Suspect Syndication

Sometimes you discover the weirdest things about the Internet via unsuspected routes.

My post about Facebook and email addresses got a lot of pingbacks from around the world. Often, they were syndications, perhaps of dubious legality, of earlier articles. In several cases, the legality was clearly dubious, because the syndicator had gone to some effort to disguise the text. There were four like this one, where, fascinatingly, the text appears to have been run through a system which uses synonyms and other changes to make it not recognisable from a simple web search. Compare the original, from CNN Money (and also my blog, which they are quoting):

Blogger Gervase Markham, one of the first to draw attention to the change, was scathing in his comments on it.

“Facebook silently inserted themselves into the path of formerly-direct unencrypted communications from people who want to email me. In other contexts, this is known as a Man In The Middle (MITM) attack,” he wrote, referring to a tactic hackers use to intercept electronic messages. “What on earth do they think they are playing at?”

with this barely-understandable version:

Blogger Gervase Markham, one of a initial to pull courtesy to a change, was sardonic in his comments upon it.

“Facebook silently extrinsic themselves in to a trail of formerly-direct unencrypted communications from people who wish to email me. In alternative contexts, this is well known as a Man In The Middle (MITM) attack,” he wrote, referring to a tactic hackers make make make make make use of of of of of to prevent electronic messages. “What upon earth do they consider they have been personification at?”

Some of the changes don’t even seem like synonyms – “attention” -> “courtesy”? Note also the words repeated 5 times – looks like they replace “use” with “make use of”, but have run the algorithm over the text more than once!

Here’s another one, which makes heavy use of entities, replacing letters with lookalikes from Cyrillic or simply HTML entities:

Th&#1077 exchange, first uncovered b&#1091 hacker Gervase Markham, means th&#1072t &#1072n&#1091 email post you received through Facebook since Friday h&#1072&#957&#1077 been routed back into the Facebook Post inbox, rather th&#1072n into your email inbox. Annoying? I don’t know. something to &#609&#1077t really angry about? I don’t know — maybe you w&#1077r&#1077 expecting &#1109&#959m&#1077 vastly time sensitive email to come through Facebook. but f&#959r the m&#959&#1109t &#1088&#1072rt, w&#1077’d estimate th&#1072t public are more shocked th&#1072t th&#1077&#1091 h&#1072&#957&#1077 &#1072n @facebook email take up th&#1072n the fact th&#1072t Facebook pulled a switcharoo.

Does that look normal? Here’s the source:

Th&#1077 exchange, first uncovered b&#1091 hacker Gervase Markham, means th&#1072t &#1072n&#1091 email post you received through Facebook since Friday h&#1072&#957&#1077 been routed back into the Facebook Post inbox, rather th&#1072n into your email inbox. Annoying? I don’t know. something to &#609&#1077t really angry about? I don’t know — maybe you w&#1077r&#1077 expecting &#1109&#959m&#1077 vastly time sensitive email to come through Facebook. but f&#959r the m&#959&#1109t &#1088&#1072rt, w&#1077’d estimate th&#1072t public are more shocked th&#1072t th&#1077&#1091 h&#1072&#957&#1077 &#1072n @facebook email take up th&#1072n the fact th&#1072t Facebook pulled a switcharoo.