Is Comment Spam Illegal?
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Is Comment Spam Illegal?

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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 other type of spam is Comment Spam, which poses I think a greater problem. I take care of most of the comment spam by having GASP installed, which is a javascript checkbox that bots can’t see. It’s simple, gets rid of most of the comment spam but not all. There are still tons of companies that are hired to spam my blog leaving strange comments like “Your blog is good, I really like the article about Ants…” and other random comments.

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.

Thoughts?

Written by Pace Lattin

Pace Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pace Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

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20 Comments

  • Nick J. West says:

    Interesting positions to consider. My blogs are often targets of spam and I have tried almost everything short of disabling comments entirely. As far as comment spam goes it may be illegal but as with e-mail without an adequate enforcement mechanism it’s virtually impossible to stop, and many countries don’t adhere to our rules or ethics for that matter.
    Nick J. West recently posted..City Deals Abrubtly Closes Doors and Leaves Merchants and Customers in DarkMy Profile

  • I’d really love to see a court case that found comment spam was illegal. That would be a nice start. I hate to think how many millions of hours are wasted by people dealing with all the various kinds of spam.

    I wonder how many website owners who hire comment spammers do any sort of quality check on their “work”. So much of it is idiotic.

  • Sanjeev says:

    Comment spam is something which I have fought at every blog, trackback is something which I have faced recently. Though I am in India and I don’t think here is any legal terms related to this. Love to see some legal processing on this, If it happens…
    Sanjeev recently posted..5 Easy Way to Create a Custom Logo for Your BlogMy Profile

  • Spam is is everywhere and the only thing we can do is moderate the comments. There are a lot of plugins that are anti spam just like Akismet but all of them have flaws. Hopefully in the future, someone will come up with a plugin that will entirely detect spam and block them from your site.

  • Right so using your logic I can just post some comment spam leading to my competitors site and shut them down. More laws did not stop email spam, better technology did. When will the whiners stop encouraging politicians to make liberty crushing legislation? Let the market and technology decide what works, not people who claim to be oppressed by the techno-elite. Its like me saying its not fair that I cant play in the NBA and LeBron can. People who feel this way should put in some effort to learn about technology and possibly *gasp* solve their own problems while contributing to the community. Instead we get legislation that opens the door for the equivalent of Internet ambulance chasers.

    I expect better articles or I am unsubscribing.

  • Additionally, for those claiming that comment spam is obvious and poorly done, yes poor spam is poorly done and you notice it. Well spun comments that you approve regularly go unnoticed and can be a part of a larger linking strategy. Poorly done stuff is always going to be crap. Just because there are too many idiot SEO ‘gurus’ out there pushing non working technology does not mean the technique is dead. If these guys were making money, they would not be marketing themselves as SEO gurus. You might as well call that 1800 number and sign up for the get rich quick infomercial if you think those guys have something to offer.

  • [...] » Do you think comment spam is illegal? Lately, Facebook messages–from private messages to wall posts–have been lumped in under CAN-SPAM guidelines. [Performance Marketing Insider] [...]

  • Roz Bennetts says:

    I get my fair share of comment spam but I see that as par for the course as I wanted the comments so added my blog to the DF directory. I don’t recall getting any trackback spam though.

    To be honest I’d never heard of it till I read this article and I’m still not quite sure what it is. I imagine if I avoid clicking ‘yes’ to any incoming email invitations to my blog I should be ok?

    As to whether this stuff should be illegal as annoying as it is I think the best defense is decent filtering software which if programmed correctly should be able to solve the problem.
    Roz Bennetts recently posted..A Longer Course in Stakeholder Analysis (Sales)My Profile

  • Frank says:

    Spamming is a NO NO. I hate spam and ignore spammers. It will totally ruin your business. It interferes in all platforms from social media, emails etc. I get upset when I receive unsolicited emails from businesses and people I do not know.

