Beware of fake Matts leaving comments

A lot of the time, I dispel misconceptions by leaving comments on blogs. That works great, except for the rare occasion when someone pretends to be me and leaves a rude, fake, or otherwise untrue blog comment. Over the previous decade, I’ve only seen 4-5 times where someone impersonated me. But in the last month, I’ve seen at least three nasty comments written by “fake Matt Cutts” impersonators.

The first fake-Matt comment I remember was over Marketing Pilgrim around November 14th, 2011. When Frank Reed checked out the fake comment, it came from 74.120.13.132, which is an exit router for Tor. That means someone went to some trouble to hide their tracks.

The second not-Matt comment was on November 18th, 2011. The impersonator wrote:

Normally we do not comment on ranking methods but I’ll explain a misconception: input from manual raters is used only in the rarest of cases when a non-brand cracks the top ten for high value money terms.

The tone (and content) of the comment was so far off that Matt McGee questioned whether it was really me, and I was quickly able to clarify that I never wrote that comment.

The third one I’ve seen was just a few days ago on Search Engine Journal, and included gems like

[Google is] very transparent. Some sites do not even have an address listed, yet we have everything, including the credit card numbers for adword advertisers. That is a strong signal for us to list them ahead in organic search as well.

The claim that “Google ranks AdWords advertisers higher in our search results” is fake and untrue; it was one of the first myths I debunked when I got online.

The web isn’t built to prevent impersonation. On many places around the web, anyone can leave a comment with someone else’s name. So if you see a comment that claims to be from me, but makes crazy claims (e.g. that we preference AdWords advertisers in our search results), let me know. I’m happy to verify whether I wrote a comment, e.g. with a tweet. Thanks.

64 Responses to Beware of fake Matts leaving comments (Leave a comment)

  1. OptimizePrime

    I think in many ways you are the face of Google, so people tend to take out their frustrations about big G on you. Didn’t you read the job description? LOL. Happy holidays Matt.

  2. Hmm, those fake comments are really annoying.

    But in my opinion writing this post only draws trolls into spamming more with your credentials. Especially if you want to look into those comments personally. Just saying. :)

    Best regards from Germany

    Markus

  3. A rude comment would be a dead giveaway it’s not you. Wonder what even motivates people to do this stuff when there’s better things to be focused on.

  4. Did you write this blog post Matt? ;-)

  5. I was tempted to leave a comment here impersonating you (LOL).

    Also, do you take this as a compliment? If I saw someone impersonating me in a comment section, I’d be ecstatic.

  6. charles mccreary

    If you want to geek out on it, you could always include a gpg signed message on your posts.

  7. I think I tipped you off to one in the past, that just did not sound like your voice [despite their familiarity with you, and effort]

    This is one of the nuisances we have to live to have an open web, unfortunately,
    but a good reputation, vigilant community, and monitoring dashboard
    will hopefully render it manageable.

    I discovered a slightly different problem yesterday, where a scraper is hijacking my
    tweets, modifying them, then embedding them (with Verified badge)
    in badly distorted context, for false endorsement.

  8. Hi Matt (it is you isn’t it? ;)

    Clearly some people just have way too much time on their hands…but really I think the majority who are actively interested in what you might have to say in a blog comment are fairly well switched on to the general approach you might take to commenting. This is clear in the fact that Matt McGee picked it right off the top.

    Glad you highlighted the problem here on your blog so that “fake Matts” are more likely to be spotted quickly and “outed”. Then again, there may be those of us just devious enough to roll out the “welcome matt” and keep them engaged for long enough to get their scrawny little butts handed back to them ;)

    Sha

  9. Looks like someone is either really pissed by you and/or Google, or is planning to spam his/her site links soon in those comments, to reap the benefit of trust and reputation you have built.

  10. How about “Google Comments” system? Verified blog comment system via G+ profile…

  11. Looks like some people want to be like you

  12. Dang! That sucks. That last comment “Google ranks AdWords advertisers higher in our search results” was a straight out lie. It was so off that it made me chuckle a little.
    I have never been impersonated, but I have been mocked by my brothers and sisters! Did you?
    Hey Matt, in the SEO world, many people talk about you and sometimes in a not so appealing way, but I say THANK YOU!!!! Your work in the WebSpam team has helped me succeed online because it forces me to provide useful content. Thanks for making a difference in American’s lives and people around the world.
    - Francisco

  13. Fake comments can of cause be a problem and I can only imagin how uncomfortable it must be for a person like you that is so well known in the community.

