpose.)

Warning spammers

{{subst:uw-spam1}} is a useful "first warning" to put on the Talk page of a spammer. For new users, an alternative, {{subst:welcomespam}}, may be used for users who may have added spam or inappropriate external links in good faith.

Subsequent offenses can be tagged with {{subst:uw-spam2}}, then {{subst:uw-spam3}} (warning of possible block) and {{subst:uw-spam4}} (final warning). If an editor spams numerous articles in a systematic fashion, they may be warned with {{subst:uw-spam4im}} as the only warning that they will receive before they are blocked. The template {{subst:uw-sblock}} indicates that the spammer has been blocked.

If you have tagged an article for speedy deletion with {{db-spam}} because it is blatant spam, you may add {{subst:spam-warn}} to the originating editor's talk page to warn them of the impending deletion, and to allow them to possibly edit the article so it is no longer spam.

Please remember to substitute these templates using for example {{subst:uw-spam1}} instead of {{uw-spam1}}.

Dealing with spam

Sometimes an article attracts so many improper external links that it "crosses the spam event horizon". Removing all the links and using the {{dmoz}} template to place a single external link to the appropriate DMOZ category can provide much-needed relief.

See also

External links