Learning Search

Weird Rabbit Hole: Spam on Medium

I don’t read Medium posts as much as I used to since the paywall was put in place. But I still keep an eye on it; there are plenty of good writers on there and I’ve found some great content. One thing I hadn’t spotted on Medium was spammy content. I’d seen more crap on Academia.edu. If you’d asked me I would have told you that there wasn’t any spam on Medium.

Well, if you’d asked me before today, anyway.

I was wondering about the news this evening, not sure if there was going to be the regular news lineup as it’s a federal holiday. So I googled msnbc schedule january 18 2021 as you might. Here’s what I got:

Screenshot of Google search for "msnbc schedule january 18 2021" and the associated search results.

I looked at the first result from MSNBC and it had a lot of boilerplate, so I went back to the results page. The next few results looked spammy, but then I saw a link from Medium. It didn’t surprise me that Rachel Maddow might have a Medium presence; many media outlets do. Since it had the date in the title I was hopeful it was a schedule lineup and not just a description of the show.

Here’s what I got:

Screenshot of Web site on Medium dedicated to Rachel Maddow Show


It looks okay for a second but then you realize everything’s stock and the text looks vaguely familiar. A quick googling of “With honesty and rigor, Rachel Maddow uniquely connects dots to advance stories.” takes you a ton of TV listings site. It’s all boilerplate.

As a matter of fact, using that boilerplate surfaced more Rachel-related spam on Medium. When I did a search for “With honesty and rigor, Rachel Maddow uniquely connects dots to advance stories.” site:medium I got no less than 599 search results, Just looking at the first page tells you that this is a search result full of pork shoulder and ham.

A screenshot of searching Medium.com for Rachel Maddow-related spam.


I took a look at a few of the sites. They look somewhat different but tend to follow a pattern: Stock information about the Rachel Maddow Show with dates covering the last couple of months, a ton of garbage text, and a repeat of the Rachel Maddow Show information.

Junk text meets Maddow boilerplate in screenshot of Medium spam site.

Junk text meets Maddow boilerplate in screenshot of Medium spam site.


Obviously if someone went to this much trouble to create a Rachel Maddow Medium Spam Network they were trying to make money. I went looking for links and found https://cutt.ly/djIyMe5 and https://cutt.ly/ijvw8GR for example. The first one unshortens to http://watchhotx.dplaytv.net/series/181561/2021/9 , while the second one unshortens to http://putlocker.online-tvs.com/series/181561/2021/4 .

I had never heard of either of these sites. Dplaytv.net looks like some kind of video streaming site. Online-tvs.com I didn’t see directly, but I saw a lot of links to it. I also saw some Medium URLs, again, so I experimentally did a Google search for “online-tvs.com” site:medium.com and, well, 11,000 results kind of tells it like it is.

Searching Medium for mentions of online-tvs.com

Searching Medium for mentions of online-tvs.com


That’s a pretty extensive network. (In fact it’s extensive enough that I wonder if Medium does in fact have what I consider classic spam, or in other words ads for sex drugs. So I goog’d for (“viagra without” | “cialis without”) site:medium.com . And I got results, but they were relatively limited — 112 results, far less than even the Maddow-specific spam content. Anyway.) I didn’t see any indication that the two streaming sites had affiliate programs, so I guess this is just a traffic push to make money on advertising?

I had never ascribed any automatic credibility to Medium because it’s more of a platform than a publisher, and I don’t consider these spam sites particularly hazardous, as they’re obvious garbage trying to get clicks. But isn’t it wild to see so much at once!

Categories: Learning Search, Rants

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