    Some sites now require that you log in with your Facebook or Twitter account to leave a comment, but I honestly think that this only serve to reduce the number of people leaving a comment. Many people do not want to have their comment associated with their Facebook account even if it is a valid comment on the subject.

    Lets hope that this is not a trend on your part :-)

  14. Matt,

    That’s one of the most unwanted part of being you and being part of Google. As people all know that you represent Google, fakers and posers will be there trying to feed the world wide web with false information claiming that they are you and that they are from Google. I think this is another challenge for Google and other web companies on how to eliminate these types of maligning accounts.

    We just all hope that this time it is really you. :)

    Marc

  15. Sad that people would impersonate you, and more interesting is that they don’t appear to be trying to use your name to sell or hawk shady products, just to do bad Matt Cutts impressions :)

  16. You could make it absolutely clear if you promise to tweet (or post here) every time you post a comment somewhere. Then it would be easy to compare dates/times and see if it was really you. Considering that you speak for Google to a degree, a definite way to verify comments would be well worth the trouble.

  17. I don’t know if I’d call this “nasty” as I would “painfully stupid.” Nasty usually implies some combination of vitriolic action, significant damage, and the intelligence required to inflict said damage.

    Since the third commenter apparently can’t spell “Adwords” correctly, that eliminates the “nasty” factor.

    The second commenter mentioning “high value money terms” is clearly an SEO wannabe. No Google employee would ever use that term since that would open up a Pandora’s box Google is way too careful not to mess with (PageRank example clearly learned, or so I would hope). Again, nasty factor eliminated.

    First comment? Didn’t see it, but I’m guessing it’s just about as weak.

    I understand why you’re pissed off…that’s a pretty stupid thing to do. I have to agree with Markus, though…you publishing anything about it is only going to invite more of this behavior, especially among those who either you thought were your friends and are secretly trying to screw with you (and you probably have a few of those), the anti-Google types looking for half an excuse to start virtual fires, or people with nothing better to do.

    Your only option, save for coming up with some form of verification, is probably to let it go. This sucks, but the alternative is probably much worse.

  18. There were several comments from what I believe was a fake Matt Cutts on Search Engine Roundtable a few weeks ago. I flagged them for review. Don’t know what happened to them.

  19. If we pick up comments that look fake can we twit the link to you on twitter as form as reporting? Thanks

  20. Thanks for the kind words, everybody. I realize that a few extra impersonators might copycat post in the short term, but I figured it was worth it so that people would be a little more on guard and not just automatically think I wrote a comment. Dewaldt, if anyone picks up on a comment that looks fake, they’re more than welcome to tweet me the link to ask.

  21. Why don’t you just tweet the permalink of every blog comment you make that’s legitimate?

  22. Thanks for raising the profile of the problem here, Matt. As you know, impersonation has *always* been a problem. But we’ve also never had easier solutions than we have today. What does it take to hold a comment in moderation, and send a tweet to you for verification? Pretty simple.

    I’ve had to do that for you in the past, and for several other people. As a publisher, it’s better for me to verify before publishing. If it’s an important comment, I still hold it but I add my own comment like “_____ left a comment suggesting this or that, and I’ll publish it as soon as I can verify the source”.

    Everybody wins with accurate information. I do NOT think we need verified identities on the web (or in Google’s databases) however. I’m against it — it might help with things like this, but at a significant cost to privacy.

  23. I have always regarded you as someone with integrity and a real desire to be honest and open but it is a pity some of your colleagues hadn’t been more open and honest when I attended a Google meeting in the UK back in early June.

  24. Requiring everyone who leaves a comment to log in (via any mechanism) is not the solution (it’s been discussed in depth a lot at the Techdirt website). Anonymity on the web isn’t a “bad thing™”, and taking that away from the majority because of a minority isn’t the right thing to do.

