Monday, 22 September 2008

Manipulate the BBC's most emailed stories

The BBC's 'most emailed' stories is based on very small numbers. So small in fact that by emailing yourself a few times you can manipulate the results, apparently...

BBC's most emailed stories widgetI read about this in the latest issue of New Scientist (scroll half way down the page to “Rigging the ranking”).

Chris McManus in the above article managed to get an old story to appear at number 4 by emailing himself 5 times. I've just tried this (albeit at 10am, which may be a relatively busy time) and emailed a random story to 12 different people and it hasn't appeared.

I would say this sort of manipulation is clearly on the wrong side of the SEO law so i'm not going to recommend it but it's interesting nevertheless to see that a site as large as the BBC still only has very small figures to make up it's most emailed stories, if McManus' story is indeed true.

Looking at this on Wikipedia provides a link to a PDF article from the International Journal of Computer Science and Network Security called Statistics Hacking - Exploiting Vulnerabilities in News Websites (by Amrinder Arora) which identified BBC vulnerabilities back in March 2007. There must be spammers out there capable of manipulating this on a large scale, hiding their proxy, using multiple emails e.t.c.

I can't imagine the BBC are oblivious to this even though they have left it for over a year so i'll let you know if they come knocking on my door.

Related posts
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Online popularity culture is killing good journalism - writing content for the benefit of most read and most emailed widgets
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