Porn pushers have found a less-obnoxious way to spam: hidden link-sharing networks on Reddit.

The social news site is overflowing with legit, user-made porn subreddits -- it’s all part of the anything-goes attitude the site holds towards free speech. (As the recent r/jailbait controversy showed, it takes the exchange of alleged child pornography before admins will ban a section).

But recently redditor piuch was, er, exploring some of the site’s seedier corners when he stumbled upon something bizarre: a network of subreddits (sections), each with hundreds of subscribers, all linking to porn.

That’s not so weird on it’s own. But piuch dug a little deeper. He found something seriously off about these subreddits. Sure, they all had hundreds of susbcribers. But no one was leaving any comments. All of the contributors appeared only to contribute to subreddits in the network -- that was the extent of their activity on Reddit.

And rather than link to image or video hosting sites like most of the NSFW subreddits, every person in this circle of porn linked to small sites with a .info extensions -- domains well-known homes for spammers. These included domains such as sexynudes.info, amatuerhunter.info, sexy-young-babes.info, etc.

Redditors are pretty spam-savvy, and in most sections of the site links to sites like those will disappear within hours, if not minutes. They’re certainly not going to recommend obvious spam subreddits like this to their friends, so the sexynudes.info and its brethren aren’t likely to see much direct traffic from Reddit.

So what was going on?  

Search engines like Google rank sites partially on many other sites refer to them, so a few hundred (or thousand) posts on Reddit should be an easy way to trick Google’s algorithm.

Someone appears to be creating dozens of fake porn subreddits and populating them with hundreds if not thousands sockpuppet accounts -- likely all for a little bit of Google gold.

But while this strategy might have worked years ago, it’s completely ineffective now. Links from Reddit all include the “rel=’nofollow’” HTML tag, a way for sites to specifically tell search engines: “Don’t let this link influence your search results.” It’s a simple way to people from exploiting sites like Reddit -- too bad the spammers themselves don’t seem to know about it.

We looked up the the owners of the domains using the Who.is domain search. Most of the websites appear to be registered to someone named Banea Florin in Bucharest, Romania.

Sure, these guys are trying to mess up the quality of results when you search for porn online. But at least they’re not flooding email or sending you obnoxious messages on Twitter. It’s the quiet, less obnoxious version of spamming -- especially because it probably doesn’t work.

We sent Banea Florin an email asking for comment on this story, but didn’t hear back by time of publication.