No really-this is a serious question: I am just thinking of the (fairly rare) spam we get on Moodle.org - and we report it,delete it, Helen suspends the accounts etc... is it actually real people who make accounts and then manually type in spam links? Is that their job? Does it work? Do people ever actually follow and use links spammers post? I suppose I am also thinking of those emails we get from Nigeria asking for our assistance in return for many millions of inherited money.. are they real too? Where is the motivation? Is spamming an actual "job"? What's your profession? I am an internet spammer...
Interesting question. I also have a Wordpress installation on my server. It holds a few comments for moderation every day. It's easy enough to tell the spambots because they post irrelevant lines of text which often don't even relate to each other, probably because they're chosen at random from a list. Wordpress is the most widely used CMS in the world so it gets the most attention. I also have an old phpBB installation which regularly gets notifications to activate new accounts even though there's nothing going on there. That's more than likely spambots.
Spambots that target Moodle? Mmm... I don't know enough about it but it doesn't seem worth the effort to me. I mean, a lot Moodles won't be accessible to the public anyway, let alone allow anonymous account creation. If you go onto LinkedIn, you can see a lot of members who basically have job titles that are pseudonyms for marketing. So perhaps they are human beings.
That's such a good question that I've asked my co-worker and anti-spam campaigner from way back (just Google his name plus "spam") if he has any wisdom to contribute.
Let's see if Francis Uy says anything. (We're kind of busy at the moment.)
Yes, spammers are human. And yes, it is a good job for many with English skills in low-wage nations (Nigeria, India, Uzbekistan, etc.). Before email came along, I got hand-written letters from Nigeria doing the same thing. I read a report where a news editor visited Nigeria and interviewed some of the young spammers, phishers, and other con artists. It is a multi-step process which often ends up luring the foolish "rich" Westerner to visit Nigeria and give even more money. The novices send out hundreds of letters, and only need a 0.1% return to make it to the next stage, where older, cleverer con-artists take over.
That is the background of the "Nigerian" scam system and I am sure other spam systems have different scenarios, but all boils down to a profitable economic model.
Actually, I have answered spam twice in my life, ignoring thousands and thousands. I got some cheap drugs from Canada this way, and also some software that I needed. But those spam are borderline advertising--not unlike the links and ads we get in Facebook and other social media. So it is an interesting question you raise Mary.
Email spam is mostly automated, but both humans and programs post spam comments, depending on cost and difficulty of login. Hooray for innovation in the free market!
Example human spam job (10 cents per post): http://www.freelancer.com/projects/SEO-Link-Building/DoFollow-Blog-Comments-Wanted.html