    If you want to let everyone know a post is from you, instead of GPG signing, each post on a foreign website or forum (i.e. one that isn’t your own) could be linked back to a post, article or tweet on an offical domain. This also means that people will find it easier to verify more details about the contents of a short post too, which I think is half the problem with these bogus posts; some people are out looking for quick answers, they don’t have time/want to research something fully themselves.

  25. Andrew Tobin

    It’s funny, but commenting social networks of the past seem to have failed.

    I guess, for the more famous of us, you could always have a service where you put in the link and it returned a link to a shortened url that says http://example.com/xyz that has a message like “This was by user ‘Matt Cutts’ on http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/beware-of-fake-matt/” – but then people would falsify it for subsequent posts, unless you used a token or something.

    Still, seems a long way to go – “Trust but verify” I guess.

  26. Hi Matt,

    You are the face of people. People look you for any update of Google. No one can down your image.
    Dont Worry Be Happy.

  27. Hi!

    I am wondering what the motivation is behind making comments in well known person´s name. Is it a marketing sort of angle? Or does it rather come from a place of wanting to be bigger than the the person is? Like stepping into the shoes of someone who is considered to be well respected and influential?

    Marketing wise there is no gain to be had. After all it´s not like a comment is any kind of official statement.

    So, I go with the psychological angle: someone obviously needs to give themselves a boost.

    Take it as a compliment, Matt :-)

  28. Sounds like somebody’s bitter about not being able to out-rank brands in their niche. Either that, or they’re failing badly at being funny – although the tor IP basically rules that option out.

  29. There is a lot of bad people in the street and envious, but I’m confident that with the opportunity to meet and discuss with social networks, these people will become less and less.
    Good luck

  30. Why would someone want to impersonate someone else…to what end in the long run.

  31. Sounds like somebody’s bitter about not being able to out-rank brands in their niche. Either that, or they’re failing badly at being funny – although the tor IP basically rules that option out.

    Could also be anti-top-dog nerd sentiment. Nerds (not geeks, since geeks are nerds that make money with their nerd skills) hate big tech companies that end up with dominant position.

    Whatever it is, it’s pretty lame…I’m-talkin’-Night-Court-in-its-fifth-season-LAAAAAAAAAAAA-MUH!

  32. G

    In the words of shaggy……………….it wasn’t me

    It’s annoying but not surprising, take it as a compliment

  33. You know you’ve hit the big time when people pretend to be you ;)

  34. I am not Matt Cutts but I can state with authority that I am indeed his cat and I have full control over Google’s ranking algorithms.

    - Umma Cutts

  35. For a couple of years we thought we were on top of the comment spam, but it seems a new wave of them have just come onto the scene. Lets hope we can look forward to some kind of system to give legitimate users an identity and then get this linked up with all the blog commenting systems so the spammers get filtered out, or pushed to the end of comments?

  36. Authorship is and will continue to be an issue online but luckily we have social platforms and other means for verification. What do you think goes through the mind of a Matt Cutts impersonator?

  37. Yet another reason comments can be a pain. Hopefully Google can come up with a way to stamp comments as verified. :)

  38. So the best way is to tweet you? Or is there a better option? SY

  39. Impersonation is the highest form of flattery so in that respect you should be flattered that people want to be you, not that people can’t distinguish anyway :)

  40. You are best and i look you at top most position every time and one more thing You are not only GOD of Google but also of whole internet :) . No one will and can take off your image.

  41. The truth is, Matt, that if it weren’t for the impersonators, spammers – and others who get their jollies out of misleading, harassing, violating, stealing from, or unduly influencing internet goers – many sincere, honest, and hardworking people like you might not have a job! Good thing our society is full of these sorts. Their presence is directly responsible for thousands of internet security jobs in a multitude of disciplines – an important consideration in tough economic times, don’t you think?

  42. Matt Cutts

    That is a terrible thing that is happening to you, I hope this never happens again!

  43. Dan

    Have you considered the fact that they might actually be called Matt Cutts as well? There are 7 billion people on earth though – must be a few more of you floating about.

  44. Sad thing indeed. Takes some time to resolve and repair stuff. But it’s a normal thing to happen, like people copying your blog. Thnx for the warning.

