How Spammers Hijack Abandoned URLs to Spread SEO Garbage Across the Internet

“Was The Morningside Post website hacked?” a friend asked me. The site, which I once co-edited, seemed to have died, and returned as a zombie version of itself. About five months ago, my successors at TMP—the student-run news publication at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs—accidentally allowed their site’s web domain registration to lapse. A mysterious new owner snapped the site up, cloned its content, and transformed it all into sloppy, spammy garbage.

Today, there’s a new visual theme and a new, generic tagline, “World News.” References to Columbia University are gone. The old posts are there, in violation of TMP’s copyright, but, they’re no longer formatted, just ugly walls of texts. Author bylines now read “Morningside,” and later “Writer.” Comments sections are closed, the old comments are deleted.

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