  • Mark says:

    As a relatively newbie, I’ve been quite shocked at the number of companies claiming to sell legitimate ways of generating backlinks and discovering that all they are doing is creating lots of nonsense comment content on blogs and forums. I get very frustrated at having to filter the few useful comments from all the spam.
    Mark recently posted..A big thank you from Spaldwick EscapeMy Profile

  • I can’t say anything, but I think spam is not right and can be considered as crime, because it destroys one website reputation by sharing too many out bound links that is not needed, I hope that the creator of askimet will increase it features.
    Kate Brown Wilson recently posted..SMSMy Profile

  • Jasmin says:

    Spam has become a huge problem. There are more and more automated tools out there, that can produce comment spam on masses. Spammers dont get, that this spam is not worth much. If they spam a website and this site is not moderated other will spam ths site as well. So after a while this website becomes useless for SEO. But the spammers dont get this. For moderated sites spam causes a lot of additional work. Thats the biggest problem I see here.

    Jasmin
    Jasmin recently posted..Wiz Khalifa QuotesMy Profile

  • Another type of spam that is beginning to distinguish itself is virtual assistant comment spam, left in the name of the small businesses that hire them to create a presence on blogs. As if the spambots and trackback spam weren’t enough!

    If CAN-SPAM could enforce rules around this types of spam, the sad part would be that very small businesses would be the ones most penalized. They need the extra hands at affordable costs, but not in handcuffs.
    Vernessa Taylor recently posted..Virtual Assistant Comment SpamMy Profile

  • spam is everywhere, i got frustrated wasting millions of hours dealing with various types of spam so this weekend i went out and bought an anti spam pluggin (akismet) will let you know how i got on….loved this blog by the way!

  • Comment Luv does a decent job blocking a fair amount of SPAM of the comment variety. I’m currently using the premium version that helps out with some of the track back SPAM as well.

  • hey those track backs are really annoying to me too they just piss me off :(

  • Jim Lillig says:

    I had a huge spam problem on my blog’s comments section a few years back. I have since closed all comments on my blog. I have however responded to blogs with actual comments that are relevant to the discussion and have found that this does drive significant traffic, but it needs to be relevant and the link to your content needs to make sure that you are on topic. Spamming anything usually has only short terms results, whereas a well thought out relevant comment on a high ranking site can live forever and give back several hundred clicks.

  • Ron says:

    Another form of comment spam that is really hurting a lot of businesses is those that are buying lists of .GOV and .EDU sites from these so called marketing Gurus.

    I was currently in a SEO competition where you needed to rank for a certain keyword and initially I was doing OK, then in the last two months of the competition a huge collection of interlinked sites appeared in the top 20 placings and after some reverse engineering I found that many were commenting on .EDU .GOV sites using the primary competition keyword with a link back to their site. These sites which are not moderated and the comments go live instantly were bombarded with irrelevant comments and URL with a keyword link.

    None of the comments were relevant to the content and in fact many of the comments were simply unreadable or had hundreds of url links being placed into the comment box and published.

    One page which was a .gov PR6 dofollow page which had over 825 comments all irrelevant to the topic being discussed filled with nothing but links to other sites using primary keywords.

    The winner of the competition offered very little content was on a blogspot blog and had numerous links coming in from these sites.

    You can read all over the internet how blog commenting is not as effective as it once was however I have seen sites using these tactics go from PR2 to a PR5 very fast.

    So my question here is this, should this be considered as Comment Spam and a breach of Google Quality Guidelines or do you believe that this is an acceptable practice on the internet to build back-links.

    My opinion is that these comments not only destroy the integrity of the website it is happening to but fills the internet with many junk sites that seem to be getting rewarded for doing this type of commenting.
    Ron recently posted..Free Webinar Link Building Strategies For 2012My Profile

  • dean livington says:

    Well theres actually 3 types of spammers, those 2 you mentioned automated, and manual which post everywhere! but your missing the 3rd. One which brings value to your site, its possible for someone to promote their site while looking out for yours, by linking relevant content. The problem is they are taking the p1ss! lol.

    Web-site owners really should search at different ways of ending junk posts by being much less of a target, rather than dealing with the spam bots when they are knocking at your site

    The actual issue with open source engines such as WordPress is bot runner’s checking for at risk web sites for spamming comments or security risks to add malware he or she can do that since every one of these opensources automatically leave a digital footprint on popular search engines such as Yahoo, I have written a post in regards to this on my blog you should check it out, its ideal for avoiding spam and malware, stop becoming a targetable target to them

    another way to stop comment spam

    dean livington
    ByBe

  • John says:

    Not illegal but definitely annoying.

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