  45. Ray

    I am actually surprised we don’t see this more often. Whether it is a Fake Matt Cutts or someone else that is known, famous, or what have you. Maybe it does happen fairly often I have no idea. Maybe someone envies you or they have nothing better to do.

  46. Hi Matt,

    To Many people are just low life’s what can you do I would juts block them.

    Merry Christmas,

    Baruch!

  47. Hi Matt,

    Don”t worry, No one can defame you, We always trust you..
    By the way Merry Christmas…

  48. Matt, maybe using the WordPress plugin intensedebate.com on your blog, might help on with the fake comments attributed to your name on the web?

    The idea is with intense debate, if your extended profile is activated, people will be able to view all the comments you have written on the web and this will confirm or deny the validity of these comments. By the way, I think the another Matt (Mullenweg) comes up with some pretty clever stuff.

  49. Hey Matt, I have something to share. Guys at V7N.com trying to reach to your from weeks. I thought I should comment on your blog regarding this request. I hope to see your valuable tips on the forum. And yes this is not for promotion. Thanks

    Here is the link to thread http://www.v7n.com/forums/forum-lobby/242423-matt-cutts-make-my-day-6.html

  50. D Alan Redd

    Will the real Matt Cutts please stand up .. /jokes.

    There are a lot of genuine, honest people out there just trying find their way on the net .. trying to determine the best direction for their online presence/business ..

    It’s too bad that this stuff has to happen.

  51. Its really a bad thing. Should be a SPAMMER.

  52. Hey Matt, speaking of fake comments, the vast bulk of web spam today is made up of duplicate articles and blog comments posted by professional bulk link spammers based in India. To a human this type of copy is easily detectable due to the distinctive style of its poor use of English. Here is a classic example:

    “Should you like hiking or even outdoor and sleeping outdoors then very good sleeping bags undoubtedly are a must. These bags are an crucial part of caravan accessories. Many families are now centering around the quality from the item even though picking bags for their young children. They will protect us from your chilly inside the winter period and provide acceptable bedding for households.”

    Source: http://t.co/JZm35MFL

    These bags are an crucial part…
    the quality from the item…
    They will protect us from your chilly
    inside the winter…

    Surely Google’s algorithm is more than capable of detecting this style of English – using an approach not unlike the spelling and grammar check in a word processor – devaluing links when the quality of the copy falls below a certain threshold. If the process also results in devaluation of the content itself in search results, then that can only be a good thing for the user too.

  53. Maybe its just the fact of spammers being jealous and wanting to be like you. They know no other way of promoting except to follow and be like you. ;)

  54. Agree, I am also actually surprised we don’t see this more often.

  55. Too many fake Matts spoils the blog. Dont you just hate useless comments or even fake comments on a blog. Sometimes you can see right through the blog that its fake. Even if you delete it, they come back again and again.

  56. I’m always wondering what goes on in these people’s heads’ especially in such cases…is there really nothing better to do than faking Matt Cutts posts?

  57. I don’t know much about these things, but I’d be inclined to smile benignly and feel a little sorry for the person who has so little in their life that they can do nothing but pretend to be someone else – unless of course it is causing you damage in some way. Comments above suggest that this isn’t the case!

  58. Hi there,

    Good to know we have to pay attention to possible fake Matt Cutts comments. That’s certainly annoying. For the last years I also have found many comments from people who share news about Google and SEO suposely written by Matt Cutts. You know: “Matt Cutts recently said…” and things like that which were not said like that by Matt himself.
    I guess the best thing to do is go to the source: this blog.

  59. Noone should be impersonating anyone else – period. I cant even believe anyone even has time or will to do that – what a waste of time. There should be repercussions for deceit and trying to frame someone else for untrue comments…

  60. lol, it’s more like “Hi I am Matt and I approve this message ;)”

  61. Thanks Matt…this is the first time I heard about the new search service. I’ll be interested to see if it integrates other things like Twitter and FB as well as +1′s.

  62. zuyao

    You are my idol. So cool,man!

  63. Hi Matt,

    We are in a similar situation and someone has left a fake blog comment linking to our website. The blog from which our website has been linked to is infected with Malware and we got an alert on our webmaster console saying we have artificial links against Google guidelines. Do you have any advice on how we could remove this. Any help will be highly appreciated

    Anup Batra

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