Is Comment Spam Illegal?Written by Pace Lattin
October 27, 2011 # 9:11 am # Legal Challenges # 20 Comments
One of the techniques to generate traffic and in theory, backlinks, that is often pushed by some “gurus” and get-rich marketing products is Comment and TrackBack spam. This is a technique in which often people use automated software to spam blogs with comments or trackbacks. Comments are often messages that are nothing more than automated messages left on people’s blogs, usually nothing about the topic at hand and often about male enhancement products. Trackback spam on the other hand is often automated blog products that search the net and send fake trackbacks to WordPress sites by exploting the automatic trackback feature. I’d say these methods are not only unethical, but could be illegal.
First of all, let’s address the fake trackback systems that are out there. It’s an annoying technique that I’ve had to deal with on a daily basis – tons of spammers using automated systems to try to get me to approve trackbacks to their sites. What really sucks is that if they really wanted a link from this PR5 publication, all they have to do is leave a real comment, because using COmmentLuv, the url within the comments are actually all do-follow.
However, the way my system is set up is that I actually block all trackbacks and don’t publish them on the site unless they are relevant. Trackback spam isn’t a huge issue because of that. However I’d gather that most blogs don’t set up their blog with this feature disabled and don’t have the time to go through daily and delete them.
Gail Gardner of Growmap, a small business blog that often calls people out on their lack of ethics, really hates phoney trackbacks and basically claims that it will destroy the entire trackback system. She makes a good point, and I agree with her that this method is completely unethical and should not be recommended at all.
The two type of comment spammers are the automated systems that are promoted unfortunately by some gurus and the fake SEO companies that attempt to manipulate the system by creating as many links as possible to a website.
Here’s the problem with both of these techniques, especially the automated systems. It’s probably illegal. If you didn’t know, there is the CAN-SPAM act of 2003, which requires that commercial emails have certain features, including unsubscribe links and physical addresses. While you might say that this is not e-email, because it’s a comment on a message board, we are finding that more and more things are being applied to CAN-SPAM.
Just recently the courts decided that CAN-SPAM applies to the message system of Facebook, including messages posted on users walls. Using this interpretation, any message on a person’s blog that is commercial in nature would be a violation of CAN-SPAM. With no way to be removed from being comment spammed, it’s a definite violation of CAN-SPAM.