by on May 31, 2006

The Abstract Factory flags something I’ve begun to notice when I periodically go through our comments to weed out spam: our posts about network neutrality have begun to get a steady stream of highly generic supportive comments: see here, here, here, and here, for example. Cog posits that some PR firm must be paying people $10/hour to troll the web making anti-regulatory comments on blog posts on the subject of network neutrality.

The posts almost never make substantive arguments, and they’re often made days or even weeks after a particular post is made. Moreover, the comments consistently appear only on pages related to network neutrality. Cog’s term fits the bill perfectly: this is astro-spam.

I don’t think I’m going to delete it, though. It’s not clear to me there’s anything unethical about paying someone to post random comments on blogs advocating a point of view. Certainly, people pay others to write press releases and talking points. It’s not clear to me how this is different.

But more importantly, it’s not obvious to me how I’d go about drawing the line here. I have a pretty good hunch about which of the pro-NN comments are paid astro-spam, but I have no way to prove it. And I don’t want to go down the path of trying to decide which comments are “real” and which are not. Ordinary spam is easy to identify: it links to a porn site or a generic viagra store. But I have no way to positively identify astro-spam.

In any event, the far more effective way to deal with the problem is by allowing the spam to stay in place and then make it look ridiculous. So if anyone in the media is reading this, this seems like a great story lead: telcos are so desperate that they’ve resorted to hiring shills to promote their point of view in blog comments.

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